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Gender Apartheid:
Afghan Women Under the Taliban

When the Taliban militia took power in Afghanistan in 1996, they immediately targeted women's rights as a first priority, citing medieval Sharia (Islamic law) as their authority. Women's public life came abruptly to an end; they were brutally forced into silence and invisibility.

While women the world over pressed the United Nations and their own governments to free Afghan women by stopping the flow of arms and of economic and political support for the Taliban, women's rights and lives were sacrificed to the geopolitical needs of male and corporate power. Among the many restrictions the Taliban put in place and violently enforce in their determination to enslave women, Afghan women:

Dying Woman Cannot appear in public unless dressed in a Burqa, a shapeless bag that covers them from head to toe, making them virtually invisible. Women have been publicly whipped or stoned for accidentally revealing an ankle.
Are forbidden to work outside the home.
Are banned from studying in schools or universities.
Cannot appear in public or ride in a taxi unless accompanied by a close male relative; must travel on "women only" public buses; cannot ride bicycles or motorcycles.
Are forbidden to deal with male shopkeepers or talk or shake hands with men outside their families.
Are banned from public celebrations or from appearing on radio or television.
Are not allowed to gather for any recreational purposes.
Are forbidden to laugh or talk loudly. (No stranger should hear a woman's voice.)
Are forbidden to sing.
Cannot wear brightly colored clothes.
Are prohibited from practicing family planning.
Cannot be treated by male doctors. As most female medical providers are internationals who are currently fleeing the country, women injured in the U.S. attack on Afghanistan have virtually no access to health care.
Cannot be operated upon by a surgical team containing a male member.
Cannot appear on the balconies of their apartments or houses. Windows must be painted on houses so that women cannot be seen from outside.
Cannot be photographed or filmed. Women's pictures are banned from newspapers and books, and cannot be hung on the walls of houses and shops.
Are publicly stoned and sometimes executed if accused of having sex outside of marriage.
Are banned from playing sports or entering a sport center or club.
Have no legal recourse. A woman cannot petition the court directly; her testimony is worth half a man's testimony.


© Tanya Brannan, Purple Berets
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Copyright © 2001 Purple Berets

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