The Taliban’s capture of Kabul in late August 2021, and subsequent consolidation of rule over Afghanistan, raised serious concern that the gains secured by women and girls over the last twenty years would be lost. Since regaining control of Afghanistan, Taliban representatives have promised to respect women’s rights to work and education, albeit within an ill-defined Islamic framework. But the government’s actions over the past few months strongly suggest that the Islamic fundamentalist group is reverting to form when it comes to using power to oppress women and girls.
Since resuming control, Taliban authorities have severely restricted where women and girls can go in their community. According to Amnesty International, women have been informed that they cannot go to work or travel without a male guardian. For the last three months, girls over the age of 12 have been prohibited from attending school, and segregation of women and men in universities is negatively impacting women’s opportunities in post-secondary institutions. Women have been expelled from many areas of the labor force, including the media and entertainment. In October, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres slammed the Taliban for breaking its commitments to women and girls in Afghanistan.
The Taliban has forced the closure of domestic abuse shelters, leaving survivors without critical assistance and protection. According to Amnesty International, “many survivors — as well as shelter staff, lawyers, judges, government officials, and others involved in protective services — are now at risk of violence and death.” Earlier this month, Taliban soldiers shot and killed the 10 year-old daughter of an Afghan man who had worked for the Canadian Armed Forces in Kandahar, as well as an adult woman related to the girl.
The government’s Ministry of Women Affairs has been replaced by a Ministry for Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, and women have been expunged from the cabinet. Under previous Taliban rule, the “virtue-promoting ministry” beat women for failing to cover all of their body with clothing, including wrists and ankles, and for walking outside without a close male relative. Women increasingly fear for their personal safety.