“The World Health Organization reports that Afghan women have a life expectancy of 43 years” (Lopez Jan 12). In comparison, the life expectancy of Canadian women is 82 years old. That is a little less than double the age of Afghan women. Could you imagine dying at the age of 43? Citizens from developed countries do not realize just how lucky and privileged we are.
Which raises the question: why do third world countries struggle so much? Afghan women are at the bottom at almost all world rankings including suicide rates, access to education, access to health care, life expectancy, and domestic violence. Women in Afghanistan have never had any control over any aspect of their lives. Afghan women’s lives have both been controlled by the men in their lives and an afterthought of many around the world for far too long. To start, Afghanistan has not always been this way with there women’s rights.
Shortly after UK women were granted the right to vote in 1918, Afghan women received the same right just a year after. Surprisingly, Afghan women got this right a year before women in the United States were allowed to vote (Amnesty International Jan 12). Purdah (gendered separation) was terminated in the 1950’s, in the 1960’s a new constitution brought equality for women to many areas of life, this included political participation (Amnesty International Jan 12). Women and girls in Afghanistan were able to attend school, where whatever they wanted and get jobs. Afghanistan was on route to a better world for both men and women, unfortunately, it started to go downhill form the 1970’s. Due to the Soviet occupation, the civil conflict between Mujahideen groups and the government forces in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and with the Taliban rule, women’s rights in Afghanistan took 100 steps backward. To continue, the predicament Afghan women are in is due to three factors. First, Afghanistan was and still is a rural society and in the southern and eastern ends, it is run by tribes.
The tribes that control these parts of Afghanistan were very patriarchal with regards to women being looked at as a resource to be sold and fought over. As a result, the Pashtun man was and still is honor-bound to fight for zan, zamin, and zar (women, gold, and land). Secondly, Afghanistan has had multiple different leaders who differ from each other in many ways. There have been kings and a communist government which has tried to modernize the countryside of Afghanistan. The central state of Kabul has been weak for years and unable to achieve improvements throughout the country. The central would achieve some sort of improvements, but, there were other factors that were working to undermine women’s interests in the country. Thirdly, foreign intervention from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States made the women’s rights in Afghanistan be where it is today.
Allies of the US supported the mujahedeen (fundamentalist, misogynist warlords against the Soviets in the eighties. “The mujahedeen transformed an extremely reactionary interpretation of Islam into the national standard, and in many ways were even worse than the Taliban” ( Huffington Post Jan 13). The mujahedeen would burn down schools and libraries, killed women in public positions, enforced burqa in areas under their control.
Next, we hear about the Taliban all over the news, but, do you actually know who they are and what they do? The Taliban are known for the way they abuse human rights in drastic ways. Taliban were not always a group until 1994 after years of conflict. The members of the Taliban were former Mujahideen fighters who were trained in Pakistan during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Their main goal was to make Afghanistan an Islamic state. They ruled from 1996 until 2001. When they ruled Afghanistan their new “laws” mostly discriminated against women, they believed that being born a girl was a crime. Afghanistan follows the Islamic Sharia Law when the Taliban took control they manipulated that law and used it in the wrong way. They banned women and girls from simple things that you would think would be plain ridiculous.
The Taliban banned girls and women from going to school, working, living the house without a male, showing skin in public, access to healthcare delivered by a man, and being involved in politics or speaking publicly. With all of these rules and laws, women were technically invisible and were not even safe in their own homes. “In Kabul, residents were ordered to cover their ground and first-floor windows so women inside could not be seen from the street” (Amnesty International Jan 12). If women wanted to leave the house they had to be wearing a burqa accompanied by a male. For women who did not follow these laws, the punishments were cruel. Punishments included: being flogged for showing skin, beaten for trying to study, and stoned to death is she was guilty of adultery.
In Afghanistan, rape and violence against both women and girls were prominent, men could do almost anything they wanted to do and no one would bat an eye. On the other hand, Afghan women were dehumanized in the law and almost all components of their lives. Men who allowed the women in their lives to do things they were not supposed to, had consequences as well.
The Taliban would kill fathers who allowed their daughters to go to school, even if they already stopped the daughter from going to school they did not think that was enough. When Afghanistan was under the rule of the Taliban it was the worst time for women’s rights.