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Afghanistan

Return of Taliban rule

According to a Forbes report one year after the return of Taliban rule, women’s rights have been subjugated. Women are banned from leaving their home unless it is necessary and cannot appear in public without wearing the Islamic hijab and fully covering their faces. They are banned from jobs outside the home, unless it is a job that a man cannot do. For example, the only jobs available to women in the government buildings in Kabul are to clean the female lavatories. Women and girls have no right to go to school or university. Women’s participation in public affairs and politics has been entirely removed with the de facto government dismantling the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and there are no women representatives in government. Female judges, prosecutors and lawyers have either fled the country or have been replaced with Taliban fighters who have no legal training. (11)


Much of the research and statistics below capture the experience of women prior to the return of Taliban rule in August 2022. Where possible, we have also provided an update since the Taliban have taken over as the de facto government.


Gender Equality at Work

According to a Strategy and National Action Plan on the Elimination of Violence against Women, verified by the Gender and Women Affairs Committee of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan 87% of women have experienced sexual harassment at work and 89% have experienced it at school (3). The same survey found that 16% of women employed – one of the lowest rates in the world (4)


The Afghanistan Demographic and Health Survey (AfDHS) 2015 found that only 12% of married women are employed (1) whilst 27% of women are not paid for the work they did (1).

As the Taliban returned to power in the summer of 2021, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reflected on how much progress had been achieved for women during the previous twenty years reporting that women’s average income is still only16% of the average income of a man (6).


Domestic abuse

87% of Afghan women are believed to have experience domestic abuse at least once whilst 80% of women reported violence from their partners. Between March 2017 and March 2018, at least 270 women lost their lives due to domestic violence and honour killings in Afghanistan, as documented by the Independent Human Rights Commission. In the fiscal year 1396 (March 2017-March 2018), 4,340 cases of domestic abuse against women registered. Of these, 1,420 cases (32.7%), related to physical violence, 228 cases (5.3%) to sexual violence, 1,317 cases (30.3%) to verbal and psychological violence, 749 cases (17.3%) to economic violence, and 626 cases (14.4%) to other types of violence against women, which largely concerns unacceptable customs and traditions. There was no research on any other gender identities. (12-18).


According to UN research, 2018, 34% of women surveyed had suffered abuse from their partner (4), 87% of women have experienced violence of some form (3) and 91% of women in the Khost province were forced into a marriage (3).


Child marriages

According to UNICEF, in 2016 28% of women aged between 20 and 24 had been married before they turned 18 and 4% had been married before they turned 15 (8). This highlights the problem of child marriages which has likely worsened since the Taliban returned to power.


Girl’s Education

According to an Afghanistan Government demographic report published in 2017, 38% of Afghan children attend secondary school (1), 31% of girls aged 6 and over have gone to school (1), 4% of women have graduated from secondary school (1), 2% of women in rural households have graduated from secondary school (1) and 19% of Afghan girls stopped attending school after they got married (1). In Urozgan, the poorest province in the country, 96% of women don’t have any form of education (1).

A Guardian report published in June 2022, paints a bleak picture for women and girls’ education. It cites examples of women banned from university field trips and classes and being required to wear the burqa to enter schools or universities. For women who have enjoyed relative freedoms and educational opportunities over the last twenty years, the loss is a great one. The tragedy is for the generations of girls who should be now starting their education but who may never know the joy of learning. (2)


Health

Girls are more likely to be suffering from a lack of nutrition than boys. It was reported by the Guardian in June 2022, that in the south 90% of the children suffering from a lack of nutrition in health clinics are female (2).


In 2014, just over 20% of Afghan women were using modern contraceptive methods (7). In 2019, The World Bank calculated that Afghanistan spent $8 per person per year on health (10). Yet by September 2021, only 17% of healthcare facilities were fully functional (9).


Before the Taliban took control, there were 4.6 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 people (9). A woman’s life expectancy at birth is 66 years (10). In 2017, there were 638 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births (10). In 2018, only 59% of deliveries were attended by skilled healthcare professionals (10).


Frontline services


 

Sources

  1. Promundo, “Reflections on Gender, Patriarchy and Peace: Results from the International Men and Gender Equality Survey in Afghanistan”, (2018), Report.

  2. Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (‘AIHRC’), “Summary of the Report on Violence Against Women: Fiscal Year 1396”, (2017), Summary, <https://www.aihrc.org.af/media/files/Research%20Reports/Summerry%20report-VAW-2017.pdf>.

  3. Radio Free Afghanistan, “Afghanistan: Nearly 6,500 Incidents of Violence Against Women Recorded in Past Year”, (gandhara.rferl.org, 25 November 2019), <https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/afghanistan-nearly-6500-incidents-of-violence-against-women-recorded-in-past-year/30291305.html>.

  4. H. Barr, “Afghan Government Ignoring Violence Against Women”, (hrw.org, 30 May 2018), <https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/05/30/afghan-government-ignoring-violence-against-women>.

  5. R. Jewkes, J. Corboz and A. Gibbs, “Violence Against Afghan Women by Husbands, Mothers-in-Law and Siblings-in-Law/Siblings: Risk Markers and Health Consequences in an Analysis of the Baseline of Randomised Controlled Trial”, (journals.plos.org, 7 February 2019), <https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0211361>. AIHRC, (3)

  6. The World Bank, "Population, Total”, (data.worldbank.org, 2019), <https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL>. This figure is sourced from the United Nations (‘UN’) Population Division, World Population Prospects: 2019 Revision.

  7. Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (‘OSCE’), “Well-Being and Safety of Women”, (2019), OSCE-Led Survey on Violence Against Women, 26.



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