“Too Many Rights”? Afghan Men’s Views on Women

Too Many Rights? Afghan Men’s Views on Women

Illustration by Alva Skog
Words by Iris Du

Two out of three Afghan men strongly oppose the idea of more rights for women on the belief they have too many already, according to a recent study by Promunda and UN Women. From the survey’s sample of 2,000 adults, this perception was greatest within younger men.

Only 15% of surveyed Afghan men agreed that women should have the same rights as their partner, compared to three-quarters of Afghan women. Yet, one-third of surveyed women also believed that women already have sufficient rights, and were “too emotional” to be fit leaders.

Since being released from Taliban rule in 2001, Afghanistan has seen reported improvements in the treatment and rights of women. In 2018, their parliamentary body was 27.7% female, higher than many first-world countries. Support for baad and baddal — the practice of giving daughters away to settle disputes — is diminishing.

Although the current Afghan government is publicly committed to women’s rights and empowerment, women continue to face significant barriers

These facts and figures, however, do not take into account the frail flexibility of attitudes; attitudes which are established on a personal, local, and more often that not, unspoken level. While women may sit in parliament, how far does change trickle down into local communities and interactions between friends and families?

While beliefs of inequality in older Afghans could be connected to their direct experience of Taliban rule, the survey’s findings highlight these sentiments occuring strongest in the younger generation, which is both arresting and deserving of attention.

Sources have theorised that younger Afghan men are ‘slipping back’ into these traditional views in a bid to find concrete roles within society. This prompts us to ask: does the pursuit of an identity as either man or woman inherently create more harm than good?

With choice phrases in the survey describing women as “too emotional”, having “too many rights”, and men believing that more rights for women would result in their “losing out”, we see the gender comparison game emerge yet again. What, exactly, is the correct number of rights? The correct level of emotion fit for parliament? Is the answer simply whatever value is lower than the dominant gender?

This perception of gender operating in a give-or-take fashion is hardly exclusive to Afghanistan, showing itself in Western and Eastern communities alike. As long as equality is perceived as a scale of two lurching sides, these brazen views of quantifying one gender over the other is likely to continue being a challenge — and not just on a national level — but perhaps most so upon the local, confused individual.

Keep reading

The survey - link
An Afghan woman’s experiences - link
Asia Foundation’s 2018 survey on women’s rights in Afghanistan - link

InequalityNiccolo Gorfer