Islamabad (Diplomat.so) — The Taliban is facing international criticism as a United Nations report published on Monday exposes heightened restrictions on the rights of Afghan women. According to the report from the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, the Taliban is limiting the access of unmarried women or those without a male guardian to work, travel, and healthcare.
The Vice and Virtue Ministry, acting as the Taliban's morality police, advised a woman to marry if she wished to retain her job at a health care facility, deeming it inappropriate for unmarried women to work. This incident reflects a broader pattern of constraints on women's participation in public life, including restrictions on education beyond the sixth grade.
In addition to limiting work opportunities, the Taliban has enforced a dress code, shutting down beauty parlors, and arresting women who do not adhere to their interpretation of hijab (Islamic headscarf). A decree issued in May 2022 advocated for women to cover themselves entirely, reminiscent of restrictions during the Taliban's previous rule from 1996 to 2001.
The latest quarterly report, covering October to December of the previous year, highlights the Taliban's crackdown on Afghan women who are single or lack a male guardian, known as a mahram. Although there are no official laws regarding male guardianship in Afghanistan, the Taliban has insisted that women cannot travel a certain distance without a male relative.
The Vice and Virtue Ministry, serving as the Taliban's morality police, has actively enforced hijab and mahram requirements at public places, offices, and educational institutions through checkpoints and inspections. In some provinces, women have been barred from accessing health facilities without mahrams.
The U.N. spokesman, in response to the latest bans, conveyed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' shock, stating, "It must be unimaginable to have to live there." The Taliban's chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, dismissed the U.N. report, alleging misunderstandings and accusing the mission of disregarding Islamic law, or Shariah.
Mujahid emphasized the Taliban's commitment to implementing Shariah, including rules for hijab, male guardianship, and gender segregation in education and employment. He criticized any opposition to these measures as an insult to the beliefs of the Afghan people. The international community continues to monitor the situation closely as concerns grow over the deteriorating rights of Afghan women under Taliban rule.