Ten years after the September 11th attacks in the United States and the military campaign in Afghanistan, there is some good news, but unfortunately still much bad news pertaining to women in Afghanistan. The patterns of politics, security/military operations, religious fanaticism, heavily patriarchal structures and practices, and ongoing insurgent violence continue to threaten girls and women in the most insidious ways. Although women’s rights and freedoms in Afghanistan have finally entered the radar screen of the international community’s consciousness, they still linger in the margins in many respects.

Socio-cultural and extremist religious elements continue to pose serious obstacles to reconstruction and development efforts. These constraints and impediments have an immensely devastating impact on the lives of girls and women in Afghanistan, and most often result in severely impairing quality of life and even reducing female life expectancy.

Another ominous trend that has undermined Afghan women’s rights is President Hamid Karzai’s political constituency, consisting of increasingly conservative and religious fundamentalist characters. In order to appease them and gain political support, the Karzai government has compromised women’s rights, and in some cases has cast a symbolic vote to Taliban-like mindsets. Meanwhile, women politicians, activists, and journalists constantly face intimidation and threats, and a number have even been assassinated.

One glance at the health and education statistics pertaining to Afghan girls and women alone is enough to see that improvements have been painfully gradual, and attention to these harsh realities has been grossly deficient. This paper examines these health and education variables, as well as the government policymaking that has triggered setbacks in women’s rights. Trends in violence against women and insecurity are also analyzed.

All of the variables that negatively affect the lives of girls and women in Afghanistan are interconnected and interdependent. Therefore, none of them can afford to be overlooked. Overall, the situation for girls and women in Afghanistan remains bleak and tragic.

© Hayat Alvi. All rights reserved.

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