Women’s Rights Violations in Afghanistan – A Regression

Mar 8, 2024

Regression, rather than progression, has characterised women’s rights in Afghanistan since August 2021. Women in Afghanistan, who won the right to vote in 1919, a year before American women, are now restricted from leaving their houses without male supervision, imprisoning them within their own homes.1 The decline in women and girls’ freedom has been extreme.

While women all around the world fight for their rights and autonomy, the women of Afghanistan aren’t even afforded this luxury. Women from Afghanistan have always been at the forefront for women’s rights and activism, since the previous century, having the same freedoms as Western women. They were free to work towards achieving degrees, took up professional pursuits, worked as doctors, lawyers, and academics. They worked alongside men and were equally qualified. A new constitution that was adopted in 2004 guaranteed gender equality and reserved women 27% of the seats in parliament. By 2021, women in Afghanistan had taken up 69 of the 249 seats in parliament, were actively negotiating peace throughout the nation, and had laws allowing them to be listed as parents on their children’s identity cards and birth certificates.2 In addition to an independent Human Rights Commission and legislation making violence against women illegal, there was a Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

Beyond this, women were visible in public, in parks, schools, politics, and courts. Under the Taliban rule, they are not permitted even basic primary education.3 The Taliban know how powerful an educated and well-informed female populace would be. Segregation has taken place between the genders. Women responded to the restrictions by marching on the streets of cities in Afghanistan, demanding the right to work and study and facing violent backlash and repression of protests by the Taliban.4

Protesters like Zhulia Parsi, Neda Parwani, Manizha Sediqi, and Parisa Azada have been detained arbitrarily and potentially tortured by the Taliban.5 These courageous and inspirational women’s families don’t even know where they are, what their conditions are, or even if they are still alive. When a woman speaks up, she is subjected to abuse, the Taliban demand deeds to their family’s property if they are freed, threatening to seize it if the woman carries on with her activism.6 The disappearances of Tamana Zaryab Paryani and Parawana Ibrahimkhil, two other female activists, have caused great concern for Amnesty International.7 The Taliban denies their arrests and refuses to disclose their whereabouts. These are a handful of many many cases, both past and present, of imprisoned female activists that Human Rights Watch is aware of.

The women facing this suppression have no one to turn to. Survivors of sexual and domestic violence now have very few resources to support them. Safe houses have had to close as a result of the near total collapse of the support network that women’s rights activists had built up across the country over the previous 20 years. Employees of organisations that provide guidance and protection face threats and frequently have to operate covertly. The Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW Law), which was applied to 22 cases of mistreatment of women since 2009, is no longer enforceable. There is no longer a Ministry of Women’s Affairs; it has been converted into the Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.8

The Taliban issued a purported “decree on women’s rights” in 2021, but it omitted any mention of employment or education.9 Women from Afghanistan and experts quickly condemned the document, arguing that it demonstrated the militant group’s lack of concern for preserving fundamental liberties for the millions of women in the country who have been mainly confined to their homes in recent months. Women should not be forced into marriage, and widows are entitled to a portion of their husbands’ property, according to the decree, which lays out the laws governing marriage and property for women. “A woman is not a property, but a noble and free human being; no one can give her to anyone in exchange for peace…or to end animosity,” said the Taliban decree, released by spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid.10

However, the actions and enforcements of the Taliban since August 2021, have only brought about and increased the oppression and discrimination against women in Afghanistan.

Researched and written by Reva Naidu


  1. https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2023/06/afghan-women-suffer-extreme-discrimination-restrictions-and-violence-deputy-high; https://www.amnesty.org.uk/womens-rights-afghanistan-history#:~:text=Rise%20of%20the%20Taliban%20%26%20Decline%20of%20Women%27s%20Rights&text=Women%20were%20denied%20basic%20rights,for%20women%27s%20rights%20in%20Afghanistan. ↩︎
  2. https://www.unwomen.org/en/news-stories/feature-story/2023/08/women-in-afghanistan-from-almost-everywhere-to-almost-nowhere
  3. https://www.dw.com/en/how-the-taliban-are-violating-womens-rights-in-afghanistan/a-66143514 ↩︎
  4. https://2001-2009.state.gov/g/drl/rls/6185.htm ↩︎
  5. https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/11/30/womens-rights-activists-under-attack-afghanistan ↩︎
  6. https://www.rferl.org/a/afghan-women-journalists/31382287.html ↩︎
  7. https://monitor.civicus.org/explore/taliban-continues-target-activists-journalists-and-stifle-protests-women-impunity/ ↩︎
  8. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-66461711 ↩︎
  9. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/12/03/asia/afghanistan-taliban-decree-womens-rights-intl/index.html ↩︎
  10. https://www.chathamhouse.org/2022/06/womens-rights-under-threat-taliban-run-afghanistan ↩︎

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