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Saishree Mohanty

After a long period of closure owing to the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan’s institutions have reopened to students. Nevertheless, there is one big caveat: women are still not permitted to attend classes.

The Taliban’s recent pronouncement has shattered hopes that the new government will be more progressive and inclusive than the dictatorship that fell in 2001. This means that many Afghan women would be unable to further their education or attain their job goals.

The ban on women attending university is not new in Afghanistan. During the Taliban’s previous rule from 1996 to 2001, women were denied access to education and most other basic rights. However, the Taliban has insisted that they have changed their approach this time around and will be more tolerant of women’s rights.

Notwithstanding these assertions, the actual situation is substantially different. In accordance with a recent Taliban declaration, women will only be permitted to enrol in universities provided they are separated from men and wear full-face veils. Also, the Taliban has claimed that only female teachers will instruct female students, which may result in a lack of female teachers and reduce the number of courses open to women.

The situation has sparked widespread outrage and protests from women’s rights activists and their supporters both within Afghanistan and around the world. Many have criticized the Taliban’s policies as a step back for women’s rights and a violation of their basic human rights.

The United Nations has also expressed concern about the situation. A spokesperson for the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that “the denial of the right to education to women and girls in Afghanistan is tantamount to denying them their human rights.” The spokesperson also called on the Taliban to uphold its commitment to human rights and ensure that women have equal access to education.

The Taliban has defended its policies, arguing that they are necessary to maintain social order and prevent any potential conflict between men and women on campus. However, many see this as an excuse to justify discrimination against women.

Despite the challenges, women’s rights activists remain determined to fight for their rights. Many have taken to social media to share their stories and organize protests. They are calling on the international community to put pressure on the Taliban to change its policies and uphold women’s rights.