Women in Afghanistan will be allowed to study in female only classrooms and the subjects they take will also be reviewed. They will also have to wear a Hijab when attending classes. These are part of a new higher education policy announced by the Taliban over the weekend a policy some fear could further exclude women from public life. The Taliban came to announce the new rules for women and higher education to a room filled almost exclusively with men.
In future there will be no mixing of the sexes and the subjects. Women are allowed to study could also be restricted. They do not want co-education and they have designed a structure to end co-education in Afghanistan. Higher education institutes have agreed with that plan and they are implementing it. The Taliban say their decision is in line with Islam. But critics say segregating the sexes represents a break with the past and will be difficult for practical reasons. Such as a lack of female professors with the result that fewer women end up attending university.
Women in favor of change however also mobilized over the weekend. They said they welcomed the Islamic emirate and criticized the Anti-Taliban protest led by women in recent weeks. But their message was also that under Islam, women have not only the right to study but also to work and to inherit from their families. We want to be given the rights that Islam assigns to them. They are muslims and they want rights that Islam has given them not the rights that Westerners impose on them. Now they and others are waiting to see if the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam will live up to their expectations.
Afghan women and men can be segregated but must ask what this practically means for Afghan women there are not enough facilities in every Afghan university and there are by far not enough professors and teachers who could maintain teaching them separately. This means that the quality of education will decrease significantly. The Taliban have said that in some cases there will be the possibility of male professors teaching women behind a curtain or via video calls. But on top of that also have to ask what will this these women do with their diplomas once they have finished university. Will they be able to work in their respective fields? whether this is a long-term solution.
There are women who are concerned and who are worried about these developments because they fear that this is the beginning of a downward spiral and slowly taking away more and more of the freedoms. They possessed before, but there are also women who are relieved. They will be able to keep on pursuing an education even under the previous government. Not all women were able to attend university because of family restrictions or security reasons and for some families the harassment that women had to endure at university was enough reason to not send their daughters to university. For these families it might actually mean more freedom. There are different perspectives on this and all are valid.
In many parts of afghanistan especially in rural areas women have always been excluded and for those this might even look like progress. But we have to look at the country as a whole and the Taliban cannot ignore those women who have been enjoying more freedom and were able to work in various fields outside their homes. Only health and education sectors are permitted and they can also not ban Afghan women who are artists who have contributed immensely to afghan society.