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Women Around the World: Afghanistan

May 19, 2010 | Elizabeth


NPR (National Public Radio) did a special report this morning on Afghan women.  The Taliban was in control of this country from 1997-2001 until the United States decided it was time to intervene in 2001; we still have troops present there today.

Islam is a religion that has been easily misunderstood and speculated about in the news. Many people don’t understand Islam and often picture it as a threat. It is also widely and wrongfully assumed that all types of Islam are extremely suppressive to women.

According to an essay by M.D. Nalapat on Afghanistan Online:

“All that the Koran enjoins is that women ‘should lower theirgaze andguard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments what [must ordinarily] appear thereof; that they should draw their veils overtheirbosoms and not display their beauty’ to males, except to certain categories of close relatives.”

When the Taliban was in control of the country during that time, they took a position that was extremely oppressive towards women.

“They were forbidden to work, leave the house without a male escort, notallowed to seek medical help from a male doctor, and forced to cover themselves from head to toe, even covering their eyes. Women who weredoctors and teachers before, suddenly were forced to be beggars andeven prostitutes in order to feed their families.”

Even though the Taliban isn’t in control of the country anymore, NPR reported that many women who have their own businesses or those that are trying to be independent are some of the prime targets of terror attacks in the country. Afghanistan has tried to raise the status of women and recognize them as equal citizens. In their constitution it states, 


“The citizens of Afghanistan – whether man or woman – have equal rights and duties before the law.”

Despite their legislative action to try to improve conditions for women in the country, the enforcement for their safety, protection, and future growth hasn’t been enough to help them succeed and flourish.

Here are some horrific facts about life for Afghan women:

  • Every 30 minutes, an Afghan woman dies during childbirth
  • 87 percent of Afghan women are illiterate
  • 30 percent of girls have access to education in Afghanistan
  • 1 in every 3 Afghan women experience physical, psychological or sexual violence
  • 44 years is the average life expectancy rate for women in Afghanistan
  • 70 to 80 percent of women face forced marriages in Afghanistan

It is important not only to recognize the struggles of women within our own country but to be aware of issues of gender in other countries as well. As I explore the status of women in different countries, I hope we all become more aware of what they are going through and how we can learn from them.

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