International Women Day, a Dark Day for Afghan Women

More than fifty years have elapsed since the United Nations declared March 8th to be International Women‘s Day, serving as a reminder to all of us to take women‘s rights more seriously in our societies.

Since the dawn of civilization, gender inequality and oppression have been present. Simone de Beauvoir‘s renowned book discusses how women have been denied their rights and treated as asecond gender for thousands of years. This inequality and discrimination has had a detrimental effect on both genders, as women who are deprived of social activities, art, economy, legislation, or the opportunity to express themselves in life, cannot raise healthy and balanced men. In other words, women who are oppressed will raise oppressive and violent children. Breaking this cycle of oppression and inequality by providing women with the rights and opportunities they deserve would be beneficial to both genders and to humanity as a whole.

Significant progress has been made in some countries, as women are now able to vote, hold leadership positions, participate in legislation, and institutionalize women‘s rights. This progress has not been limited to the legislative sector, but has extended to culture, art, education, and, most importantly, women have been able to strongly criticize any discriminatory views of their abilities and basic rights. Although women in some Eastern and Islamic countries are gradually gaining access to education and entering mainstream society, the progress has been slow and the change has not been extensive.

The situation in Afghanistan, however, is drastically different. Despite the reformist King Amanullah Khan taking bold steps to improve the status of women at the turn of the twentieth century, his efforts were soon thwarted by a series of unfortunate events. The root causes of these events can be traced back to power struggles between the superpowers of the time, but the main causes remain internal, due to the resistance of reactionary and radical forces. With the arrival of Jihad and Jihadists came oppression against women, and to this day they are deprived of basic rights such as education and work. Unfortunately, nothing has changed; regional and international policies are partly responsible for the miserable situation of women in Afghanistan, but what holds them back is the stagnant and malicious traditions. On International Women‘s Day, let us be reminded that women are not slaves to cook or commodities to be sold. Let us raise awareness about women‘s rights and strive for a fundamental change in the status of women in society. Women are equal to men, not less, not more.