Frontline (India's National Magazine), Volume 22 - Issue 13, Jun 04 - 17, 2005

Afghanistan's slow progress

recently in Kabul


ON the gender front, any visitor to Afghanistan cannot but come away with a heavy heart. The Taliban left the scene in November 2001, but they destroyed the Afghan women's confidence so totally that it is almost impossible to find a woman on Kabul's streets - whether dressed in the burqa or without it - who is willing to talk to a stranger. Even if a woman knows English, she will pretend not to understand what you are saying and walk on, dampening your initial feel-good feeling at seeing quite a few women sans the burqa in Kabul's bazaars.

Parveen, an activist of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), which had put up a valiant fight for the rights of women during the worst of times and particularly during the Taliban era, points out that "even though the situation on the gender front has improved in comparison to the Taliban era, much more needs to be done". The young woman, who left the country during the Taliban years and worked for RAWA from Peshawar in Pakistan, is sceptical about the "liberal stance" taken by the Karzai government on the gender front and feels this is more out of pressure from the U.S. "We find most people in the administration, including some of the top Ministers in the government, fundamentalist at heart. Right now they are just paying lip service to women's emancipation to please the Americans."

She adds that the Afghan woman is most persecuted within her own home. "The father, the husband, the brother... these are the people who torture her the most; in many homes there is a lot of domestic violence, the women are forced to wear the burqa and girls are not allowed to go to school or college or to work." RAWA has also charged that the country's top judiciary is packed with male chauvinists who have gone on record as saying that a woman can never be equal to a man.



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