The Impact of Diminishing Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

Since the Taliban took power in August 2021, women’s rights in Afghanistan have been severely limited. Women are already excluded from public life, education, and the workplace. This could have several severe consequences. Firstly, the exclusion of women could have consequences for the Afghan economy, and secondly, projects and funds could freeze in the country as a result. 

Key Judgement 1: In the next 6 months, it is highly likely that women will continue to be excluded from public life. 

  • The Taliban became de facto leaders of Afghanistan after they took the capital Kabul in August 2021 [source]. According to UN human rights reports, large-scale and systematic gender-based discrimination and violence followed the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan [source].

  • According to experts, women have already been systematically erased from public life and from institutions and mechanisms that were previously set up in order to assist and protect women. Specialized courts and prosecution units responsible for enforcing the 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women have been dismissed [source].

  • In March 2022, the Taliban retreated on the promise to allow women to attend school. With this change, one million women are excluded from secondary and tertiary education. According to the Ministry for the ‘Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice’, schools for girls will be reopened once ‘appropriate dress codes’ are agreed upon [source].

  • The Taliban ordered all female government employees to stay home. Moreover, new rules entered into force that prohibit women from using transportation on their own and that require a male relative to accompany them in public spaces [source]. Similarly, in May 2022, the Taliban further ordered all women in Afghanistan to cover their faces in public [source]. As a result of increasingly stringent rules, further policing of women’s public lives is highly likely to follow.

Key Judgement 2: In the next 6 months, it is highly likely that the limitation of women’s rights will have severe impacts on Afghanistan’s economy.

  • Under the previous democratic government, female literacy more than doubled between 2000 and 2018, reaching 30%. Moreover, women became a fundamental part of Afghanistan’s workforce and economy. Thousands of women gained employment as doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs. Maternal mortality declined and female life expectancy increased by ten years during this period [source].

  • Women account for more than 20% of the country’s workforce in 2021. According to a UN report, preventing women from working could cost the Afghan economy half a billion US dollars [source].

  • Reports show that the return on educating girls in Afghanistan was more than double that of educating boys in terms of an increase in hourly earnings. Moreover, children of educated mothers are likely to earn more later in life [source]. The exclusion of women from education and working organisations, therefore, creates long-term economic impacts that are highly likely to compound over time.

Key Judgement 3: In the next 6 months, it is highly likely that projects and funds will freeze in response to the restriction of women’s rights in Afghanistan. 

  • Restricting women from public life, including the workplace and education, is highly likely to be met with a freeze in international aid. The UK and other international powers have already stipulated that aid to Afghanistan is at least “partially dependent on the actions of the Taliban” [source].

  • Such international aid accounts for 40% of Afghanistan’s GDP and 80% of its budgeted annual spending. The country’s GDP therefore could decrease by 20% a year [source].

  • According to experts, Afghanistan would need US$6-8 billion in international aid annually in order to fund basic services and support economic growth. The country would require at least US$2 billion to lift the incomes of those in extreme poverty [source].

  • The World Bank has already suspended four projects in Afghanistan worth US$600 million after the Taliban decided to ban girls from returning to public high school [source]. The projects were necessary for the implementation of projects in agriculture, education and health. This is highly likely to continue.

Intelligence Cut-Off Date: 8th of May 2022

Arianna Sparviero
Arianna Sparviero
Arianna Sparviero is a graduate student at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. She is currently enrolled in the first year of the master course in International Affairs.

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