Middle East/North Africa

Taliban says women aren’t ‘property,’ must consent to marriage

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Afghanistan’s Taliban government on Friday released a decree regarding women’s rights in the country, according to a report by Reuters.

The decree, announced by Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhunzada, states that women are not to be considered “property” and that “both [women and men] should be equal,” according to The Associated Press. It also says that “no one can force women to marry by coercion or pressure.”

The government further decreed that widows should receive a portion of their late husband’s property, per the AP, and be allowed to marry a man of their choosing beginning 17 weeks after their husband passes, according to the AP.

In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihillah Muhajid said, “A woman is not a property, but a noble and free human being; no one can give her to anyone in exchange for peace … or to end animosity,” per Reuters.

For decades prior, according to the AP, women in Afghanistan were passed between men in the course of various feuds and transactions and given to their late husband’s close relatives for remarriage after they were widowed.

The new decree comes as the Taliban faces heightened pressure and blocked funding to Afghanistan from other countries in part because of the treatment of Afghan women, according to Reuters. It may signal an attempt on the Taliban’s part to earn international recognition for its government and to begin receiving aid amid an ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis in the country, the AP reported.

The Taliban previously barred girls from attending school and women from leaving the house without covering their full face and head and being accompanied by a male relative when the group controlled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, per Reuters.

The wire service noted that the decree made no mention of women’s education or ability to work.

Since the Taliban’s seizure of power as the U.S. withdrew its military from Afghanistan this summer, the government has prohibited thousands of girls in grades seven to 12 from attending school and banned mixed gender classes, according to the AP.

In October, most women in the Afghan city of Kabul were told not to return to work. An exception was made for women who worked in education and health, but all others were ordered to return home. 

A month prior, women in Kabul were told that they could only work if they could “not be replaced by men” in their roles.

This signaled a departure from the Taliban’s previous promises that women could pursue education and careers if they so chose, and could fuel skepticism that the words about women’s rights in Friday’s decree will be borne out in governmental actions moving forward.

“People need to understand, we fought for those rights,” one Afghan woman told The Hill back in August, as the Taliban took over. “Despite the U.S. being there, we still fought for [our rights] within the patriarchal system to be able to stand up to them and tell them ‘this is our right.’”

Tags Afghanistan Afghanistan conflict Forced marriage Hibatullah Akhundzada Kabul Taliban Taliban Women in Afghanistan women's education Women's rights
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