UN: Taliban Enforcing Restrictions on Single, Unaccompanied Women

    25 January 2024

    A report from the United Nations says the Taliban are putting more and more restrictions on women in Afghanistan.

    The Taliban re-took power in Afghanistan after the United States withdrew from the country in 2021. Taliban leaders said at the time they would permit women to be more involved in work, school and public life than during their previous rule, between 1996 and 2001.

    However, the U.N. says the Taliban's Vice and Virtue Ministry is cracking down on single and unaccompanied women.

    FILE - Afghan girls of all ages are permitted to study in religious schools, which are traditionally boys-only, a Taliban official said Thursday Dec. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)
    FILE - Afghan girls of all ages are permitted to study in religious schools, which are traditionally boys-only, a Taliban official said Thursday Dec. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

    In one case, the U.N. notes, the ministry told a woman to get married if she wanted to continue working at a health clinic. The ministry said it was not right for an unmarried woman to have a job.

    The restrictions follow a pattern of the Taliban breaking their 2021 promise that life in Afghanistan would be more open to women. Girls are not permitted to continue going to school after sixth grade, for example. Places that cut and style women's hair have been shut down. And women who are not wearing a hijab, the Islamic head covering, have been arrested.

    In May of 2022, the Taliban said women should go back to wearing the religious clothing called a burqa. A burqa is a covering that only shows a woman's eyes.

    The U.N.'s Assistance Mission in Afghanistan is reporting on the restrictions. The group's latest report centers on restrictions on women who leave home without a male guardian.

    There are no official rules about women needing to be accompanied by a male relative. But the Taliban now say women are not permitted to travel a certain distance away from their home without a man who is either their husband or a relative.

    The U.N.'s report said three female healthcare workers were held by police in October when they left home without a guardian. They were only released when their families signed a document saying it would not happen again.

    In the Paktia province, the Vice and Virtue Ministry stopped women without guardians from entering health centers starting in December. The men from the ministry are now entering women's health centers to be sure that all women inside are with a male guardian.

    The Vice and Virtue Ministry is also known as the Taliban's "morality police." Ministry workers have been going to bus stations, education centers and other public places to make sure women are following their rules. They are looking for women who are not wearing head coverings and stopping buses to make sure women are not traveling without a male family member.

    Women are also being arrested for purchasing birth control, which the Taliban have not officially banned.

    Zabihullah Mujahid is the spokesman for the Taliban. In a statement, he said the U.N. report is filled with misunderstandings. He said the U.N. is ignoring or criticizing Islamic law, known as Shariah.

    Mujahid added that the Islamic government in power in Afghanistan must fully observe "all aspects of Sharia for both men and women."

    I'm Dan Friedell.

    Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a report by the Associated Press.


    Words in This Story

    crack down –v. to tighten restrictions and punish people for breaking rules

    vice –n. something seen as bad or immoral behavior

    virtue n. good behavior or character

    pattern n. a path or instruction that is repeated over time

    style v. to create something in a way that is new or current or fashionable

    morality adj. a belief about what is right and wrong

    aspects n. parts of something, such as life