Kabul: How the Taliban rule is interpreted for women in Afghanistan paints a horrific picture of humanitarian disaster, where the female population will have rights under the guise of Islamic law that actually will go beyond the bounds of Shariah.
The Taliban, however, has promised to give women rights “within the bounds of Islamic law,” or Shariah, under their newly established rule but it is not clear what that will mean.
But such statements have only raised more questions, including just how much the Taliban have changed their stance on women’s rights since they were ousted from power 20 years ago.
Shariah leaves considerable room for interpretation and in the past, the Taliban had imposed a strict one, barring women from working outside the home or leaving the house without a male guardian, eliminating schooling for girls, and publicly flogging people who violated the group’s morality code in the region.
Although this time, the insurgents have not yet said how they intend to apply it now but millions of Afghan women fear a return to the past ways.
Here is brief description of Shariah and how it could change the lives of Afghan women under Taliban:
What is Shariah
Shariah is basically based on Muslim’s holy book ‘Quran’, stories of the Prophet Muhammad’s life and the rulings of religious scholars, forming the moral and legal framework of Islam. The Quran details a path to a moral life, though no specific set of laws has been listed. Where one interpretation of Shariah talks about giving women extensive rights, another leaves women with few.
The interpretations of Shariah has been a matter of debate across the Muslim world, and all groups and governments that base their legal systems on Shariah have done it so differently. When the extremist group Taliban say they are instituting Shariah law, that does not mean they will do it in ways that Islamic scholars or other Islamic authorities would agree with.
Shariah lists some specific crimes, such as theft and adultery, and punishments if accusations meet a standard of proof. It also talks about moral and spiritual guidance, such as when and how to pray, or how to marry and divorce.
However, contradictory to prevalent belief Sharia does not forbid women to leave home without a male escort or bar them from working in most jobs.
Taliban and their previous Shariah law
During 1996 to 2001, the timeline when the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, they banned television and most musical instruments. The morality police officers, who used to drive around in pickup trucks, and publicly humiliating and whipping women who did not adhere to their rules, had also put restrictions on people’s behavior, dress and movement.
In 1996, a woman in Kabul, Afghanistan, had the end of her thumb cut off for wearing nail polish, as per the Amnesty International report.
They established a department for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice based on a Saudi model and women accused of adultery were stoned to death.
What Sharia holds for women now?
Experts have been studying Taliban leaders’ recent behavior for clues as to whether their treatment of women will change from the past or will improve as they claim in their recent media appearances.
Notably, the extremist group is trying to change its image and present its more moderate face to the world as recently a senior Taliban official was seen giving an interview to a female television journalist in Kabul this week. But hours later, a prominent anchorwoman on state television said that the Taliban had suspended her and other women who worked there indefinitely.
On the contrary, a Taliban spokesperson said that women would be allowed to work and study, and another official has said that women should participate in government — signaling a possible change in their attitude.
However, the ground reality shows a different picture where outside Kabul, some women were told not to leave home without a male relative escorting them, and the Taliban have prevented women from entering at least one university. They have also shut down some women’s clinics and schools for girls.
During this time when Taliban is presenting confusing picture of itself, the former deputy minister for women’s affairs in Afghanistan, Hosna Jalil, told a German media house, that she had little faith the Taliban would interpret Shariah differently now. “Shariah law for them meant lack of access to education, restricted access to health services, no access to justice, no shelter, no food security, no employment, literally nothing,” she said.