The movement for the womens rights in Afghanistan has a long history. On the one hand, traditions and religion of the country dictate the particular position of a woman in society. On the other hand, westernization and modern views on the role of a woman influence Afghan people. However, today womens position in Afghanistan is unstable. Despite the efforts of the international society to bring equality, the root of the problem is so deep that it prevents
People who have seen how Afghan men treat their women can think that this country is stuck in the Middle Ages. However, there is certain historical background and reasons why the heads of the country avoided the question of the womens rights for such a long period.
Afghanistan culture has always valued womens modesty and chastity. These qualities made honor to the whole family and influenced social position of all the members. That is why there were so many restrictions for women and harsh punishments for disobeying. When Western culture penetrated into Afghanistan, the most traditionalists did not like the trend imposed by the Western liberal women, the way they dressed and behaved. If Afghan women imitated this style, it was equal to disgrace to the family.
However, the feminist ideology touched Afghan women, and they became actively participating in the movement for womens rights. In 1960-s, with a new constitution, women attained almost equal to men status, they even got political rights.
Then came the civil war (from 1980-s) and the Taliban regime (from 1996 to 2001), which became the worst period for Afghan women. The impact of militarization and occupation was devastating. It became the biggest step back in the struggle for equality and the womens rights. Women and girls were discriminated, dishonored, raped. They were deprived of the human rights, equated with property. Girls could be exchanged to pay debts. Women were restricted from education, employment, health care (delivered by men). They were prohibited to go out in public alone and enforced to wear burqas. For disobedience they were publicly punished: stoned or beaten to death on the stadiums and city squares. Such restrictions led to frequent runaways, psychological disorders, depression, isolation, and, besides, suicides, self-immolation, and drug addiction. The early marriages led to high maternal and child mortality rate because girls bodies were not ready to carry and give birth to a child. The married girls were prohibited to continue education and, thus, were not ready to take care of themselves, not knowing about mere hygiene. Violence in families was common.
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According to UNICEF, girls who marry young do not develop properly. In Afghanistan, girls are forced to marry before 18, usually at the age of 15-16. It means they are deprived of childhood and their right for education. Parents often prearrange marriage, and it is important to marry a girl of such an early age for the reasons of insecurity and poverty, and for the risk of kidnapping and rape.
Afghan married girls often become widows early because of the high men mortality rate (the country has been in permanent wars for more than thirty years) and old age of their husbands. A widow can either become a beggar or be married to a brother of her husband. Regardless, the life of a young, teenage girl is ruined when she becomes a widow.
After the international intervention in 2001, things changed for Afghan women and girls. With a new government, headed by President Karzai, many schools for girls opened all over the country, even in the rural areas, women returned to work, they actively participated in political life of the country. At first, Karzai seemed to support the movement for womens rights. Probably, he promised to improve womens rights in order to gain more votes and support from the international observers. Afghanistan adopted new constitution in 2003, which seemed to enshrine women’s rights. In 2009 the country adopted EVAW law (Elimination of Violence Against Women). Despite the constitution and law are valid, their enforcement is weak. In 2009 Karzai signed a law restricting the rights of Shii women minority. Karzais government restricted and pushed out several laws concerning improvement of womens rights in Afghanistan. People complain that, although, there are laws and constitution that encourage the womens rights, warlords are those who implement these laws, which means there will be no peace for Afghan women, while traditionalists rule the country. Even Afghans with modern views stand against the changes in womens rights and their equality to men because they think westernization threatens preservation of their sacred traditions.
New candidates for the presidency promise to protect womens rights, but nobody can be sure that the situation with Karzais government will not repeat.
One of the measures to undertake in order to solve the problem described above is to introduce a new education reform. It is necessary to cancel the law on prohibiting married girls to proceed their education. They also do not need permission to continue studying, there must be freedom of choice for a woman in order she could be equal to a man. Only educated girl can be healthy and take care of herself. Level of education is directly connected with womans health. In addition, women with education can become professionals, which is essential for the future progress and economic growth of the country. Educated women can take more active part in policy of the country and legally struggle for their rights. Education is the best way to make women equal to men.
Although, the U.N. has been deeply involved in the problem of violation of womens rights in Afghanistan, violent crimes against Afghan women have been gathering pace since the U.S. began withdrawing troops from the country. The Karzais government does not respond to the violence. Women are afraid to be back serving the men after the full withdrawal of troops by the end of 2014. The situation in the country is unstable and the international community needs to understand that there must be presence of international observers in Afghanistan in order to ensure womens security and peace.
Afghanistan needs a leader that will fulfil his promises on protecting womens rights and will not bend under corruption in the government. The ideology of this leader should correspond to the modern views on equality of all people, struggling against sexism and racism. He must be decisive in his arguments for the ideas he offers as there is a whole Parliament of traditionalists to convince. There must be amendments to constitution concerning the rights of all women including minorities. The law enforcement must check the most remote areas of the country that are still under effect of the Taliban in order to ensure the law implementation all over the country.
Women need democracy and equality not only on the paper in legislature, but in real life. It is necessary to implement the written law in order women could feel safe and have opportunity to become equal to the men.
More than thirty years of permanent wars and occupation devastated Afghan women. It is necessary for them to understand what they are fighting for and gain strength for rebuff. There are many organizations, which struggle for Afghan womens rights, freedom and equality since 1977. They emphasize that equality will help to reconstruct and develop Afghanistan.