The Taliban do not stop oppressing women and they forcefully increase the imposed restrictions on Afghan women day-to-day. In the latest case, the Taliban have ordered verbally pharmacies in big cities not to sell contraceptive pills. Even though they know that some families sell their children due to extreme poverty and that people can no longer provide the basic necessities of their lives and of raising children, they have banned the sale of contraceptives; Because from the Taliban’s point of view, preventing pregnancy is “haram” (forbidden) and the value of a woman is not more than an incubation machine.
In the Talibani culture, no one pays attention to the physical and mental needs of a mother during her pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and other stages of raising a child. The Taliban have banned contraception, reasoning “God never sends a mouth, but He sends meat for it” or “Allah is the Best of providers”. Regardless of the fact that the Taliban, as a group dominating the life of a nation, do not consider themselves responsible for providing the social needs of the children who are born, such as hospitals, kindergartens, schools, health insurance during the childhood, books, teachers, universities, and finally job and others facilities for healthy growth. But by wrongly interfering in people’s personal lives and by issuing improper orders, the Taliban impose thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of children on the families and parents who by no means have the conditions to raise a healthy child.
But this is only one part of the story. Another part of the story is that issuing this order harms particularly women in various ways. Because patriarchy and the wrong perception of parents’ responsibilities in Afghanistan are not limited to the Taliban, it can be said that this perception more or less includes all Afghan families. It means that when an intended or unintended pregnancy happens, in practice, the men take less responsibility. Then, it is the woman who has to bear the heavy burden of pregnancy alone.
Pregnant women need special care and attention; they need healthy nutrition, a calm and stress-free environment, medical care and regular medical examinations, and even psychological consultations. During breastfeeding, mothers have special needs. But in Afghanistan, we have often witnessed that breastfeeding women are pregnant and, at the same time, they have to shoulder the responsibility for cooking and housework. In such a case, the man of the family takes no responsibility at home, and the mother even has to be careful that the noise of the child does not spoil the peaceful sleep of the father.
There is no need to further describe this story. All of us, as citizens of this society, are aware of the particulars of the behaviors and social norms governing society. The bitter side of this story is that the new order of the Taliban and its consequences was not covered by and discussed in the leading (or so-called official) media. The order did not either get much coverage on social media.
The meaning of this indifference of the media and society can be that the Taliban’s oppression of women is slowly being normalized and accepted. As we can see, recently, talking about Afghan women and the oppression of women has decreased. Sometimes, even people at the international level, such as the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, consider restrictions imposed on girls’ education to be acceptable, as they stem from a particular tribal culture in Afghanistan.
It means that the world is slowly trying to find a more acceptable justification for accepting oppression in Afghanistan. While oppression and injustice are condemned and unacceptable regardless of their origins. For example, for years in America and many other parts of the world, slavery was legal. Slave buyers or sellers would pay taxes to the government according to the law, and the slave owners considered slaves’ fighting for freedom as disobeying the law. If someone says that imposing restrictions on women’s education, life, and work is stem from the Sharia law or the culture of a certain tribe in Afghanistan does not change the fact that these restrictions are unfair and oppressive. But when such remarks are made by the highest international authorities, it sounds the alarm of normalization and acceptance of women’s oppression in Afghanistan.
Likewise, when the ban on the sale of contraceptive pills -which directly affects women and their lives and probably faces hundreds of thousands of women with many challenges and hardships within their families- does not provoke much reaction from society, it means that society has become indifferent towards the Taliban’s oppression of women. It means that the Taliban’s increased pressure and restrictions on women do not lead to a reaction at any level, which is the most dangerous happening for Afghan women and their future.
Unfortunately, there is no shortcut or immediate way to improve the ongoing situation. The only way, which of course seems difficult, is the constant struggle of women and men, who profoundly believe in gender justice and equality. They should struggle for preventing Afghan women from getting used to this extreme oppression out of desperation and regarding it as the inevitable fate of being a woman in Afghanistan. Women themselves should not allow women’s oppression to be normalized, as normalization is the first step to accepting a phenomenon, even if that phenomenon is sinister and outrageous.