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Photo by Yalda Ali

The Taliban Aim to Erase Women from the Public Space in Afghanistan

On Thursday May 19, in yet another attempt to limit women’s social presence, the Taliban announced that all female news anchors and television hosts must cover their faces while on air. According to a twitter post by TOLOnews, one of Afghanistan’s leading television stations, the Afghan Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice and the Information and Culture Ministry have confirmed the directive. Of course, since the announcement, women television presenters have resisted the directive, but the Taliban have continued to press for the implementation of this discriminatory decree. In a show of solidarity, some male Television presenters too covered their faces while on air.

This severe limitation on women’s rights follows another similar directive from the Afghan Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, of a month ago, requiring all women to cover their faces in public. The directive further advises women not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary. They further announced that should women defy this directive and appear in public without face coverings, their male head of household would stand trial and would face punishment. This policy pits Afghan men and women against one another and aims to further ensure that men remain the eternal guardians and act in concert with the State as suppressors of women in their private as well as public spaces.

Meanwhile, in the past few days Nangarhar province officials have taken measures prohibiting women from entering health care centers without a male guardian. Furthermore, reports are emerging, based on videos shared on social platforms, that show female university students being denied permission to enter university campuses because they are wearing colorful headscarves or because they are not wearing a face covering.

Mandatory hijab for women in Afghanistan, prohibiting girls from continuing to pursue education, and gender segregation in parks and restaurants are only a fraction of the discriminatory and mysoginist policies of the Taliban in Afghanistan that have been announced and implemented, since August 2021. It seems that Afghan women, who comprise half the population, will continue to face more restrictions and prohibitive measures. While women have bravely protested these policies, their protests too have faced severe crackdowns, including arrests and other pressures.

It is clear, the Taliban’s relentless efforts in adopting and implementing grossly discriminatory policies, which undermine women’s fundamental human rights, are an attempt to erase women from the public space and end their active involvement in the social and political spheres.

FEMENA condemns the Taliban’s discriminatory directives and policies, and urges the international community to continue to demand and also pressure the Taliban end its systematic violation of women’s rights, and end its discriminatory practices against women.

For decades, Afghan women have persisted and paid a heavy price in their efforts to achieve equality and freedom, and any attempt in dismantling their achievements is absolutely unacceptable.