In Afghanistan, the Ministry of Women's Affairs is now a thing of the past. The Taliban regime continues to enact measures that continue to restrict women and thus their entity, as demonstrated by its latest decision.
In their latest move and under their strict interpretation of the Shari'a, the Taliban have decided to replace the Ministry of Women's Affairs with a new portfolio under the name of the Ministry of Virtue and Vice. This institution, already set up by the Taliban in the 1990s, is in charge of dictating the dress code for women, physical appearance and the behaviour of citizens in general. After the US invasion in 2001, this Ministry was abolished.
Now, 20 years later and under the directives of leader Mohamed Khali, the Ministry will have the primary mission of enforcing the rigid implementation of Islamic norms. In this line, the Ministry had a monitoring body known as the "religious police", which was responsible for enforcing compliance with social codes. If citizens defied the law, including offences such as listening to music, shaving, not praying, and women not wearing the burqa or going out without their mahram, they were publicly flogged.
At least three former women's ministry officials have claimed that under Taliban rule, "women's rights do not exist". Dozens of officials reportedly went to the former Ministry to continue their work duties, but were prevented from doing so by the Taliban.
A former employee of the ministry told SER that "the Ministry of Women's Affairs was a voice for women in Afghanistan and the world, but it was abolished and turned into another body that has nothing to do with women's issues and is a body that will punish the people," she said, before turning against the international community. "Where is this international community that has been talking about women's rights for the last 20 years, today we are left behind and alone, nobody listens to us", she said.
This news comes on the same day that the Taliban have ordered all secondary school children to return to school from Saturday. In this move, the Taliban have banned girls from attending classes and referred exclusively to boys with this statement issued by the Taliban authority "all male teachers and students must attend school".
Following this discriminatory measure, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has issued a statement saying that women should not be left out of the education system. According to UNICEF chief Henrietta Ford, "Every day that girls go without education is a missed opportunity for them, their families and their communities," and for society as a whole.
"We are deeply concerned that many girls are not being allowed back (to school) at this time," they said. However, despite the concern, the international community has not yet decreed any measures to prevent this cruel exclusion.
On the other hand, at the university level, the Taliban have allowed women access to classrooms as long as gender segregation is enforced and they do not cross paths with their male classmates. In addition, women will only be allowed to have female professors as "joint education prevents women from concentrating on their studies and is contrary to Islam and Afghan values", Haqqani said. In terms of dress, they will have to wear "an abaya complemented by a niqab covering their face".