Women in Afghanistan are little better off than they were before the fall of the Taliban, according to the latest report giving evidence on how regime change has failed to prevent “honour” killings, forced marriage and burqa-wearing.
The iconic images of women throwing off their burqas after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 were always a fiction. Except among a small elite in Kabul, the overwhelming majority of women in Afghanistan are still forced to cover their entire bodies and faces.
The report’s researchers found that very little has changed. Between 60 and 80 per cent of all marriages in Afghanistan are forced. As many as 57 per cent of girls are married off below the age of 16, some as young as six. Because of the custom of paying a bride price, marriage is essentially a financial transaction, and girls a commodity.
The custom of baad, when girls and women are exchanged to settle debts and disputes, is still widely practised. The women are not treated as proper wives, but in effect are slave workers for their husbands.