The Taliban’s War on Women Demands Global Attention and Action

The Taliban’s anti-women policies not only undermine progress made in recent years towards gender equality—they also have devastating consequences for Afghanistan’s social and economic progress.

A demonstration in Berlin by Afghan women’s and diaspora groups against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The demonstrators demand more rights and self-determination for women in their country. (Gerald Matzka / DPA Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

The Taliban’s deeply entrenched misogynistic ideology views women as inferior and subordinate to men, which poses a grave threat to women’s well-being and dignity. Their oppressive policies towards women—such as banning them from attending school, working outside the home and leaving their homes without a male guardian—are justified by their interpretation of Islam. In reality, these policies not only undermine progress made in recent years towards gender equality and women’s empowerment—they also have devastating consequences for Afghanistan’s social and economic progress.

The Taliban’s treatment of women is indicative of a broader problem in the region, where patriarchal attitudes and cultural norms limit women’s opportunities and rights. Addressing these issues requires a concerted effort to promote women’s empowerment, increase access to education and healthcare, and challenge discriminatory cultural practices.

The Taliban’s actions against women, including forced marriages and rape, are a clear violation of basic human rights. The 87 reports of violence against women and girls documented by UNAMA in June 2022 alone demonstrate the urgent need for international action to protect the safety and rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

Acts of violence committed by the Taliban—including the killing of Mursal Nabizada, a prominent women’s rights activist and former Afghan lawmaker, and the unjustified detention of 29 women and their families in Kabul—underscore the catastrophic deterioration of women’s rights under Taliban’s rule.

The Taliban’s contemptuous behavior towards the rule of law and human life is antithetical to any notion of a civilized society that values gender equality and justice. Their actions are nothing short of a flagrant violation of human rights and an affront to the progress that has been made in Afghanistan towards the empowerment of women.

Prioritize Afghan Women’s Rights Over Global Politics

Merely imposing targeted sanctions, cutting off financial support and taking legal action against a few individuals responsible for the abuses is not enough.

The international community’s response to the Taliban’s crimes against women in Afghanistan has been woefully inadequate, failing to prioritize the protection and empowerment of Afghan women over global politics. The pattern of condemnation only arising when catastrophic events occur, such as 9/11, or when the Taliban strengthens ties with certain countries reinforces the idea that women’s rights in Afghanistan are a mere afterthought.

Merely imposing targeted sanctions, cutting off financial support and taking legal action against a few individuals responsible for the abuses is not enough. The atrocities committed against women in Afghanistan demand more serious and robust measures to address the violation of their basic human rights.

Also, providing safe havens and refugee status for those who can flee the country is a short-term solution that fails to address the root causes of the crisis. A comprehensive approach is necessary that examines and addresses the historical, political and cultural factors that have led to the current situation in Afghanistan. Any meaningful solution to the crisis must involve the active participation of Afghan women, who have been disproportionately affected.

The struggle for women’s rights in Afghanistan is not an isolated issue, but a reflection of the broader fight for gender equality and human rights worldwide. It is the responsibility of all individuals and governments to stand in solidarity with Afghan women and work towards a future where every individual is treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their gender, race or religion. Failure to do so is a betrayal of our collective humanity.

It is crucial to recognize that women in Afghanistan have faced considerable obstacles and prejudice even before the Taliban takeover. Afghanistan has always been a patriarchal society, and despite advancements in education and political representation, women are still confronted with systemic hindrances that impede their complete engagement in society. But the Taliban’s return to power has cast a shadow over these gains, with fears that women’s rights will once again be severely curtailed. Afghanistan ranks last out of 156 countries in terms of gender equality, with women’s literacy rates among the lowest in the world, and high rates of violence and abuse, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report.

To achieve meaningful progress towards gender equality in Afghanistan, a comprehensive approach is necessary that addresses not only the specific needs of Afghan women, but also the political and economic factors that contribute to their oppression. The international community must prioritize Afghan women’s rights over global politics and actively involve Afghan women in any solution. The Taliban’s oppression and violence against women in Afghanistan are undeniable atrocities that demand the world’s attention and immediate action.

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Lisa Sorush, a writer and women rights activist, holds a bachelor's degree in political science from California State University, Fullerton, and a master's degree in conflict management and resolution from the University of San Diego. Email her at