Taliban ban forced marriages of women in Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan – The Taliban on Friday decreed that it banned forced marriage of women in the war-torn country, which appears to be a move to meet criteria developed countries see as a prerequisite for recognition of their government and the restoration of aid.
The decision announced by Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhunzada came as poverty rises in Afghanistan, following the takeover of religious militias in August that pushed US and international forces and led foreign governments to suspend funds that had been a mainstay of the economy.
“Both (women and men) should be equal,” the decree said, adding that “no one can force women to marry by coercion or pressure.” Women’s rights have improved dramatically over the past two decades of international presence in Afghanistan, but are seen as threatened by the return of the Taliban, whose previous rule in the 1990s had virtually confined them.
Forced marriages have become more common in poor and conservative countries, as internally displaced people marry their young daughters in exchange for a dowry that can be used to pay off debts and feed their families.
The announced decree did not mention a minimum age for marriage, which was previously set at 16.
For decades, Afghan women have been treated like property – as a sign of trading for blood money or to end disputes or tribal feuds. The Taliban are now saying they are against the practice. They also said a widow would now be allowed to remarry 17 weeks after her husband’s death, freely choosing her new husband.
Long-standing tribal traditions have held the custom for a widow to marry one of her husband’s brothers or relatives upon death.
The Taliban leadership said it has ordered Afghan courts to treat women fairly, especially widows seeking to inherit as close relatives. The group also claims to have called on government ministers to raise awareness of women’s rights.
Friday’s announcement comes as thousands of girls in grades 7 to 12 are still not allowed to attend school and a majority of women have been banned from returning to work since the Taliban takeover.