Taliban v. Women – A Human Rights Cry

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By Aunkita Dutta

The recent insurge of Taliban in Afghanistan gives butterflies in our stomach and fills our eyes with tears at the same time. The history of the political unrest in the country dates back to 1900s. Afghanistan is a small country with a trade route to its neighboring countries like Pakistan, Iran, India, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. More than its political instability, the country is known for the tussle amongst different groups of how women should be treated in the country. Whereas certain political groups interpret Sharia law liberally to give women rights and duties, Taliban interprets it in their own conservative way.

Before the fall of 1994, women used to get education and enjoyed their human rights at par with that of men in the country. Women were predominantly employed as judges, engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers and lawyers. After the formation of the constitution in 1964, Afghanistan got its first female cabinet minister of health. Though Taliban claims that it was originally formed to response to the civil and political unrest and control crimes against women in the country but in reality, they were engaged in bogging down the rights of the women. It is evident in the several restrictions on women’s livelihood.

Afghanistan has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and Convention on the Rights of the Child. Moreover, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to Afghanistan as a customary international law. According to Article 2 of the UDHR everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Under Article 19(3) of the ICCPR, a state may limit the freedom only insofar as it is necessary for the protection of the rights of others, national security or public order, or public health or morals. Although the definition of public morals differs widely, it is the view of Human Rights Watch that it cannot be used to impose severe limitations on women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms.

On 15thAugust 2021, when USA government collapsed and the Taliban regained power in the country, the international community expressed their concern without taking any action. No steps had been taken to protect the human rights of the citizens, especially women and children.

Taliban promised to respect and promote women rights but actions speak louder than words. Women were restricted to access to health care, forced to marry, women posters were covered with white paint, women were banned from working at the state TV channel, and women football team disappeared in fear. The gravity of the situation can be assessed from the act of desperate mothers throwing their own babies through the barbed wires to the British soldiers. Rather than enduring the silence, the best lightning rod for one’s protection is one’s own spine and the women of Afghanistan is the glaring example. When the whole world is being a mute spectator, they themselves took the sword for protecting their rights. Political women activists took the initiative to encourage women to protest and demand their democratic rights from the Taliban. At present, Hundreds of woman are protesting in the streets of Kabul. They opined that the struggle they have made for the last two decades cannot be made futile. Thus, fight for access to justice have just matched the fins and the world is hopeful to witness the little drops of water making the mighty ocean.

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Aunkita Dutta is a student of the UMSAILS LLM Program at Department of Law and Human Rights, University of Asia Pacific.