The situation for Afghan women has become increasingly desperate since the Taliban government took power in 2021. UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous has alerted the UN Security Council about the increasing prevalence of suicide and thoughts of taking one’s own life among Afghan women, who find themselves increasingly isolated and limited in their rights, largely due to decrees imposed by the Taliban.
Since returning to power, the Taliban government has applied an extremely strict interpretation of Islam that has severely restricted women’s rights. They have banned their access to education, closed public spaces such as parks and beauty salons, and denied them the right to work.
Women’s ability to make decisions has been drastically reduced, and this oppression has spread not only nationally but also in their communities, families, and especially in their own homes. The restrictions imposed by the Taliban are increasingly frequently and severely enforced, often by male family members forced to enforce the decrees.
This situation has led to an increase in child marriages and child labor and is having a devastating impact on the mental health of Afghan women. Bahous noted that 90% of young women surveyed reported having poor or very poor mental health, which has led to an increase in suicide and suicidal ideation.
Despite this humanitarian crisis, international funding to help Afghanistan is declining. The UN’s call to raise $3.2 billion for Afghanistan in 2023 has only managed to raise 28% of the funds needed. Roza Otunbayeva, head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, urged donors to find “innovative” ways to help Afghan women, who, despite restrictions, show courage and creativity to challenge these limitations.
The situation worsens as winter approaches, and the Afghan population is in danger. An estimated 15.2 million Afghans depend on international aid and could face famine in the coming months. Otunbayeva also advocated for dialogue with the Taliban government as a way to try to change these policies and improve the situation of Afghan women. However, she stressed that dialogue does not imply recognition and that it is essential to seek both internal and international legitimacy.