Social History and status of Women in Afghanistan
3.4 Situation of Women in Afghanistan
According to a decree of October 1978, with the explicit intention of ensuring equal rights for girls and women. So if the minimum legal age of marriage was 16 years for girls and 18 years for boys. The content of the decree and the compulsory education to all the children special girls was perceived by some as unbearable interference in domestic life (democraticunderground.com).
By 1928 the ethnic tribal leaders in the rural areas grew restless and protested against the freedom that women experienced in Kabul. Tribal leaders most of the tribal and rural areas outside Kabul and women here did not received benefit of modernization. They also opposed the education of girls and Amanullah had to reverse some of policies and conform to more traditional agenda of social change.
Schools for girls were closed down and women had to wearing the Veil (Ahmed- Ghosh 2003: 5).
The PDPA‘s use of force in bringing the changes to fruition, combined with a brutal disregard for societal and religious sensitivities, resulted in massive backlash from the rural population (Marsden 2002: 24).
The direct impact of global politics in the 1980s when the Cold War was at the peak should be taken as for the immediate context to understand the internal politics of Afghanistan. The connection is very clear since the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and Pan Islamism which is now identified as beginning in the aftermath of September 11 attacks actually goes back to the 1980s. One of the reasons
for this is the intense competition in the bipolar world and after the fall of the USSR, the integrity of the left to engage and bring about a new agenda. This explains the shift between the lack of any Universalist ideology on one hand and the rise of homegrown Islamist among the other (Ahmed-Ghosh 2003: 9).
As Hawley and Proudfoot point out for American Protestants, The family is an institution is one of the important bedrock for society and has been constructed so by many historians. However, we know that the family is only a historical creation with the rise of monogamy and sedentary cultures. The ideal image of the family leads to certain problems that seem to empower women by glorifying them but at the same time restricted spaces and extract more from their labor and freedom. The conjoining of family and religion is also another problematic aspect as it gives the religious sanction to the family and makes it a primary unit of analysis which then becomes unquestionable (Hawley & Proudfoot 1994: 118).
The East and the West have been a point of comparison and discord for more than a century and more so heightened after the concept of Orientalism played its full force. In this context, the ideas of western citizenship and their wholesale applicability to the east is taken to be a mismatch. It is argued that the idea of citizenship does not be compatible with individualism and liberalism. A critique of the same would entail that such positions are actually dominant male interpretations and multiple possibilities and readings of eastern societies exist beyond this (Joseph & Slyomovics 1).
Women in Afghan public life often face threats--in many cases from inside the Afghan government. The government frequently fails to respond when such threats are reported and often becomes complicit in shutting women out of the public discourse. By failing to act on reports of threats against women because they are women, the government reinforces the perception that regressive actors can target women with impunity.
These conditions are true mostly in developing countries, especially in Afghanistan. As we observe that women have a passive role in social development since their presence is not accounted for on many significant issues concerning them.
Moreover, their lack of access to legal and regulatory facilities only accentuates their
inability to decide their own future particularly in remote areas dominated by traditional and tribal culture.
Studies done by the United Nations Development Program reveals, that Afghanistan is one of the most extreme cases of Gender inequality in the world. In 2011 the country was ranked at 139 from 145 and was included among the worst countries to become mothers, with a maternal mortality rate of 1400 out of 10000 (thebellforum.com).
Most of the attacks and threats to women are unreported and it is also too largely of men because the fear of reprisal is a clear indicator of ever-present danger. In such a situation the use of force and threat of use of force are not much different and therefore they largely go unreported.
3.4.1 Women in Villages
Women have very challenging lives in Afghan society because of the different social expectations. These expectations badly impact on women and they differ from city to village life. There are more limitations on village women than in urban areas.
For example, women must wear a burqa in public and little girls must wear veils. Old women only wear either a white or black veil.
Women in Afghanistan traditionally are restricted by quotes of culture not to speak with any strange men and the only interaction they have with men are the men of the household and that too in restricted spaces. Most of these roles are accessed and without question as they acculturated and therefore the idea of them speaking to any stranger let alone a uniform man is a long cry (Khinjani 2012: ix).
With regard to women in the villages, who form the bulk of the population in Afghanistan, most of their moments are socially conditioned. The mobility has to be with someone else, always dressed in a burqa in public so as to present the image of women as a domesticated person in keeping with the patriarchal ideals. Further other aspects, such as fun and frolic and also little pleasures like gossip that are an essential part of the social life are also largely absent.
Sometimes women of the family get permission from the mother in-law to go shopping, but they must return before the men of the family come home. In most
families, women are beaten if they go out without permission. Sometimes, families do not even allow women to go shopping and men bring them whatever they need. In some families where there is no older woman available, the men of the family lock the young women at home when they go to work for the day. Older women at home are considered to be protection for younger women. There are some public places where only women can go, such as women‘s gardens and shrines where women come together and pray. There they often bring sweets such as ―alwa‖ to share with each other (Khinjani 2012: 15).