Category: Commentary

Taleban and women

For all practical purposes, the Taleban has placed the female population of Afghanistan under house arrest.

Under the Taleban’s strict interpretation of Islamic Law or Shari’a, women are not permitted to appear in public unless a)escorted by an adult male relative and b)wearing a burqa, a full body covering with only a mesh opening for seeing and breathing. This heavy garment by itself restricts women’s movement, limiting their range of vision, physical movement and ability to breathe freely.

Thanks to the Taleban’s Catch-22 style edicts, women are unable to obtain medical and dental care. A woman may not be seen or touched by a man outside her family, but neither may she be attended by a female doctor, dentist or medical technician since none are permitted to provide services. Only a few poorly staffed and equipped hospitals are permitted to admit women. The results are disastrous for women’s physical and mental health. Widows, without adult male relatives, who fall ill are practically under a death sentence.

One of the first edicts issued by the Taleban when it gained control of Kabul in 1996 was to forbid women and girls to attend school. Although humanitarian groups rushed in to fill the gap, establishing private schools where girls and women were taught to weave and sew, the Taleban shut down these schools in 1998. Thereafter, girls’ education was limited to the Koran and only up to age 8.

Taleban policies and edicts are enforced by the “religious police” (Department for the Propagation of Virtue and the Suppression of Vice) often in the form of public whippings. Every Friday, the city of Kabul is witness to the public punishment of offenders in the Kabul sports stadium; public attendance is required at the floggings, shootings, hangings, beheadings, and lopping off of limbs. The Taleban’s Shari’a courts lack any semblance of due process; torture is frequently used to extract confessions.

Source: Physicians for Human Rights investigative report “The Taleban’s War on Women: A Health and Human Rights Crisis in Afghanistan Executive Summary”, http://www.phrusa.org/research/health_effects/exec.html.

© 2001-2006, originally published May 22, 2001