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Lessons from Afghani women: don't take your freedoms for granted

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The tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan this week has horrified the world. Footage of Afghans clinging to a U.S. plane, fleeing ahead of Taliban fighters, seemed darkly metaphorical of the stark contrast between American and Taliban values.

The tragic news holds devastating consequences for Afghan women in particular, who are watching two decades of progress burn before their eyes.

When the Taliban regime fell in 2001, Afghan women acquired basic freedoms that had been withheld from them. The 2004 Afghan Constitution granted them equal rights under the law, and legislation in 2009 protected women from violence as well as forced and underage marriages. Women had the opportunity to attend school, and despite a plethora of complicating factors, 40% of them did.

There’s little confusion about what Afghan women can expect now. Under previous Taliban rule, women were forced to wear headscarves and head-to-toe coverings. They were forbidden to vote, work or receive an education after the age of 12. They weren’t allowed in public without a male guardian, and were beaten, whipped and even killed for breaking these laws. Women accused of adultery were stoned to death.

The Taliban also has a history of sexually enslaving women with forced “marriages.” As recent as July, Taliban leaders in overtaken areas ordered local religious leaders to give them a list of any 15- to 45-year-old-women, who would be “married” to Taliban fighters.

With the Taliban now in control of Kabul, Afghan women are paying high sums for burqas,........


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