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The vast majority of Afghanistan's population professes to be followers of Islam. Over 1400 years ago, Islam demanded that men and women be equal before God, and gave them various rights such the right to inheritance, the right to vote, the right to work, and even choose their own partners in marriage. For centuries now in Afghanistan, women have been denied these rights either by official government decree or by their own husbands, fathers, and brothers. During the rule of the Taliban (1996 - 2001), women were treated worse than in any other time or by any other society. They were forbidden to work, leave the house without a male escort, not allowed to seek medical help from a male doctor, and forced to cover  themselves from head to toe, even covering their eyes. Women who were doctors and teachers before, suddenly were forced to be beggars and even prostitutes in order to feed their families.

Since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, many would agree that the political and cultural position of Afghan women has improved substantially. The recently adopted Afghan constitution states that "the citizens of Afghanistan - whether man or woman- have equal rights and duties before the law". So far, women have been allowed to return back to work, the government no longer forces them to wear the all covering burqa, and they even have been appointed to prominent positions in the government. Despite all these changes many challenges still remain. The repression of women is still prevalent in rural areas where many families still restrict their own mothers, daughters, wives and sisters from participation in public life. They are still forced into marriages and denied a basic education. Numerous school for girls have been burned down and little girls have even been poisoned to death for daring to go to school.

- by Abdullah Qazi

Fact Box
  • 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

Source: IRIN

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This section  last updated on December 9, 2010
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