Taliban decree says Afghan women's rights must be enforced

Order issued in the name of the group's leader makes no mention of right to education or to work

A Taliban fighter passes a beauty salon in Kabul with images of women defaced with spray paint. AFP

The Taliban on Friday issued a decree in the name of their supreme leader that instructed Afghan ministries "to take serious action" on women's rights, but failed to mention access to education for girls.

The move comes as the Islamists, who seized power in mid-August, seek to restore Afghanistan's access to billions of dollars in assets and aid that were suspended when the previous, western-backed regime collapsed in the final stages of a US military withdrawal.

"The Islamic Emirate's leadership directs all relevant organisations ... to take serious action to enforce women's rights," the decree states, quoting supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada.

The decree centres on marriage and widows' rights, stating "no one can force women to marry by coercion or pressure" and that a widow is entitled to an unspecified fixed share of her husband's inheritance.

It instructs the Ministry of Culture and Information to publish material on women's rights to prevent "ongoing repression".

Respect for women's rights repeatedly cited by global donors as a condition for restoring aid.

The decree makes no mention of girls' secondary education, which for millions has been suspended, or the employment of women, who have been barred from returning to jobs in the public sector.

Women's rights were severely curtailed during the Taliban's previous stint in power, between 1996 and late 2001.

Women were forced to wear the all-covering burqa, allowed to leave the home only with a male chaperone, and banned from work and education.

Mr Akhundzada has maintained a very low public profile since becoming supreme leader in 2016, after his predecessor was killed in a US drone strike.

The Taliban on October 30 released a 10-minute audio recording purported to be him addressing a madrassa in the southern city of Kandahar that day.

But some analysts believe he may have been killed one or more years ago.

Updated: December 3rd 2021, 11:37 AM