Friday, 25 November 2011

When Reality bites...

At first sight, when one speaks of women in conflict, my mind transports me to the plight of women in the DRCongo and in Afghanistan, although women do face such situations world over. Having dabbled a little with the issues in DRCongo, I chose to work on the situation in Afghanistan. My initial knowledge and tryst with the prevalent situation in Afghanistan that challenges women and girls, came from a copious amount of reading- Khaled Hosseini, Jean Sasson, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon and the like. But precious little prepared me for the real horrors that these women face, as I gathered when I began reading international documentation speaking of the horrors in the state. There really is a reason for this state being the worst place in the world to be a woman. 
2011, Thomson Reuters

The Taliban has ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001. During its tenure, the scale of oppression faced by women was incomparable. Women were prevented from working. They were kept away from the public, being disallowed a public appearance bereft of a full-length blue burkha. Women were kept from receiving an education, and could never walk outside of their houses without a male to escort them. If even one of them broke any of these rules, they would find themselves in a predicament where they would be beaten, and sometimes, killed.

Almost immediately after they came into power, the Taliban aggressively kept women under the thumb of heavy oppression. Under these restrictions, women were denied basic rights to education and health care. Women couldn’t quite leave their houses at all because they couldn’t afford a burqa sometimes. They would have to wait for hours until a male relative could escort them. Women stayed at home and painted their windows so that no one could look in or out. Women in Afghanistan under the Taliban were put under house arrest. Women who, at one point, held such respectable positions, were forced to wander the streets in their burqas selling everything they owned and begging in order to survive.

2011, Thomson Reuters

The exclusion of women from work and social life set Afghanistan into a tough phase. Pre-Taliban, most teachers were women. But now, the restrictions on women’s employment have left the education system in disarray. Though women were banned from most jobs, women in the medical field were allowed to continue working since the Taliban required that women could be treated only by female physicians. But women in medicine suffered the consequences of their continued labour. They were often beaten, and sometimes had to watch their colleagues get beaten.

When the United States invaded Afghanistan, the Taliban was displaced and overthrown. Although some women did manage to regain their hold over their rights and their freedoms, a greater part of these rights remained a dream for the women in Afghanistan, when the Taliban began to regain its stronghold over power. Women now live under the yoke of a nation ruled by warlords and zealots, with a massive market indulging in drug trafficking and weapon trade.

Today, the state of affairs in Afghanistan, what with targeted violence against female public officials, dismal healthcare and desperate poverty, has led to the tabulation of the state as the world’s most dangerous country in which to be born a woman.

In the coming weeks, I hope to tackle some of the key issues pertaining to women in Afghanistan- their rights, the abuses meted out to them, governmental policy, the impact of intervention, the question of integration of women into political and social life, the impact of education and the need for the same, domestic violence and the influence of religion on the lives of women along with a touch-and-go comparison with the predicament of women world over. 

Kirthi Jayakumar


  1. Kirthi, I am glad you chose this subject. When it comes to women in Afghanistan, I found that there are many stories to be told and shared. I am looking forward to hear about them on your future posts ;)

  2. Thanks so much, Katherine!