KABUL— Afghan women are wondering what will happen to them when U.S.-led NATO combat forces leave the country at the end of 2014. The international community insists that rights achieved since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 should be protected. Some women from around Afghanistan say their rights are a low priority among the country’s power brokers.
This group of female provincial council leaders is upset with the policies of the central government and they are not afraid to show it. Among them is Okmina who has dressed like a man since the Soviet invasion because she said it was safer than appearing in public as a woman.
“The problem is that no one cares about the protection of women, commanders don’t, lawmakers don’t, no one is focusing on women's issues. They are behaving very badly towards women," said Okmina.
Under the Taliban, women in Afghanistan were forced to wear face-covering burqas. They were forbidden from going to school.
Now, women council leaders and lawmakers fight for their rights in this still male-dominated society.
Women say the government failed them by not implementing an Elimination of Violence Against Women law that banned child and forced marriages, among other crimes.
Human Rights Watch said there are ominous signs that women face a darker future. Already, there has been a sharp increase of women and girls jailed for so called moral crimes, such as fleeing home or having sex outside marriage.
Nilab Mobarez, spokeswoman for the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, said protecting women’s rights and implementing the anti-violence law are critical for securing continued aid. “We clearly say that if this law is not implemented or changed or amended it will negatively affect donations to Afghanistan,” she said.
Roughly 90 percent of women in Afghanistan are still unable to read. In rural areas the rate is even higher.
Law Professor Wadir Safi said there are still deep prejudices in society that prevent women from reaching their potential.
"I have given, introduced to girls, graduates of the law faculty, our faculty, our students, to go to India to study, to go to Turkey to study. They came to me. They say I am forbidden. They were crying, but they say unfortunately my parents they didn't agree. In some of the families, the brother does not agree, and she cannot go," Safi explained. "This is the situation in the cities, don't think about the provinces at all."
Women here said if they are able to leave their houses, go to school and work, they will be able to improve their rights. But, they said, all that depends on the post-2014 security situation and what role the Taliban will have in Afghanistan’s future government.