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Afghan decree

“A woman is not a property, but a noble and free human being. No one can give her to anybody in exchange for peace, or to end animosity,”

SNS | New Delhi |

Friday’s decree of the Taliban government in Afghanistan dwells on women’s rights, making it explicit that they must not be considered what it calls “property” and must give consent to their marriage. Forced marriages have thus been banned. Having said that, there is no mention of women’s right to education or to work outside the home.

The hardliners have pursued a thus-far-and-no-further praxis. The denial of facilities to work outside the home have for the past four months been major concerns of the international community.

In parallel to the freezing of funds, the international community has exerted pressure on the Taliban to make a commitment on upholding women’s rights ever since the hardline Islamist group took over the embattled country on August 15 this year. “A woman is not a property, but a noble and free human being. No one can give her to anybody in exchange for peace, or to end animosity,”

the Taliban decree stated. It set out the rules governing marriage and property for women, stating that women should not be forced into marriage. Furthermore, widows should have a share in their late husband’s property.

The decree also carries a word of caution and/or advice for the courts and the ministries of religious affairs and information. While the judiciary has been directed to take into account the rules when making decisions, the two ministries ~ government entities both ~ have been asked to promote these rights.

Having said that, this seems to be a bow that the hardline Taliban has taken in the direction of more liberal world, which has been concerned about events in Afghanistan after the takeover. Poverty is surging in Afghanistan following the religious militia’s assumption of power in August.

Foreign governments have frozen funds that had been a mainstay of the economy. There is little doubt that women’s rights had improved markedly over the past two decades of international presence in Afghanistan. Those rights are now under threat with the return of the Taliban, whose earlier stint in power had seen women virtually cloistered.

Forced marriages have become more commonplace in the overwhelmingly poor and conservative country. The nub of the matter must be that as often as not, young daughters are married off in exchange for what they call a “bride-price” that can be used to clear debts and feed the family. For decades, women in Afghanistan were treated like property ~ as an exchange token for blood money or to end disputes and tribal feuds.

Sad to reflect, the societal compulsions persist from one regime to another. Friday’s announcement comes as hundreds and thousands of girls are still not allowed to attend school. In short, while the Taliban has issued a decree, it is not one that it can seriously believe will be followed.