Global perspective Human stories

Restrictions on Afghan women continue unabated

Hundreds of women have been forced out of their jobs in Afghanistan. (file photo)
© UNICEF/Shehzad Noorani
Hundreds of women have been forced out of their jobs in Afghanistan. (file photo)

Restrictions on Afghan women continue unabated

Human Rights

Hundreds of Afghan women were forced to quit their jobs or have been arrested and denied access to essential services in the last quarter of 2023, a new update from the UN mission there revealed on Monday, as Taliban officials continue undermining their basic human rights.

Among those whose working lives have been upended, de facto authorities “banned” approximately 400 women workers at a pine nut processing from the workplace and dismissed another 200 at a power plant, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in an update on the human rights situation.

The Mission also noted that women were arrested for purchasing contraceptives and that unmarried female staff at a healthcare facility were “advised” to get married by officials from the so-called Department for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, or risk losing their jobs.

The officials reportedly stated that “it was inappropriate for an unmarried woman to work.”

Many women were also not allowed to board buses or go to work because they were unmarried or because they did not have a mahram – a male chaperone – to accompany them in public.

Enforcement of ‘hijab’ decree

The update also noted that several women were arbitrarily arrested in Kabul and other locations for “not wearing proper hijab”.

Most were released after their mahrams signed a guarantee that they will adhere to the hijab decree in the future.

“The measures taken by the de facto authorities contradicts the hijab decree itself,” UNAMA said.  

“For a first violation of the decree, a warning is to be issued to individual’s mahram (at the place of residence), for a second violation, the individual’s mahram is to be summoned, for a third violation, the individual’s mahram may be imprisoned for up to three days and for a fourth violation, the individual’s mahram is to be brought before the de facto court for further action.”

Freedom of expression

UNAMA further noted that the de facto authorities continued to infringe the right to freedom of expression by limiting the opportunity to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

On 14 December, the Taliban Ministry of Higher Education issued a letter instructing all universities and private education institutions to remove books which are considered against the laws of Hanafi jurisprudence.

This includes books relating to Shi’a belief, political parties and materials authored by individuals associated with the elected Government the Taliban deposed, the update stated.

In further examples, four women’s rights activists and three staff of a radio station were arrested between September and December simply for doing their jobs.

Although five of them were released, one rights activist remains in detention and one journalist was sentenced to a year in prison.

Remnants of war

UNAMA noted that at least 11 people were killed and a further 51 wounded by unexploded ordnance between October and December 2023. Forty-nine of the 62 victims were children (41 boys and eight girls).