While talking to a colleague of mine about the plight of women around the world we eventually ended up discussing the condition of women in Afghanistan. The things we talked about made a chill run down my spine. It sounds farfetched but if you do a little research you will realise the sort of horrors the Afghani women go through on a daily basis and they have no one; not even the government to turn to. Atleast in India we have laws protecting women; whether that is practiced or not is a different question altogether but atleast we can think of approaching the authorities. Also we have several human rights groups who we can turn to for help. Though women in India also suffer various atrocities but atleast we have the hope of bringing those guilty to book. Our society is repressive and orthodox too with regards to women more so in the rural areas or among the families where the elders still live by the archaic laws. But our issues are very different from those that exist there and can still be fought off. For Women in Afghanistan justice is a luxury that they can’t afford. They are looked upon as despicable objects that cause temptation and are of little or no use to society.
Kofi Annan once said gender equality is critical to the development and peace of every nation. This argument is aptly advocated when we look at the condition of Afghanistan and of its women population. With the advent of Taliban in the Afghani society; the rights of women had gone for a toss. The provisions made by these so called custodians of religion are still very much stamped in the Afghani society.
As a woman of the present day and age, with the right to live my life on my own terms, it causes me immense pain when I read about the predicament of women in Afghanistan. I will create a ruckus if I ever have to take permission to go out of my home or if I am ever stopped from doing things by my own free will. This is the extent to which I am fierce about my independence. I believe it is my life and just because I am a woman no god forsaken person has the right to tell me how I am to go about living it! I have been fortunate enough to have a family which respects me and my philosophy. I am lucky to have lived a life so far where no decision has been forced upon me. But unfortunately the same is not true for innocent and helpless women in the country of Afghanistan.
A woman in Afghanistan has to live by so many dos and don’ts. Don’t believe me? Read on. Though strictly speaking the Taliban has been over thrown and a new government is in place which projects itself to be nothing like its barbaric predecessors, in reality the oppressive tyranny still persists. Basic rights and indulgences are looked upon as crime for women. Salons and parlours which any women must have free access to was considered a sin in the Taliban days, and though today the number of salons have increased it still dare not operate in the open and more so there dare not be any men in the premises of the salon. There have been cases when women who run salons have been beaten and thrashed in public just because men were present in the property where the salon was run from. Can you imagine how ridiculous it sounds? My favourite hair dresser is a guy named Rajesh and I never go to anyone for my hair apart from him! If I would have been in Afghanistan I would probably have been killed by now!
Can you imagine being beheaded or killed because you went out to work? Ofcourse not, but in Afghanistan Taliban had always prevented women from working during their regime. Till today it is considered sinful if an Afghani woman works anywhere outside the four walls of her house. I will never give up my job because that gives me the independence and the self respect that I hold so dear. Unfortunately women there are prevented from enjoying this aspect of life freely without fearing for their lives.
And the list doesn’t end here. Can you imagine a woman being put behind bars because she has been raped? Atleast no one in the right mind could think of that but in Afghanistan if a woman is raped then instead of punishing the offender; the woman is tried and penalized for adultery. Outlandish and Bizarre as it sounds it is infact true! There is more, if a woman wants to prove a rape she needs either four male witnesses to vouch for her or she needs the man who committed the crime to confess, only then does she have a chance to be believed. Just last year there was the case of Gulnaz, a rape victim who was first sentenced to 12 years for adultery. It was only after international pressure that her sentence was reduced to 3. The authorities argued that she had to serve that term as she hadn’t reported the rape on time. And still there was no punishment for her offender. Finally after continued pressure from the rest of the world and with Gulnaz agreeing to marry her wrongdoer, the president pardoned her jail term. You would think that was ludicrous but there are more such dogmas that women their live by. They are forbidden to use laptops or computers freely. Yes they are! They cannot visit a male doctor alone without being accompanied by a man and irony is a female doctor is prohibited to work!
I remember having watched a video of a woman being beaten up in public in a stadium in Afghanistan once. Though I do not remember the story behind it but I can say this that nothing warrants such acts. There was the incident of the nose and ears of a woman being cut off by her husband. Such barbaric acts though strongly condemned by the international community will continue occurring unless there is a change in the oppressive mindset of the Afghan society. Problem is even if their government passes a law that protects women, it will be blatantly ignored till the thought process of their society changes at large. Being wrapped in clothes from head to toe and confined to the four walls of the house; the life they lead is like punishment for being born a women. It makes me sick imagining a day in their shoes! I do not know if things will get better there. Fighting religious nonsense is never easy. Fanatics everywhere will make sure that such positives changes are stopped. But I guess the fight must go on. Till then I can only hope and pray for our sisters there. I can only HOPE that one day they can wake up to a society where they are equally treated and where they can actually live a FREE and HAPPY life! I can HOPE that their struggles will eventually pave the way for a better and comfortable future as Arthur Hugh Clough aptly says,
‘Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars........’