A Taliban directive in July asked local religious leaders to provide them with a list of girls over 15 and widows under 45 for ‘marriage’ with Taliban fighters.
The increasing onslaught of the Taliban in Afghanistan that includes their move to control women has generated fear.
One of the first moves of the Taliban after taking swift control of over large parts of the country has been to issue a diktat for Afghan women. Minimal resistance and lack of international pressure has coupled to intensify their violence.
For Afghan women, the terror may have just begun. In early July, after Taliban leaders who took control of the provinces of Badakhshan and Takhar issued an order to local religious leaders to provide them with a list of girls over the age of 15 and widows under the age of 45 for ’marriage’ with Taliban fighters.
It’s not yet known ta they’ve complied. If these forced marriages take place, women and girls will be taken to Waziristan in Pakistan to be re-educated and converted to ‘authentic Islam.’
Nine lakh people have been displaced over last three months from Afghanistan. The situation for those who stay back is one fraught with fear.
This Taliban directive serves as a stark warning of what lies ahead and a harsh reminder of their brutal 1996-2001 regime during which women were subjected to persistent human rights violations, denied employment and education, forced to wear the burqa and forbidden from leaving home without a ‘mahram’ – a male guardian.
Even if they claimed that they have changed their stance on women and their rights, the Taliban’s actions and latest efforts to commit thousands of women to sexual slavery demonstrate quite the opposite.
Furthermore, the Taliban have signaled their intention to deny girls’ education past the age of 12, to ban women from employment and reinstate the law requiring women to be accompanied by a guardian.
The gains made by Afghan women over the past 20 years, particularly in education, employment and political participation, are under grave threat.
Offering ‘wives’ is a strategy aimed at luring militants to join the Taliban. This is sexual enslavement, not marriage, and forcing women into sexual slavery under the guise of marriage is both a war crime and a crime against humanity. Article 27 of the Geneva Convention states:
“Women must be especially protected against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any other form of indecent assault.”
In 2008, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1820 declaring that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity.” It recognizes sexual violence as a tactic of war intent on humiliating, dominating and instilling fear in civilian members of the community.
What happens now to the women in Afghanistan will depend a lot on how the UN reacts to prevent atrocities.
Suggestions that have come from experts include systems to bring about sustainable peace and an immediate ceasefire. Also, ensuring women’s rights — enshrined in Afghanistan’s Constitution and national legislation and international law — are respected.
At present, there are only four women peace negotiators on the Afghan government’s team and none on the Taliban’s. Lifting sanctions against the Taliban must be conditional on their commitment to uphold women’s rights.
The European Union and the United States, currently the largest donors to Afghanistan, must make aid conditional upon women’s rights and their access to education and employment.
Women in Afghanistan and across the region would welcome efforts by the UN and the international community to ensure that survivors of sexual violence have equal protection under the law and equal access to justice. (with PTI inputs)