Taliban Bans the Selling of Contraceptives in Afghanistan

Afghan women demonstrate outside the House of Parliament in London on Jan. 14, 2023, for the right of all women to education, work and freedom—a response to the Taliban’s ban on university education for women. (Wiktor Szymanowicz / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

In the latest attack on women, the Taliban has ordered pharmacies in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif to stop selling any form of contraceptives.

The Taliban calls family planning and the use of contraception “Western” and “forbidden” in their interpretation of Sharia law. Mazar-e-Sharif is the largest city in northern Afghanistan, where many family planning programs were popular during the two decades under the republic.

The Taliban views the use of contraceptives by women as a “western conspiracy” to control the Muslim population, and calls family planning “unnecessary work.”  

During the two decades under the Islamic Republic, much progress was made in the health sector. Progress was slow in most parts of the country, but overall, maternal and infant mortality had decreased, and skilled birth attendance was increasing.

Since the Taliban takeover of the government in Afghanistan, much of that progress has been reversed. According to a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report from August 2022, Afghanistan has the highest maternal mortality rates in the Asia-Pacific region—638 deaths out of 100,000 live births, compared to 394 deaths in prior years.

International aid has decreased tremendously, and with daily Taliban edicts and attacks on women—including health professionals—Afghan women’s access to healthcare has been impacted the most.

The Taliban also issued an order last year that women must be accompanied by a male relative while visiting a doctor. Another decree says women health professionals must bring a male relative along to their work.

Taliban personnel stand guard along a road near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, near the Torkham border crossing, on Feb. 20, 2023. (Shafiullah Kakar / AFP via Getty Images)

If the ban on the selling of contraceptives is enforced, the impact will be devastating, as pregnant women can no longer access the care they need throughout their pregnancies and their well-being in between pregnancies.

In the early days of their return to power in August 2021, Taliban officials promised they would take a relatively “moderate” stance on women’s employment and education this time around. However, the group has doubled down on attacking women and stripped them of all their fundamental human rights. Among many restrictions and contrary to Islamic teachings, the Taliban has denied Afghan girls their right to education, and Afghan women can no longer work or pursue higher education. Afghan women are also prohibited from leaving their homes unless “necessary.”

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Makhfi Azizi is the director of the Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls at the Feminist Majority Foundation. She has been working with the foundation in this capacity for two years and works on issues of human rights, peace and security. Makhfi is dedicated to women’s equality, peace and democracy.