The Harsh New Realities of Afghan Women and Girls Under the Taliban

During their ruling in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban  imposed strict restrictions and laws that violated the human rights of Afghan civilians and coerced them into following their own austere version of Islamic law. Under the Taliban regime, women and girls especially faced greater restrictions and human rights violations. The Taliban denied girls the right to an education, forbidding them from attending school and university. The Taliban also introduced restrictions that infringed on girls and women’s rights to freedom of movement, employment, healthcare and other basic rights.  The widespread erasure of women and girls from public life and the systematic disadvantage that women and girls faced under the Taliban regime resulted in irreparable damages, especially for their education.

            After the Taliban were ousted in 2001, nation rebuilding and reform on policies that recognized human rights were on top of the agenda. The post-Taliban reconstruction, by extension, resulted in a change of attitude towards gender inequalities. Access to education for all Afghans, especially for girls, became a major topic of reform. Over the years, physical infrastructure and educational institutions that were destroyed by the Taliban were rebuilt. 

            Until recently, there was a stronger demand for and a positive attitude towards equal human rights policies and education, mostly in the urban areas. Although a tremendous number of young children, primarily girls, were still deprived of educational opportunities, the opportunities for girls were better than under the first Taliban regime. The recent events of theTaliban coming into power introduced the same fears, gender inequalities, and human rights violations that were experienced in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. 

Since coming back into power, the Taliban have:

  1.     Implemented a significant roll back on girls’ right to education

Despite promises to preserve women and girl’s rights, the Taliban have banned girls from secondary school in Afghanistan. While schools have re-opened for boys in grades seven to 12, the Taliban have ordered girls to stay home for “security reasons”, stating that it is a temporary measure.

  1.     Banned sports for girls and women

The Taliban have implemented new restrictions which prohibit women and girls from playing sports. The reason cited by the Taliban for this decision was athletic outfits exposing too much of girl’s and women’s bodies.

  1.     Forced child marriages

There have been many unverified reports of the Taliban forcing girls as young as 13 into marrying them.


  1.   Shut down women and girl shelters

In 2009, the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women was introduced to eradicate all forms of abuse, aggression, and violence against women and girls in Afghanistan. It was in line with the Constitution and with the principles of Sharia law to ensure all humans are treated with dignity and equality. There were specialized prosecution units established to prosecute criminal offences against women and girls in court. With these initiatives, women and girls were also able to access shelters for protection. The recent Taliban policies have ended this program and shutdown shelters.

  1. Abolished the Women’s Affairs Ministry

The Taliban have abolished the Women’s Affairs Ministry and re-introduced the Ministry  

for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

How can Canadians and the Canadian government help?

  1. Prioritize the resettlement of Afghan girls, women, and activists and significantly increase the number of Afghans that the government is resettling.

  1.     Extend and increase Canada’s role in the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

In 2017, the Canadian government introduced Canada’s National Action Plan to implement the United Nations Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace and Security 2017-2022, for the second time. The vision of this plan is to provide framework for governments in fragile and conflict-affected states to commit to: 

      Gender Equality 

      Empowerment of women and girls 

      Respect for women’s and girls’ human rights 

      Inclusion and respect for diversity 

Canada needs to take a leadership role in ensuring the objectives are enforced and supported through the right resources. This will support the integration of women and girls into the broader society in a peaceful and secure manner. Canada should extend its commitment beyond 2022 and invest more resources to aid women and girls in Afghanistan. 

  1.     Activate international legal bodies to recognize the ongoing and worsening gender discrimination against women and girls in Afghanistan.
  2.   Canadians can urge the government to take immediate action by supporting the demands of the Canadian Campaign for Afghan Peace. The campaign calls for the Canadian government to champion efforts to guarantee the security and protection of girls and women within Afghanistan as well as the prioritization of their resettlement.


By:  Banin Abdul Khaliq and Sehnez Topyurek

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