A prerequisite for any economic, social, cultural and political development is a sense of security – especially the security of a woman. Awareness of such sense among inhabitants of a society has an effective role in recognizing the challenges and presenting development strategies. In Afghanistan, one of the most important things that affects development is the inability of women, unlike men, to have a sense of security. This is more noticeable for women in a conservative, yet traditional, society such as Afghanistan. Therefore, women are the most vulnerable segment of society in relation to the issue of women’s security and categories such as social support that has affected the sense of social security of Afghan women in all cities.

Afghanistan is still ranked as the worst place in the world for woman to live. According to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and Human Rights Watch, women operate daily under extremely dangerous situations in the South and Southwest regions of the country – mainly in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. With no choice, they are mandated to observe use of Burqa, advised not to carry any sort of handbag or laptop bag, as well as, their phones should be off so it is never heard ringing. Working outside homes in Afghan administrations is a taboo and talking directly about women’s rights could be punishable.  

In Afghanistan, women are discriminated in various ways, for they are born girls. Women and girls are banned from going to school or educational centers, working in their desired jobs, leaving the house without a chaperone, showing their skin in public, accessing healthcare delivered by men (with women forbidden from working, healthcare is virtually inaccessible), and not to mention, banned from being involved in politics or speaking publicly. There are many other ways in which basic human rights are denied to them. Women are essentially invisible in public life; imprisoned in their homes. Specifically, in southern Afghanistan, the residents are ordered to cover their ground and first-floor windows so women inside could not be seen from the street. If a woman left the house, it is in a full-body veil (burqa), accompanied by a male relative – she has no independence at all. If she disobeyed these mandated laws, punishments are harsh. A woman could be flogged for showing an inch or two of their skin under her full-body burqa, beaten for attempting to study, stoned to death if she is found guilty of adultery; while rape and violence against women and girls are rife.

The deteriorating and fragile situation of human rights defenders in Afghanistan is another burning issue. Recently on Jun 29, 2020, a sticky mine explosion killed two employees of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in capital Kabul. Through a discussion of security challenges identified through a human security perspective, research shows how these threats are severe obstacles, limiting women from participating in community life and pursuing their ambitions. Violence, oppression, lack of education and employment opportunities, and limited access to legal protection are highly critical threats for many urban and rural Afghan women.

In the past, under the Mujahedin and Taliban’s regime, women endured unspeakably harsh conditions and were deprived of basic rights. In the present scenario, after late 2001, the hope of Afghan women were revived with a new presence of the international community and budding support for women’s participation in social, economic, and cultural aspects of life. Despite impressive efforts made since 2001 and some significant strides in education, some aspects remain extremely difficult for Afghan women. The Era has changed, challenges took a new shape, but its core remained still for women.  

Findings from The Asia Foundation’s Survey of the Afghan People reveal Afghan women face the biggest problems. The social security tops the list, followed by education and illiteracy, lack of job opportunities and equal rights for women and domestic violence. These problems are interconnected and have a reciprocal effect on each other – making lasting solutions even more difficult.

­After 20 years of Afghan women’s struggles, today, the media are an important source of depictions of women that differ from the traditional, conservative roles imposed during the Taliban era. Television and the Internet in particular have a significant impact on perceptions of women’s rights and their social security. Afghans who rely on the Internet and television to obtain news and information are more supportive of equal educational opportunities for men and women (89.8% Internet and 87.5% television) than radio listeners (82.2%). Television also exposes Afghans to the notion of women working outside the home. ­Those who use television (77.1%) and the Internet (76.3%) are the most likely to support women working outside the home. When asked about appropriate dress for women in public, Afghans who rely on television select more liberal, westernized clothing. But, about 22% of the population is urbanite and the remaining 78% live in rural areas with no access to television. The women’s issue becomes more complicated and women’s problems remain unresolved.

Although security is important, many women think feeling safe is more important than security per se. Even if there seems to be security in Afghan society, women may not feel safe. Among them, women are the most vulnerable in society, and categories such as: social support impacts on women’s feeling in all aspect throughout the country.

Another point is, the position and personality of women in the minds and public beliefs of Afghan society. The image that a nation’s public culture presents of women is, in fact, the attitude and view of the people towards Afghan women, and the Afghan nation can be evaluated by the images in the patriarchal attitudes, gender’s hegemony, traditional customs, religious traditions, men-dominated literature and the common values which produced by the shadows.

In Afghan society, women do not have independent social maturity and are socially dependent; their connection is considered social security and their separation is their social insecurity. In today’s Afghan society, most human traits are registered in the name of men and are considered as male traits. Like good mood, courage and hard work are masculine traits and, on the contrary, easy-going, forgiving, unfaithful are considered feminine traits. Although Afghanistan is not only struggling in such areas, concerns over increasing insecurity makes women more discouraged in Afghanistan.

All types of male-organized newspapers and their hegemonic literature is also a killing instrument. If we look at the face of women in Afghan literature, we will find the view of the Afghan society towards women in the past and today; As one of the common points of our literature with public culture is the pessimistic attitude towards women from both sides, and in the national literature, which is the language of public culture, women are considered as a symbol of weakness and fear. Everywhere and in all different angles of the works of writers and poets of yesterday and even today, a woman is a fragile and unstable element, and this issue has progressed to the point the negative perception of female personality in the soul, mind and language of women poets and cultural design has also infiltrated.

The Afghan common culture has also likened good and successful women to men, and bad men have always been treated as women. So much so, the worst trait for men is equal to being a woman and the best trait for a woman is masculinity. What emerges from popular culture and popular beliefs is that it is as if God created women only for housekeeping and that the courage and bravery of women in popular culture is a strange phenomenon; because it has always been called “weak” and if we say “brave woman”, we have attributed an adjective to a person who is unlikely and we should say “do not say woman, but so and so”. Common values ​​in Afghan society and adherence to them in the society are very important from the perspective of the people of Afghan society. To the point, it happens the defect of the law enacted by the government is not considered very anti-value in the eyes of the people.

The feeling of security is a category beyond the mere existence of security in Afghanistan. Factors such as marital status, satisfaction with appearance, family support, how others treat them, religious commitment, and… are some of the factors affecting the sense of social security among women, among which family support has the greatest impact.

Given the country’s current social, political, cultural situation, there are a variety of factors that exacerbate these problems. The need to create safe urban spaces for Afghan women in the position of the most vulnerable sections of society is one of the important and significant issues that are related to issues such as crime, violence, victimization, prevention of helplessness and depression. Eliminating legal and legal bottlenecks, designing supportive, educational, preventive programs, and providing the necessary context for women’s empowerment and the necessary legal and social support are among the policies that should be considered in formulating policies and macro-plans.

Author

  • Nasima Bari, an author, and journalist who has used the platform of Media to throw light on women’s experiences and advocate for their empowerment. She is the only woman in the southern Afghanistan provinces who owns a media outlet. She is the founder and owner of Amil Newspaper.