| Welcome to Global Village Space

Monday, April 15, 2024

Women rights in the prism of history in Afghanistan

Since taking control of Kabul on 15 August 2021, the Taliban have imposed severe restrictions on women and girls. Apart from healthcare workers and a few other isolated exemptions, women have been told they cannot return to work or travel in public without being accompanied by a Mahram (male guardian) What does Afghanistan's constitution actually say about Afghan women rights?

Women’s rights in Afghanistan have undergone various transformations throughout the years. Women first got the right to vote and contest elections in 1964 during the “decade of democracy” of King Zahir Shah. The Constitution of 1964 guaranteed equal rights for both sex. In the mid-1960s, four women got representation in the House, one woman was appointed as a minister, and several others were made deputy ministers. During that time, women protested against forced mandates such as wearing the veil in public. During the Soviet-Afghan war between the 1970s and 80s, women continued to advocate for their rights.

However, after the 1990s, especially during the era of Taliban rule, women lost the little rights they had advocated for over the years. The Taliban banned most of the education for women and girls. They confined women to their homes unless a male family member was with them, denying them access to most jobs — or even freedom to leave their house for a walk. In 2001, when America attacked Afghanistan and the new government was formed under Hamid Karzai, women were also included. In 2004, with the new constitution, 27% of the 250 seats in the House of the People were allocated women under article 84 regarding members of the House of elders:

Read more: Afghan women to continue playing cricket – Major win!

What does the constitution say?

Article 84: The President shall appoint fifty percent of these individuals from amongst women. The individual nominated as a member of the House of Elders shall lose membership to the related Council, and another individual shall be appointed following the provisions of the law

The constitution also mentioned specific articles for women’s rights, including article 44:

Article 44: The state shall devise and enforce effective programs to create and foster balanced education for women, improve the education of nomads as well as eliminate illiteracy in the country

The 2004 constitution offered Afghan women rights and social and economic growth that seemed set to improve their conditions. When because there were no health care or medical services available to women during the Taliban era and that the post-Taliban regime has allowed for the construction of more than 3,000 health facilities, it could be said that the US invasion and subsequent occupation has contributed to Afghans in terms of the 136% increase in the number of functioning primary health care facilities from 496 facilities in 2002 to 1,169 facilities in 2007, and an increase in the proportion of those facilities having female physicians, nurses, or midwives from 24.8% to 83.0 %.

The health management information system indicates that there has been nearly a four-fold increase in the number of outpatient visits from 0.23 visits per capita per year in 2004 to 0.94 in 2007. However, lack of security, poor infrastructure, and the consequences of war indicates that accessing these facilities, especially in the rural areas, has only improved slightly. Furthermore, access to these facilities in the wake of the Taliban takeover remains an open question. In 2003, less than 10% of girls were enrolled in primary schools. However, by 2017, that number had grown to 33%. Female enrolment in secondary education increased from 6% in 2003 to 39% in 2017.

Read more: The smokescreen of Afghan women

Nevertheless, the 2004 constitution’s first three articles state that Afghanistan is an Islamic state, and thus the rules and regulations set forth must be per Islamic principles. Currently, the protests that Afghan women have organized have faced violent backlash. The women have appealed to the UN to provide support for Afghan women. The current situation offers a degree of proof that the improvements made during the two decades of US occupation have not been long-lasting for women’s rights.


The writer is a Visiting Lecturer at the Department of International Relations, Government College University of Faisalabad. He can be reached at Aamirjunaid798@gmail.com. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.