Women’s Rights in Afghanistan: The Past, The Present, and The Uncertain Future


Rylee O'Connell

Recently, Afghanistan has undergone serious changes both politically and in the lifestyle of many of its citizens. While there is much to discuss about the event, I find the topic of women’s rights going forward to be one of the more pressing matters.  August 31st marked the end of a nearly 20-year long war between the militant groups of Afghanistan and the United States of America. As American soldiers began to leave, a returning power by the name of the Taliban came to take their place. In a short time Afghanistan was almost entirely under the control of the Taliban and adjustments in the form of a political and legal overhaul were underway. 

From 1996 to 2001, the Taliban was in control of Afghanistan- as they are today- and the changes they implemented, specifically against women, are something that should raise concern. In those years, they imposed harsh restrictions including the ban of education for women and girls and a law requiring all women to be escorted by a man should they leave their house for any reason. Furthermore, all women were required to cover themselves entirely, leaving only their eyes visible. Women were beaten in the streets and their standing in the eyes of the Taliban and most men was at a level far below human. Since the Taliban’s forced departure from government in 2001, women have enjoyed many “luxuries” like higher education, jobs in politics, journalism, and medicine, to name a few, and the freedoms of dress and unaccompanied travel. However, these things should not be considered luxuries: they are rights. Since the Taliban’s second rise to power this summer, many women and human- rights activists feel those rights may be threatened and abolished entirely. Given the Taliban’s past treatment of women, many lack confidence in their ability to create an environment of equality or preserve the rights for Afghan women as the Taliban reestablishes their power. 

While it is impossible to say with absolute certainty how women will be treated under this new regime, new changes indicate that the mistreatment and dehumanizing of women are already underway. As one of their first changes made against women as they re-established power in August, the Taliban painted over murals of women at beauty salons, which served as symbolism of dehumanization for many Afghan women. Already, the Taliban began segregating classrooms with a curtain so that the women were further separated from men. While many Afghan women report disliking the curtain, they still remained grateful that they were allowed to attend school during this time. The Taliban’s maintained discrimination and prejudice against women has become obvious as they begin to reestablish their form of government in Afghanistan, but the severity of segregation, sexism, and human rights violations that will come remains to be seen. 


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