Opinion / The Nation and the World

The Taliban’s national ban on women’s education

In September 2021, the Taliban announced a ban on women’s education in Afghanistan, making it the only country in the world where female students are banned from attending school beyond the sixth grade. This decision to ban women from secondary-school education has created widespread discourse in human rights groups, who argue that education is a fundamental right for everyone, regardless of gender.

The Taliban is a fundamentalist Islamist group that emerged in Afghanistan in the early 1990s. They seized power in 1996 and held control in Afghanistan until 2001, when they were overthrown by the US military. The group is known for their strict enforcement of rules based on an extreme interpretation of Islamic law. 

The ban is a significant setback for women’s rights in Afghanistan, where women have already faced challenges in accessing education in the past. Under Taliban rule in the 1990s, women were largely excluded from public life and were only allowed to study religion. The Taliban’s decision to ban women’s education in Afghanistan was met with resistance, with many women and girls choosing to continue to attend schools, despite the ban. Some schools also let girls attend in secret, having them hide in secret rooms when Taliban troops come to inspect the schools. The Taliban later announced that women could attend college, but only under the condition that they would be segregated from the male students and follow a strict dress code. Nonetheless, women were still prohibited from attending secondary school. 

The Taliban has justified this ban by claiming that it is necessary to safeguard Islamic values and protect Afghan women from Western influence. However, many critics argue that this ban will isolate Afghanistan from the international community and limit opportunities for women to advance their education and careers. Many Islamic scholars have also argued that Islam encourages both women and men to seek education.

The ban on women’s education is not the only restriction the Taliban has imposed on women. The group also requires that women wear full-body coverings and prohibits them from leaving their homes without a male escort. 

Photo credit: Ahmad Halabisaz, Associated Press

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