Last update: April 2022
The position of women and girls in Afghanistan is characterised by deeply engrained attitudes, strong cultural beliefs and societal structures that reinforce discrimination. Gender-based human rights violations are common. In their first press conference after the takeover, the Taliban announced that ‘women are a key part of society and we are guaranteeing all their rights within the limits of Islam’. However, it was not clarified or elaborated what the Taliban considered those limits to be [Security September 2021, 1.1.2; Country Focus 2022, 1.4, 2.3].
There were reports indicating local divergence in implementing Islamic rule and official policy. For example, in some areas of southern Afghanistan, more conservative social policies reflecting more conservative norms were reported, although conservative traditions impacted the public life even before the Taliban takeover. It was also reported that Taliban fighters seemingly acted on their own initiative in implementing Sharia law and their reactions to behaviour perceived as non-compliant with Taliban moral and religious norms seemed to differ. On one hand, there have been Taliban leadership’s assurances that people could resume their daily lives. A Taliban handbook outlined a ‘gentler approach’ for dealing with persons who did not follow Taliban’s interpretation of Sharia law, for example with regard to dress codes for women. On the other hand, women were reportedly stopped and harassed by Taliban fighters for leaving their homes without a male relative or not wearing a burqa [Country Focus 2022, 1.4, 2.1].
Women were not represented in the announced interim government, and no appointments were made to the Ministry of Women’s affairs whose offices were used by the reinstated Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Furthermore, women reportedly faced difficulties in accessing work and education [Country Focus 2022, 2.3. See also 2.13.5. Education of children and girls in particular].
On 3 December, the Taliban released a decree on women’s rights, setting out rules governing marriage and women’s ownership. The decree stated that women should not be considered as ‘property’ or be forced into marriage, but the decree did not address women’s access to work or education [Country Focus 2022, 2.3].
The Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice reportedly also issued on 26 December 2021 a guidance saying that women should not be offered transport of more than 45 miles (72 kilometres) if unaccompanied by a close male relative and calling on drivers to not offer rides to women that are not wearing hijab [Country Focus 2022, Introduction].