The Taliban on Friday ordered that they ban forced marriages of women in Afghanistan, a move apparently intended to meet criteria the international community sees as a precondition for recognizing the new government and aiding the war-torn country. to recover.
The announcement was attributed to the retired Taliban leader Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada, a cleric chosen as the group’s supreme leader and believed to be in the southern city of Kandahar. It comes as poverty is mounting in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover in August amid the withdrawal of US and NATO troops. Since then, foreign governments have withdrawn funds that have been a mainstay of the economy.
“Both (women and men) must be equal,” the decree said, adding that “no one can force women to marry through coercion or pressure.”
However, it is unclear how the decree will be enforced in practice. And the statement failed to mention two issues – women’s access to education and the workplace – that were central to the countries and organizations that have provided aid to Afghanistan.
Women’s rights have improved over the past two decades of international presence in Afghanistan, but are seen as threatened by the return of the Taliban. During their previous rule of the country in the 1990s, the Taliban practically locked women in monasteries and banned them from public life and schools.
But a conservative and patriarchal tradition predates the Taliban in Afghanistan. Customs such as the so-called honor killings and the selling of girls to pay family debts, known as baad, still take place in much of the country, despite being banned under the previous government.
Forced marriages have also become more common over decades of war and social disruption, as the internally displaced persons marry off their young daughters in exchange for a bride price that can be used to pay debts and feed their families.
The decree did not specify a minimum age for marriage, which had previously been set at 16.
With the decree, which was released as a call to adhere to broader Islamic law on women’s rights, the Taliban have now publicly declared their opposition to these practices. They also said that a widow can now remarry 17 weeks after her husband’s death and freely choose her new husband.
Long-standing tribal traditions have considered it customary for a widow to marry one of her husband’s brothers or relatives in the event of his death.
The Taliban leadership says it has also ordered Afghan courts to treat women fairly, especially widows seeking inheritance as next of kin. The group also says it has asked ministers to spread awareness of women’s rights among the population.
Despite promises by Taliban leaders after their takeover this summer that girls and women would continue to have access to education, some girls in grades seven to 12 are still banned from school in some places. And most women have still failed to return to their jobs.