The Taliban

Statistics on Women and Children in Afghanistan

General Information

Scores of women have been abducted and raped by members of various political factions, often being treated as spoils of war. Thousands of women have been indiscriminately killed in fighting between opposing sides in the conflict. Hundreds and thousands of women and children have been displaced, sometimes forcibly, or have fled the country as a result of systematic human rights abuses.

Tens of thousands of women remain physically restricted to their homes under Taliban edicts which ban women from seeking employment, education, or leaving home unaccompanied by a male relative. Other measures restricting women include the closure of women's public baths as well as being barred from the streets for certain periods during the fasting month of Ramadan. The Taliban have enforced these restrictions through the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments and ill-treatment. (

In 1996, the Taliban militia came into power in Afghanistan. The first decree banned women and girls from attending school. Today, education of women is banned in over ninety percent of the country. Underground schools are popping up, but the teachers and organizers risk death each day for violating the Taliban.

Legal Restrictions

The Taliban has restricted all leisure activities. Their list of what is illegal grows daily: music, movies, television, picnics, wedding parties, New Year celebrations, any kind of mixed-sex gathering. They've also banned children's toys, including dolls and kites; card and board games; cameras; photographs and paintings of people and animals; pet parakeets; cigarettes and alcohol; magazines and newspapers, and most books. They've even forbidden applause -- a moot point, since there's nothing left to applaud.

Women are also forbidden to wear makeup, nail polish, jewelry, pluck their eyebrows, cut their hair short, wear colorful or stylish clothes, sheer stockings, white socks and shoes, high-heel shoes, walk loudly, talk loudly or laugh in public. In fact, the government doesn't believe women should go out at all. If women do venture out of their homes it must be for an official, government sanctioned purpose. (


Afghan women in rural areas have always worked alongside men in the fields. In the capitol, women often wore Western dress, served on Parliament, and worked in a variety of professions, including medicine, engineering, architecture, media and law. During the many years of war, as men were killed, went missing, or became disabled, the survival of the family came to depend on women's income. Before the Taliban ban on female employment, 70 percent of the teachers in Kabul were women, 50 percent of the civil servants and college students were women, and 40 percent of the doctors were women.

Reducing women to mere objects, the minister of education says, "It's like having a flower or a rose. You water it and keep it at home for yourself, to look at and smell it. It [a woman] is not supposed to be taken out of the house to be smelled." The plight of women, as stated by another Taliban leader, is that "there are only two places for Afghan women - in her husband's house, and in the graveyard." (


The Taliban denial of women to have jobs has created a flood of unemployed women with families to feed. These women face serious financial problems and as a natural consequence their children suffer from hunger, malnutrition, a variety of illnesses, and a chronic state of poverty. Those who could afford to leave the country did so, yet others are left without a means of income. These women make up the bulk of the beggars and prostitutes in Afghanistan. A large number of these women are ex-teachers and civil servants. (

The ban on female beggars to enter shops, inns, or other trading areas has further affected their income, forcing many of these women to enter into prostitution for their survival and the survival of their children. As the income levels for women are decreasing, the number of prostitutes is increasing. HIV infection is on the rise among young prostitutes where it claims many victims. Women convicted of "corrupting society" are often hanged in a sports stadium, their face hidden behind the ever-present burqa. (


The legally mandated burqa is a garment which covers women from head to toe. The heavy gauze patches over the eyes make it hard for women to see. Since enforcing the veil, many women have been hit by vehicles because they lack peripheral vision.

It has also become a financial hardship. It can cost up to five months' salary which women rarely ever receive. Most women cannot afford to buy one, thus they must share one. It can take several days for a woman's turn to roll around, often too long to wait for severely ill children awaiting a doctor visit. (

Depression and Drugs

Help Organizations

Various organizations are taking action to help the women of Afghanistan regain health, education and basic control over their own lives: