4 min read
16 Feb

The status and presence of women in the Afghan society has always been accompanied by ups and downs. For the first time during the reign of Shah Amanullah and the decades of democracy, women were able to achieve some of their basic rights and freedoms.

These rights and freedoms mainly included the right to education, the right to choose clothing and the right to have a job outside the home. But with the beginning of civil wars and especially during the totalitarian and autocratic regime of the Taliban, women were completely deprived of their freedoms and basic rights and returned home from society.

According to the Taliban's Islamic Sharia, women are prohibited from going to school and educational institutions, having jobs outside the home, walking around the city without a man, losing the right to choose clothing, not visiting a male doctor, and joining political movements. In fact, women were imprisoned within the four walls of the house and their role is reduced to cooking, washing and suffering.

2001, the fall of the Taliban, the presence of the international community and the return of women from home to society
With the incident of September 11 and the presence of the international community in Afghanistan, a new chapter in the history of this country was opened. A chapter in which a system based on democratic values and the will of the people was formed for the first time with the direct assistance of the international community.

 The assistance of the international community and the commitments of the Afghan government caused fundamental changes in various fields, especially in the position of women. In 1382, when the Constitution of Afghanistan was approved based on the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it recognized the fundamental rights of women.

In the constitution, women's equal rights, right to education, equal employment opportunities, access to health care, support for families headed by women and political participation are explicitly mentioned. Relying on the legal and legal supports, platforms were provided for the presence of women in the society in the form of going to schools and universities, working in public and private institutions, appearing in the media, extensive activity in the civil society and strong participation in the elections. According to the presented statistics, women have made significant achievements in various fields in recent years.

In April 2017, the Ministry of Education told Human Rights Watch that 9.3 million children across Afghanistan are in school, of which 39% are girls. At the same time, women participated in the presidential, parliamentary and provincial council elections in a significant way and in millions. As a result of these participations, they won 63 seats in the parliament. Since the formation of the national unity government, 18 women have been appointed as ministers and ministers and four women have been appointed as ambassadors.

68,000 women are working as employees in schools and universities, and another 800 are teaching in private and public higher education institutions as university professors. More than 6000 women are in the roles of judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, police and army.
Another 10,000 women serve as doctors, nurses and health professionals across the country. 1070 women are working as journalists in press and media. At the same time, 1,150 female entrepreneurs have invested 77 million dollars in various sectors, which has created job opportunities for 77,000 men and women.

In addition to these achievements and the colorful presence of women in society and playing a role in various fields, based on the results of the Asia Foundation survey that was conducted in 2018 among 112,000 men and women in 34 provinces of Afghanistan, the attitude of the people and public opinion towards improving the status and presence of women in various fields in society has changed positively. This poll shows that Afghan men and women support the increasing presence of women in society compared to previous years and also recognize women's rights and freedoms more than before.

Support for gender equality in the right to education has increased from 82.3% in 2017 to 84% in 2018. Support for girls to go to school up to the primary level has increased from 87.5 percent in 2017 to 89.7 percent. Also, 36.4% of men and 29% of women in 2018 emphasized that 18 years is the ideal age for girls to marry.

This is despite the fact that in the past the marriage age of girls was extremely low and they were given to husbands at a young age. In addition to these issues regarding bullying, in 2018 only 9.5% believed that bullying is an acceptable act. This figure was 12% in 2017 and 18% in 2016. About Badal, 25.2% said that this practice is acceptable. This figure reached 29.1% in 2017 and 31.8% in 2016. Also, 90 percent believe that women have the right to inherit their father's property. But despite the positive change in the people's attitude towards the position of women and the government's efforts to expand their presence at different levels of society, women are still facing many challenges and problems in many provinces, villages, and especially in areas under the control of the Taliban. Women in these areas are deprived of their basic rights and freedoms and are not even allowed to go to school or access educational facilities. On the other hand, they are always subjected to open discrimination and oppression within their families and in society.

 Women, peace talks and concerns about returning home
It was in 2010 that the Grand Peace Consultative Jirga was held in Kabul. The main goal of this jirga was to reach a strategy for a political agreement with the Taliban. Although 20% of this Jirga was made up of women, they have been expressing their concern about the return of the Taliban in various circles since that time. Talks about the return of the Taliban remind women of the pain and burning of whips and being imprisoned in the four walls of houses.

The fact is that women have made remarkable achievements in the light of the presence of the international community and the existence of a government based on democratic values during these eighteen years. They are very worried that all these achievements of eighteen years will be destroyed and they will be forced to return home again. These concerns have increased since the United States took the helm of peace talks with the Taliban. They emphasize that the position of women in the peace talks is ambiguous.
At the same time, from time to time, the opinions of Taliban negotiating officials increase the concerns of women. In the peace talks in Moscow, the Taliban's chief negotiator attacked women's freedoms and the activities of the media. He emphasized that in these years, in the name of women's rights in Afghanistan, corrupt media promotes immorality, shamelessness and non-Islamic culture. Considering such expressions of opinion and the black and dark track record of the Taliban regime and depriving women of all their rights and freedoms, it seems natural to express these concerns.

Responding to women's concerns Regarding women's concerns, it is expected that the women's government and the men's government of Afghanistan, women's rights activists and the international community will not compromise the achievements of the past eighteen years and the basic rights and freedoms of women in the process of peace talks with the Taliban under any circumstances. At the same time, besides placing women's representatives at the negotiation table, they should pay attention to the opinions of women as the opinions of half of the population of Afghanistan. In fact, women's rights, freedoms and concerns should be considered at every stage of the dialogue. Any political agreement, power-sharing strategy with the Taliban, or revision of the articles of the constitution can affect every part of women's lives.

Another important point is that the negotiators must achieve mechanisms that guarantee the achievements of women in the last eighteen years and the preservation of their fundamental rights and freedoms. A political agreement with the Taliban by ignoring the rights and freedoms of women and limiting their presence at different levels of society cannot be accepted under any circumstances.

According to the Women, Peace and Security Act, the United States government has the duty to support the physical safety, occupational and economic security and dignity of women and girls through diplomatic efforts and women's empowerment programs. Considering this and taking the helm of negotiations with the Taliban, it is expected that the United States and its allies, by putting pressure on the Taliban and their supporters, will agree on a mechanism that will not sacrifice the basic rights and freedoms of women and their achievements.

Despite the bitter, dark and extremely oppressive memories of the authoritarian Taliban regime and women's concerns about returning to the past, reaching peace and ending long conflicts is the dream of every Afghan citizen, especially women as one of the main victims. Undoubtedly, women support any talks and negotiations that lead to the end of the war and the return of peace, stability and development in the country, but not against sacrificing the achievements of the past eighteen years.

Hasibullah Yousufi

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