As Afghanistan goes through a deep economic crisis with increasing hunger and poverty, the country’s women are suffering the consequences. The economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the systematic restrictions imposed by the Taliban regime have only increased the suffering of women and girls in Afghanistan.
Fawzia Koofi, former deputy speaker of the Afghan parliament, told the UN Human Rights Council: “Every day there are at least one or two women who commit suicide for lack of opportunity, for mental health, for the pressure they are under.
“The fact that girls as young as nine are sold, not only because of economic pressure, but because there is no hope for them, for their families, it is not normal.”
As the UN has pointed out, at least 20 million people in Afghanistan suffer from hunger. Cornelius Williams, director of child protection for the UNICEF program group, said desperation and a bleak future result in the commodification of girls and drive families to sell girls as child brides.
A girl named Parwana was only nine years old when she was sold to a 55-year-old man for around $2,200. Following a global outcry, the miner was rescued and brought to safety. Zahra, a little girl, was bought by a 50-year-old man for around $500.
However, there are several other unreported cases and the lack of complete data makes it difficult to fix the issue.
In its last report before the Taliban took over, the Afghan Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry said nearly 57,000 businesses were run by women in the country. However, following the Taliban takeover in August 2022, a large number of women-owned and women-led businesses went out of business.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, noted on July 1 that businesses owned and operated by women had been closed and that 1.2 million girls no longer had access to secondary education.
On June 30, senior Afghan religious leaders and representatives of the loya jirga (leadership assembly) endorsed the Taliban regime after a three-day meeting.
Human rights organizations have criticized the lack of representation of women, considering that they represent half of the country’s population. Rights activists said the jirga could have been a stepping stone towards securing women’s rights in Afghanistan.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the gathering a “symbolic” meeting. Hoda Khamosh, a rights activist currently in exile in Norway, criticized the assembly as “unrepresentative, holding no legitimacy or validation”, AFP reported.
The ongoing economic war, meanwhile, is having its own effect. Several calls made by UN human rights experts to the US administration to unfreeze the assets of the Afghan central bank have not been met. The United States currently holds about $7 billion in Afghan assets while the EU has an additional $2 billion, as the Afghan Women Advocacy Group has pointed out. These funds belong to the Afghan people.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the US State Department denied that women in Afghanistan faced hardship due to US sanctions and claimed the UN report contained serious errors.
However, various rights groups have noted that the extension of economic sanctions by the United States means that women and girls in Afghanistan will continue to suffer.
This article appeared on peoplesdispatch.org.