The Taliban said on Friday that they will prohibit women from being forced into marriage in Afghanistan, a decision that appears to be in response to criteria that the international world views as a prerequisite for recognising their administration and returning aid to the war-torn country.
Hibatullah Akhunzada, a theologian chosen as the Taliban’s ultimate leader and believed to be hiding in the southern city of Kandahar, made the announcement. It comes as Afghanistan’s poverty levels are rising in the aftermath of the Taliban’s takeover in August and the exit of US and NATO soldiers. Foreign countries have withheld funds that had been a lifeline for the economy since then.
The edict said that “no one can force women to marry by coercion or pressure,” and that “no one can force women to marry by coercion or pressure.” Women’s rights have improved significantly in Afghanistan over the last two decades of international presence, but they are now seen as in jeopardy with the return of the Taliban, who virtually cloistered women during their previous rule in the 1990s, banning them from public life and denying them access to education.
As the internally displaced marry off their young daughters in exchange for a bride-price that may be used to pay debts and support their family, forced weddings have grown more widespread in the poor, conservative country.
The ordinance made no mention of a minimum age for marriage, which had previously been established at 16.
Women in Afghanistan have been regarded as property for decades, as a means of exchanging blood money or settling disputes or tribal feuds. The Taliban have now said that they are opposed to the practise. They also stated that a widow will be able to remarry 17 weeks after her spouse’s death, with the freedom to choose her new husband.
In the event of her husband’s death, it is traditional for a widow to marry one of his siblings or relatives, according to long-standing tribe traditions.
According to the Taliban leadership, Afghan courts have been directed to treat women fairly, particularly widows seeking inheritance as next of kin. The group also claims to have pushed government ministers to raise public awareness about women’s rights.
Thousands of girls in grades seven to twelve are still not allowed to go to school, and the majority of women have been barred from going to work since the Taliban took control.
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