March 8th, 2010
07:38 AM ET

Still a long road to equality for women in Afghanistan

What's it mean to be a woman in Afghanistan? Chances are you can't read or write, you married before you were 18 years old and have around 6 kids, and you may be working — but you're getting paid half of what your male counterparts make.

On International Women's Day, take a look at how women in Afghanistan fare, according to the 2010 report from the United Nations Development Fund for Women.

POPULATION: Females make up almost 49 percent of the 23.9 million people in Afghanistan.

EDUCATION: Despite gains in the last few years in education, only 12 percent of women 15 years old and older can read and write (compared to 39 percent of men).

About a third of the 4.8 million children in grades 1-6 are girls, with about the same percentage in high schools — the number of girls in high school almost doubled from 2007 to 2008.

In college and vocational schools, the proportion drops — about 18 percent of college students are women, and about 15 percent of vocational school students.

MARRIAGE: An estimated 60-80 percent of women face forced marriages in Afghanistan. The mean age of marriage is about 18 for women and 25 for men.

HEALTH: One woman dies every 29 minutes in child birth, the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world. The average woman had 6.3 children. And average life expectancy for women in Afghanistan? Around 43 years old (The life expectancy for U.S. females is around 80 years old, by comparison).

VIOLENCE: Out of the incidents reported against women, about 30 percent were related to physical violence, about the same amount to pschological violence, about a quarter had to do with sexual violence and about 14 percent were a combination of all three categories. And women don't have to look far for their perpetrators — about 8 in 10 incidents are committed by family members.

AT WORK: About 47 percent of working age women are actually in the labor market, compared to 86 percent of men. Those that are in the work force aren't getting paid the same as men — about half as much in agriculture jobs, for example.

And odds are if you're a woman in Afghanistan that you're not in the legal or military profession — Women make up less than 1 percent of the military, less than 5 percent of judges and less than around 6 percent of attorneys or prosecutors. In 2007 (latest figures available), the number of women in the police force increased to 275 from 164.

POLITICS: The world of politics is a little more favorable workplace for women. Women represent about a quarter of the National Assembly, and about around 20 percent of all government workers are women.

RELATED: Opinion: Never dismiss power of Afghan women 

More on women in Afghanistan:
Human Rights Watch: Women's Rights in Afghanistan
United Nations Development Fund for Women – Afghanistan
Women for Afghan Women
Women for Women International
Vital Voices Global Partnership

soundoff (102 Responses)
  1. Joy

    I understand respecting different cultures. But when it causes others to degrade people who don't deserve it. That is when I think it's wrong and this is purely wrong. I don't understand why the women can't be educated.

    March 12, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. O

    Each individual/group has to stand for what they believe in. Around the world many sacrifices in history have been made to overcome disparity. Equality within this country is in the hands of the women. Come together to make a strong voice that will be heard past the borders of Afghanistan, then the strong and powerful women and men of the world who believe in equality of all will join the women of Afghanistan and make a change for the better.

    March 12, 2010 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mary Ann

    You have to remember that women are totally dependent on the men in their family in the Middle East. They cannot travel or even work without their father's or husband's permission. Their fathers can marry them off at an early age and no one can stop him unless someone in the family complains on her behalf.

    But, that's not why we went to Afghanistan.

    March 12, 2010 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. Abdul Karim

    @Trusha Patel: Women in India are free from oppression? I beg to differ. I am sure you have not heard of dowry murders on daily basis or the constant physical molestation that women go through when walking on the streets? Please do not dilute the message with your myopic statements.

    March 12, 2010 at 2:37 am | Report abuse |
  5. Quin Wade

    "the women should be paid the same as males.
    the women work hard and deserve it.
    thats my opinion" said Quin Wade

    March 12, 2010 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  6. Maxeemas

    there is nothing wrong with been women in afghanistan, all we need there is good muslim guys not those corrupted people from Governement including the president of afghanisten. the only reason America gave afghanisten to Karzay is because they didn't like Taliben any more, but is karzay the right man for that country or just someone who likes to kiss the American s ass

    March 11, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. unicorn1824

    It's true that all the military in the world won't change people's minds, but it doesn't mean you have to tolerate people's actions or mindsets.

    There are a few universal principles that transcend religion and culture, and one of them is the equality of all people under the law. Women and men should have the same rights in law and in a society's culture. We can't force people to change, but we can say "This is the price of admission to the civilized world. If you tolerate stoning and treat women in general as property, you can't be part of the rest of the world. You will be shunned and treated as pariahs until you accept, in law at least, that all people are equal."

    March 11, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Matthew Carrick

    The literacy rates (12 percent of women and 39 percent of men) must rise or little else will matter.

    March 11, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tulsa Anita

    All wars that we have witnessed are attempts at power and control. They are testosterone wars. Large numbers of women are not out there fighting. Religions have aided and abetted most of them and the world would be better off with none of them. What better way to deny the rights of women and others than with the help of the hand of God. The Taliban is a good example of corrupt absolute power when they rule over a population.

    March 11, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ama

    Educate a man you have educated A man.
    Educate a woman and you educate a whole family!!!!!!!

    March 11, 2010 at 7:25 am | Report abuse |
  11. Ahmad Shah

    As an AfghanI strongly opose the report. This is where they reporters don't have a clear picture of the cuontry and mislead people in west. At least we are human and we respect the women and not sell them or thier body in the night clubs. Journalists only interview people who can not represent 23 million people in the country. Even I can not repesent a small number of people in my country how can a person who can't stand against the hardships of live in Afghanistan blame her/his family member. This is how the Russian started the invasion in Afghanistan long ago and failed to acheive their gaols. They were fooled by a number of their communist colleagues saying that Afghans need the assistance from Sovit Union. I agree with Openmind and its idea look around yourself in the meat market in the west What do see there?

    March 11, 2010 at 4:12 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jen

    So here you go Roto... though science is not solely the domain of feminists.

    The reason that the lifespan of Afghani women being slightly less than that of men is signifigant is:

    The higher incidence of genetic disease and related early deaths in male poulations. The Y chromosome does not have a duplicate for many of the genes that exist on the X chromosome thus these recessive genetic disorders manifest in males with the presence of only one chromosome, rather than the two requried for manifestation in females. This brings the natural life expectancy of women in countires that do not experience cultural gender disparity significantly higher than that of males.

    For a breeding age poulation this is normaly balanced by the fact that males comprise a slight majority of babies at birth (due to the slightly lighter, more agile Y carrying sperm cells that are able to reach the egg first for fertilization)

    The abominable conditions for women in Afghanistan are shifting this natural order, causing a gender imbalance that is further exacerbated by the Islamic practice of polygamy as an individual male becomes more prosperous and by the fact that Afghani women are largely unable to provide a decent income for themselves by working. This results in large numbers of poor, single, disaffected men. These men, lacking other opportunities, become easy recruits for the Taliban and the cycle of religious violence and stupidity repeats.
    If you are interested, SciAm or New Scientist both have a number of articles on this topic that are more comprehensive yet remain easily digestible by an average reader.

    March 10, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |

    The reason men try and keep the women down is because inside they know we are better then them and smarter then them and they are afraid.

    March 10, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lupe

    I watched " The Stoning of Soraya M", and it just left me speechless. How can anyone think it is ok to treat anyone like this, much less a human being. A woman who did nothing wrong except to try to keep herself and two daughters not starve. Even if she did commit Audultry she did not deserve this punishment at all, I mean the Men do much worse and get away with it. This movie has truly opened up my eyes, I am very blessed to be in a country that is much more civilized and FREE!. This movie has moved me so much that I am going to start finding out how I can help, even if its $10.00 a month, I am going to start spreading the word to my family and friends, we all need to unite and stop VIOLENCE no matter where, even if its in our back yard or neighbor anywhere... We are all children of God, A GOD who is good and only wants the best for us ALL. No one is better than the other....GOD BLESS

    March 10, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. OpenMind

    Why are we picking on Afghanistan. People in China still kill their baby doughters, becuase they want boys. In India Women are baried alive if their husband die before they do, because they have no use after the husband is died. Some of these women in muslim countries are forced to wear whatever they are wearing; but many others are wearing it by choice. Yes, many Muslim women will not choose to enter the meat market that we in the west have, many want to cover their bodies!!!

    March 10, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  16. max

    The mistreatment of women in nations with muslim majorities is due to misinterpretation of islamic teachings. The reason that Quran requres 2 female witnesses in place of one male is that it is recognized that a woman might be forced by her husband to testify falsely if he has something personal at stake in the matter. It has nothing to do with a woman being worth any less than a man. The only requirement for dress that Quram makes for women is that they lengthen their clothes, so they can be distinguished from the nonbelievers by their modesty. And muslim men are required to take care of their their female relatives (not controll them), so even though brothers get a larger share of inheritance, they are to use part of it to care and provide for their sisters.
    Most of the other practices forced onto women in muslim societies are a result of hadiths that were writted a couple of centuries after the prophet's (pbuh) death by men who had their own personal agendas and biases. In some places it's also a case of local cultural practices being integrated into the religios teachings.
    Even though concepts of gender equality make perfect sense to us, when we try to shove it down their throats, they are bound to reject it and fight back. The only way to help them progress is to educate them on the proper islamic teachings. That way they will realize that equality and tolerance are not just western concepts and are in fact communicated through the Quran as well.

    March 10, 2010 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  17. giselle

    I suggest that every one read "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson. Was is NEVER the answer, it never has, specially in Afghanistan. Education is. Education is the only way we can empower women in muslim countries.

    March 10, 2010 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  18. nooriya

    Education and culture is the core reason for these women that has been suffering for years. When you don't have power you have nothing and if the women in afghanistan want to live like a normal citizen of a country, they need to invest everything they have to get education. Knowledge is power and most men in that country don't encourage education for women because they know the consequences of having education, It means power, money and standing up for yourself. The man in afghanistan should realize by now that they can not do anything good for their country. So it is time to hand over power to the women.

    March 10, 2010 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  19. saganhill

    All muslim societies are like this. Indian (ie India) is even worse when it comes to womens rights. You can blame the religious extremism for this behavior. Even in the USA, National Chrisitans teach their Women to be silent and let the men run the business and make the money. Its a disgrace.

    March 10, 2010 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
  20. Fatima

    Sharia Law. Excuse me, The Muslim 'religion' is a political ideology not designed as a 'religion of peace' as some elements would have us believe. The burqua and all its negative accouterments are forced on these women by Sharia law. True, it is not in the Qua ran for a woman to wear the veil. But... it is True that this hard core ideology denigrates and enslaves the Afghan woman. It IS NOT cultural. During the 1970's women in this land where wearing western clothes and had access to education and certain rights enjoyed in the West. Like being a human being. So where is NOW and why don't more women s groups do something useful instead of complaining about the political zeitgeist of the day.

    March 10, 2010 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
  21. wizofvols

    We as Americans should be encouraged by the fact that less than 100 years we treated a class of people – both men and women – as slaves and now we have progressed to recognize that it was wrong to do so and are making a lot of progress to make right that wrong.

    March 9, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Jan

    Once again, why does the US feel that it should be the saviour for every other country? Just because Afghanistan does things in a way diametrically opposed to the US ways does that mean we should stick our noses in?

    Are there not cases of oppression, to both male and female US people? Don't we need to address our own shortcomings first, before rushing to judge other nations?

    Wake up America, stop trying to be the global police.

    March 9, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Heather

    No country will have peace or successfully provide for their population until they provide equality for woman. Suggested reading: "Half the Sky"

    March 9, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Wanda Locklear

    women is treated just as bad in the united states they just keep it hidden

    March 9, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  25. roto

    Men in afghanistan do not live any longer. Funny how the author left that out when mentioning women's life expectancy. They compared every other stat to the same stat for men, but this one they left out intentionally because it doesn't help their cause. Very clever.

    Also, most of the things on the list are not necessarily bad, but simply are examples of a different way of life. Forced marriages go both ways, not just for the woman, and they are not necessarily bad, just different from what we do here. Not being able to read or write is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means you will experience life differently; it doesn't require that you will suffer in any way.

    The only things that would most certainly be bad relative to their male counterparts are the situation they are in regarding violence and the lack of equal work pay . However, I am not so sure that the average woman is subjected to any more violence than the average man over there. It sounds like a pretty rough place for everyone.

    (braces for feminist onslaught)

    March 9, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  26. cmarsden

    With 88% illiteracy among Afganistan's women, is that why there are no signs in these shop windows?

    March 9, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  27. jon

    It is cultural gender oppression. Of course it is much easier to oppress them if they can't read or write. Today that is associated with the Middle East. But we oppressed our women similarly here in the west as recently as about 100 years ago. I think the middle east should allow women all the rights of men, and both men and women should be allowed to follow any shclarly pursuit they wish (within their means). My wife has an MBA and at one point made more money than I did. She wished to be able to land on her feet if I ever dumped her (which after 25 years of marriage doesn't look likely). I much prefer an educated companion to one who can't read or write. It is ooppression and it is pointless. It is based on an unfounded insecurity about being a man who is in control. What BS. Hope equal rights for women over there progresses quickly. My mother's aunt was the first female to graduate from Cornell's Engineering school. It will be difficult for women in a world where men seem to control everything and espcecally in the middle east where the only way to disagree is to kill and die. It might help if they take 'wife beating' as an activity approved by Allah out of the Koran.

    March 9, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  28. prasan

    hey OJ:

    "Would a woman rather have a safe hospital to give birth in or would she enjoy having the luxury to choose any partner to sleep with that she could then get pregnant?"...

    if she was giving birth to a child who she was forced to have at the age of 18 with a guy who already has 6 fives.. then i guess she would love the latter option.... what kind of dumb question is that

    March 9, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Anders

    Good thing that American women have the same basic freedoms as here in Scandinavia, but it wouldn't hurt with less God-talk in and from the U.S., for the sake of credibility in dealing with real problem countries like Afghanistan. I mean, suppression of women's rights in the Muslim world are made in the name of religion. Religion is per definition the preference of imagination over reason, and so much of it has evil consequences.

    March 9, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Emmanuel

    What surprises me is instead of expressing our sincere concern for the less privilege we are thankful that this does not happen in our country. Please because we are more privilege does not mean worst senario is not in our country. Why do you think American, European and all those so called advanced country are very disrespectful and slothy. I can only pray that the stupid culture in within each country comes to an end so we can all dwell together in peace and harmony.

    March 9, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Bull

    Pick up your biggest pot,pan or knife,and defend yourself woman.

    March 9, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  32. CeeJay

    The most well formed statemtnt I've read so far, as a response to this article, has been:

    1. We are are there to fight the Taliban, search for Bin Laden.
    2. We are not there to fight the Afghanistan people or force our values on them.
    3. We did not and are still not in Iraq to fight the Iraqi people.
    4. We are not in Afghanistan to make the men treat the women better.

    Projecting ideas onto other cultures is completely crossing the lines of what is appropriate! Don't we have enough gender struggles and equality issues of our own? Just asking.

    March 9, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  33. Jen

    Wes, compared to Afghanistan of the Taliban, yes the US has a vibrant, healthy society. This is not because the US is perfect. It is because Afghanistan with its violet religious fundamentalism is completely broken and incapable of functioning past the level of a medieval fiefdom.

    Wes also wrote:"If all women would disappear from earth the world would still run."

    Actually Wes, no the human world would not "still run" if all women disapeared. We would die out in one generation. In the US, where women now comprise sightly over 50% of the workforce, business would grind to a near halt immediately.

    As to your comment regarding "vibrant society exisitng in only countries free of feminism", I will take this to mean that in addition to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East, you consider sub- Saharan Africa to house the most vibrant, healthy countries in the world, while Northern Europe, Australia and North America are barely able to survive.

    If this is what you truly desire, I am sure there is another country on that former list that would be happy to welcome you.

    March 9, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  34. angela

    @ Trusha Patel

    India is similar in its plight of women's rights. In India, modesty is required, unless you want to ogled at by men. In rural regions, sati, female feticide and infanticide run rampant (as in urban areas as well thanks to the influx of technology and wealth), and thanks to dowry, women are the constant subject of violence by their in-laws and husbands, i.e. kitchen fires.

    In India, when you ride a public bus, you will see many women covered in burn scars. Women do not get paid as well, and find it hard to obtain education (thanks also to dowry). I implore you, and anyone who has questions about the status of women in India to read 'may you be the mother of a hundred sons,' or better yet, travel there. In Hyderabad, you will see only rich women given equality. In Fort Cochin, you find no women, because of fundamental islam, many are living in Purdah, and not even allowed on the streets. In Agra, you may find infanticide and sati...both violence against women stemming from dowry.

    India has a Looooooong way to go, and though dowry and sati are illegal, the corrupt government does little to regulate them. For example, when I was in India, a westerner in the northeast reported a child bride being married off, and as punishment to the western woman who reported the crime, ten men in village raped her. This was in 2007.

    March 9, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  35. angela

    The problem in afghanistan is the lack of economic opportunity for women. Economic development focused on women increases the health of family, access to education, gender equality, and of course, decreases poverty. Islam has been hijacked by extremists to exploit and control the masses–which is a common problem for any very religious country. Purdah, like dowry, has created an entire culture of resentment towards women, which is expressed through violence and oppression. The use of burka or hijab may be the women's choice, as it is in western society...but do not doubt that often it is a tool of oppression used to express ownership over a woman by her husband or family, who is ashamed at her immodesty if a strand of hair should come free. It is important to be tolerant, and unyielding critical of all cultures, in order to allow for free will of the individual. Human rights are not a western ideology–they are a function of human existence...the manner in which we establish and uphold them is the challenge.

    March 9, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Joshua

    Why as Americans must we insist on forcing our own values and beliefs onto societies vastly different from us and expect them to comply in the span of 3-5 years? It took us 400 years to get to where we are today. If they wanted our way of life that badly, their able-bodied citizens would rise up and protest fiercely just like we're seeing in Iran right now. Instead, brand-new schools are getting blown up weekly and girls are having battery acid thrown in their faces.

    Setting up a paper-thin democracy with 0 support from it's citizens isn't going to bring stability to the region. We need to come up with a plan to aggressively weed out remnants of the Taliban from the civilian population forever and give autonomy back to the Afghan people and let them govern themselves as they see fit.

    March 9, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Sanjosemike

    Sorry, it is Islam itself that is the problem. We are now seeing that in Turkey, which used to have a more moderate secular government. It has been taken over by Islamists. Now it is changing. Turkey is distancing itself from Israel. Some may argue that is OK. But this is not the end of the situation. Soon the rights of women will be reversed after centuries of "tolerance." It is impossible for Islam and Shar'ia to reconcile the Western belief for equal rights for women. The closer you get to Islam...the less there is for women. Period. sanjosemike

    March 9, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  38. Trusha Patel

    OMG!! this is so not fair...what have a women done that they treat them this way...thank god indai is not like this...i feel so sorry for the women in Afghanistan and Pakistan.. MAY GOD BLESS THEM...and punish the ones who hurt them...

    March 9, 2010 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  39. Tim

    Having served in Afghanistan for a year; there is a lot of progress in terms of women's rights. We have to remember that Afghanistan is a country that has its own calendar and are currently in the year 1388. People still use horses, camels, donkeys as well as other methods to transport their goods and services.

    Things for women in Afghanistan are getting better, but not as fast as we would like. In the more tribal/Pashtoon areas they still wear the burkah. Afghanistan is a Islamic Republic and have oppressive rules that are plaguing their women and children. Women are now attending the police academy to become fully sworn police officers, and tend to be more motivated and tenacious than their male counterparts.

    They have medical facilities which they did not have before. The younger generation do see the importance of education, and are going to school up through to the university. It will take some time and influence, but I believe God has an ultimate plan for this country.

    March 9, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  40. Akon

    Islam is a very diffrent religion than you think, do not compare it to how women act in the west. Women know there roles in the east and they know what there expected of.

    March 9, 2010 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  41. Bill

    Cultural change in Afghanistan will take several generations to occur. We can not take the "American Template," place it over Afghanistan and expect instant results. The changes that our men and women are hoping to put into place hopefully will begin with creating a working infrastructure within the country. Schools (including the training of teachers), hospitals/clinics, roads, water, electricity, everything we take for granted is available ONLY touch a very small percentage of th e Afghan population. Cultural changes in America did not happen over night and the same can be said in Afghanistan. The Afghans must learn to crawl, before they can walk or run.

    March 9, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  42. OJay

    What is the West's infatuation with equality? Are women truly equal in any Western country. I lived in the US for 12 years and believe me I did not find one woman who was treated equally there.

    At one of my jobs, men were always preferred to women. as they were more reliable and had a tendency to be less of drama creating people. At another job the boss mostly wanted to hire women for day shift as according to him, the breast and vagina with a pretty smile brought in more customers at lunch time.

    Look at the history of any western country and 50-60 years ago they were all the same. Women were more of a stay at home part of the society. They did not have so many rights that they now claim, now the west wants to bring in equality and all that bull crap but they do not want to bring all other advancements which these women should get before they get equality.

    Would a woman rather have a safe hospital to give birth in or would she enjoy having the luxury to choose any partner to sleep with that she could then get pregnant?

    March 9, 2010 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  43. belladonna

    Seeing articles like this – and some of the responses – makes me wonder if there is a culture on this planet where men are confident enough in their own masculinity that they don't need to subjegate women to prove to themselves that they're men.

    March 9, 2010 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  44. Cindy

    After reading the book, Three cups of Tea, buy Greg Mortensen, he states that if you educate women to least a 5th grade level, the chances of any Taliban activy taking hold in a village goes down to almost 0.

    March 9, 2010 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  45. Cronous


    "I am a Muslim women, and what i hate about the whole situation in Afghanistan is that the general public links the conditions of the women with the religion...It is all culture....There Is Nothing in the holy Quran that says we have to wear a burka"

    Yes but your religion does say that it is ok to beat your wife (lightly), that a women's word is worth half a man, that man can have sex with female slaves, that a wife must comply with a man's sexual demands anytime, etc.

    ".and we are the only religion where a women is allowed a divorce, as long as there is reason...."

    And men can divorce a woman for no reason by say I divorce thee three times. So much for equality.

    March 9, 2010 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  46. mobadthangood

    Wow, there are some pretty testosteroned women on here.
    1. We are are there to fight the Taliban, search for Bin Laden.
    2. We are not there to fight the Afghanistan people or force our values on them.
    3. We did not and are still not in Iraq to fight the Iraqi people.
    4. We are not in Afghanistan to make the men treat the women better.

    March 9, 2010 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
  47. Liz

    Where are you getting this information from? Women get treated badly here in the states, yet it is not publicized like this. Leave them alone. Stop scrutinizing their lifestyle. There is no right or wrong way to live......It is all about culture and customs. Every body is different and just because it is different that the mighty "united states" does not mean that it is "wrong"...........Stay out of their buisness

    March 9, 2010 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
  48. James

    Having served there, this article comes as no surprise to me. I would estimate that the number of abused women are actually higher than reported here. This nation and its people are locked in the medieval era. How can an industrialized nation encourage one stuck in the 12th century to modernize so quickly?

    March 9, 2010 at 7:10 am | Report abuse |
  49. Nancy

    It's a sad situation when you compare it to Western cultures but the People of Afghanistan chose to live life as if it were the 4th century. That's their choice. It's their culture. Leave these people alone!!!

    March 9, 2010 at 6:23 am | Report abuse |
  50. A. Smith, Oregon

    As long as girls are forced into the Muslim religion, they'll be treated as the Muslim Ayatollahs, Clerics, Mullahs and Immans point out the Koranic verses which teaches Muslim women are at best worth only 1/3 that of a Muslim man.

    The only way for a Muslim woman to have equality and self-empowerment is to permanently leave the Muslim religion.

    America should help all women in the Middle Eastern battlefields that wish to leave the Muslim religion permanently to safely leave those horrific conditions. Help them to safe-homes in India and other neighboring non-Islamic ruled country's.

    March 9, 2010 at 4:08 am | Report abuse |
  51. muffdive

    muffdive: Women are like nectar of god: to be loved, revered, protected and always treasured!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 9, 2010 at 3:39 am | Report abuse |
  52. Salas

    Anyone that thinks this has nothing to do with religion is a complete idiot. Many majority Christian countries are dirt poor and cultural, but they do not have this issue.

    March 9, 2010 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  53. WMD

    Sounds like the same life my mother had here in Canada, as well as most women
    back then. Considering women never worked here until the second world war when they
    had to because all the men were gone fighting. They are us, just 60 or 70 years behind.

    March 9, 2010 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
  54. Jester

    It is sad and terrible but it has go nothing to do with Islam, Islam elevates women above men only if she guards her modesty, that is why Mother in a family is the most important person, all this problem is because of lack of education, and its not Afghanistan only, same problems are seen in almost all countries with higher illiteracy

    March 9, 2010 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
  55. angela averette

    when will women learn they should stay home, stay naked, and listen to their man...all will be well

    March 9, 2010 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  56. Wes

    Jen – are you trying to say that we have "vibrant" society? With our divorce rate exceeding 50%, millions of children growing dysfunctional in fatherless homes and millions innocent babies killed in abortion clinics, I would question your position. Strong and vibrant society starts with strong family and strong families exist only in cultures free from the scourge of feminism. True empowerment can only come from true effort. Empowerment based on politics is fake and will not last. If all women would disappear from earth the world would still run. Cars, airplanes, internet would work, power plants would deliver power. We would miss companionship of women but most of us would not miss wimmin.

    March 8, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  57. Bazelope

    No education. Kids before 18 years of age. Heck, these woman could be from Detroit!

    March 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  58. Carlos Avila

    Most men are the worst beasts and animals and criminals against the weakest human being; womens. womens are to be loved, not to be treated with violence. Those men that use to use violence against womens, try with another don't deserve to have a woman with you!!!!.......

    March 8, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
  59. d in ny

    I am astonished at the negative/positive comments of everyone sofar. If we look at the history of the Afghans we see nothing but turmoil/chaos/war. if we really want to change the mindset of those in afghanistan then collectively we the people of the world should work to win the hearts and minds of those who govern and impose ways on the people of afghanistan. the twenty first century is a new beginning for mankind and we should all be part of it. The Taliban's are nothing but a buch of tugs who want to impose an extreme form of Islam on people and the USA and it's allies can also be classified as such, if we try to impose the socalled western way of life on the Afghans. Empowering, educating all people of a nation will only help bring fort success to that nation. If we sit by and make stupid and ignorant comments about a people, then we are no better than those who have ruled with and iron fist to degrade, impose, and destroy a society that once flourished.

    The people of Afghanistan should know that we are with them. They should know that we want for them the same as we have, and may peace and harmony thrive in their society.

    D in NY

    March 8, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  60. Freedom and Peace

    That's a shame. It's very disappointing that the women don't have any rights when they could be free, and COULD get an education, but that's just not the case! Those countries just don't understand that!!!

    March 8, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  61. april

    They will never be free until they insist. Men with power will never share it. Women need to stand up and take power for themselves. Until they get the courage to do that, they will continue in ignorance and misery. Why do women in the USA enjoy so much privilege? Because thousands of women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony stood up and took what they wanted. I learned years ago that the only way to deal with a bully is to STAND UP. The instant you do that, you have defeated him.

    March 8, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  62. DaAfghan

    Though, Karzai is hated among the international community and his reputation is tainted with so many failures, but the truth is, he is the only Afghan president in our recent history, who stood up against the odds, and helped women move up in all walks of life, encouraged them to go to schools, work in offices, and demand for their rights at all occasions if unjustice was seen. But due to the notorious suppression of our women for the last 30+ years, it is going to take a while so that we have more educated women in our families, and more receptive envirnoment is made, so they can take leading roles and do everything we, as men think only can do.
    I salute our women in Afghanistan, who are so eager to educating themselves and are hopeful to connect with the women around the globe. May they rise strong and prosperous, and no suppression or cruelty be pressed upon them ever again. Amin

    March 8, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  63. A. Smith, Oregon

    From DAY ONE, American troops should have helped setup Women's educational centers across Afghanistan, brought in educational teachers for Muslim women.

    Trained the Muslim women in self-defense and issued them with small personal side-arms (pistols) for self-protection.

    Provided safe-houses and immigration for ALL Muslim women that want to permanently leave the horrific religion Islam and relocate in India or other nations that would accept them, nurture them and help them fully empower themselves.

    When America begins pulling out its troops next year, the Taliban will return and the Muslim women will greatly suffer under the boots of the Taliban as they did before. Why is nothing being done to address that eventuality?

    Offer the Afghanistan Muslim women Education, Safety, Self-Defense Training, Personal Sidearms and a way out of the Muslim religion IF THEY WANT IT!

    March 8, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  64. Mohammad A. Dar


    March 8, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  65. yaya

    what were the numbers like before the Soviets invaded and the Taliban took over?

    March 8, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  66. blueiyzz

    Obama should stay in afghanistan till you americans wipe out taliban.. why are you running away like cowards... stay there and you will forget vietnam...

    Whats the meaning of a WOMEN in Europe and America? you are on drugs and you are a mother already without marriage.. your kids don't know their father..nor you.. so many of them.. who is to blame? your religon or your culture??

    stay and wipe out and eliminate them, solving 3/4 of worlds problems... thats what you have already doing since I dont know how long..

    March 8, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  67. Jen

    Comments like those from "Wes" show us that even in the West, we are only a few decades of complacency away from being taked over by the far right and thrust into a horrific, repressive society. I can remember the Kabul of the 1960's. It was on its way to beocming a modern vibrant society. Women were entering the workforce, coming and going as free members of society and wearing clothing of their own choosing. Universities taught science, not religion and superstition. Religion was an enhancement to lives and a personal matter, not a means of exerting political control. The Afghan economy was booming and the world looked forward to a healthy trading partner.

    Fast forward to the Soviet/Afghan war, and the US's shortsighted, ultra-conservative led funding of the "God-fearing" Taliban against the communist threat. They now have religious repression of the worst sort, backed by ignorance and thuggery. Their economy is in shambles. The citizens are all armed and ungovernable. Access to birth control is almost unheard of. Women have little control over their bodies or their destiny. All govermental controls are local with the federal government not even able to collect revenue from its territories. Schools go unfunded. Police and infrastructure are largely privatized; which means they largely do not exist or are slanted towards those in power in a way that makes them esentially usless.

    If this ignorant society were based in a Judeo Christian religion rather than Islam, the far right would probably be hailing Afgahnistan as a model society.

    March 8, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  68. OldGirl

    Men are terrified of women.
    Women are so powerful that men have to sublimate and overpower them to keep them down.
    Rise up, women, and raise the men and women of the future with a new mindset.
    The hand that rocks the cradle truly rules the world.

    March 8, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  69. SECOH

    You can't wipe out the Taliban when the women are having 6 children each. The young boys don't have jobs, turning to the Taliban.
    The real war in the Middle East should be a fight for population control and birth control.
    It's hard to empowered if your entire life is a large family.

    March 8, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  70. ana

    What is happening to women in Afghanistan is unconscionable, pathetic and nauseating. I feel so sad and sorry for these women... they are daughters, mothers, grandmothers, sisters,aunts, nieces and yet they are treated worse than an animal. How can a society not acknowledge the intrinsic worth of women??Without women there would be no children, no future, no life...

    March 8, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  71. KB

    "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini - author of "The Kite Runner" - focuses on life for women in Afghanistan. Definitely worth reading if you're interested in this topic.

    March 8, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  72. Kira

    I think the situation exists because of culture and the resulting poverty. It cannot be "blamed" solely on religion. Certainly there are many other places in the world where residents share the same dismal conditions but are from different religious heritages.

    I think all the women "work". They may not be working outside the home, but their daily tasks are endless. They just don't have access to financial resources. They probably don't have time to sit around relaxing and drinking tea, as men do. I have rarely seen even young girls in pictures where boy are seen playing games, and if young females are visible, they are not actively playing (unless they are very young), but are, rather, caring for babies or toddlers.

    Yes, empower the women and girls, and there will be better health, security, and hope for all.

    There are many, even, little ways, to help share...if we really care.


    March 8, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  73. Brisa

    Second class citizens? We still have that problem here in the states. When women become pregnant they become "moody" or "odd" because of the "pregnancy" and what they say can be ignored or laughed at as effects of their "condition". We still have that mentality here. Its worse overseas but we cant sit here and tut-tut them when our own sisters are subject to this and we dont seem to notice.

    March 8, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  74. Wes

    It is scary to see how we are trying to impose on other people values that destroy our civilization. Destruction of family, high divorce rate and abortions are directly linked to "empowering women", which is discrimination of men in disguise. Perhaps, they don't want multibillion dollar divorce industry, millions of children forcibly separated from their loving and caring fathers and insane family court system that treats men like criminals and women like sacred cows. Anyway, with birth rate of 1.5 child/woman we are doomed. Life will impose natural order regardless of what feminists want.

    March 8, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  75. LA

    Women of Afghanistan, know that women all over the world believe in you and understand that the more social and political influence you gain in your culture, the more hope there is for the world to realize true peace and respect across all cultures. Nations in which women hold strong positions of respect and influence will ultimately bring all the people of the world together in love. Women of Afghanistan, you are the hope of your country's future. Your influence is vital; you have the strength and wisdom to empower yourselves. You are the true warriors.

    March 8, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  76. Insane1

    Its the disgusting religion that calls for violence against everyone. Wipe it out like Hitlers ideals were wiped out you will solve 3/4 of the worlds problems

    March 8, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • margie

      Insane1, what you're advocating sounds more like what hitler did than what we did to save his victims. Hitler thought Judaism was a "disgusting religion" so he tried to "wipe it out" just like you suggest in your post regarding Islam. Sounds like you and Hitler have a lot in common.

      March 12, 2010 at 3:21 am | Report abuse |
  77. Was Buf., Now Was.

    I'm actually surprised 5% of Afghan judges are women... Can't imagine how the majority of the misogynistic males would react if a woman was to decide their fate. My guess is they're only allowed to adjudicate cases where both sides are female... Anyone know for sure?

    March 8, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  78. toughen up

    I don't know why I even bother commenting on CNN. The moderators always censor my right to free speech. I guess I'm not politically correct enough for them. Anyway, let's see if this one makes it through. Leave these women alone. Please do not try to Westernize them. If you want to help w/ human rights violations, fine. But if you're going to try to shove your feminazi agenda down their throats, they'd be better off w/out it, thank you. As would all of WE women.

    March 8, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  79. Rafiq

    You know nothing. "and that is why our troops are there to stand up for those who cannot stand up themselves". pathetic innocence. Your troops kick in doors with their boots and enter houses where they are not welcome. I can tell you. My Afghan mother-in-law could hardly read, but she was the boss in the house. And most respected by all. Just go home, you will never understand.

    March 8, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  80. Donna Thompson

    Education, education, education!!! Keep building schools and empower the women.

    March 8, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  81. Jean

    I believe that although Afghanistan still has ways to go- It will eventually get there. The increase in its women in school shows that it will happen maybe not for them but maybe their daughters and so forth.

    March 8, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  82. Joyce

    Help is on the way.and may all women be compensated more then fairly for they work. so be it .

    March 8, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  83. maggie

    John, women and their children suffer so much more in a war torn country. When a woman is not allowed to leave her house without a man, or not allowed to work, then she and her children will suffer greatly if her husband is killed in the war. The country's resources – food, medicine, clean water – will go first to the male soldiers. War hurts men, too, but then men often take out their rage and other negative feelings on women and children, raping, beating and murdering. Some male religious leaders blame advances in women's rights for the hardships their people endure, which leads to attempts to take away those rights. These are just some of the reasons women oppose war.

    March 8, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  84. Jeff

    ANOTHER article about women!? Geesh!

    March 8, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  85. Otho Williams Jr

    That's up to the women to take their power back that was given to you once your born. Don't matter what country your from or they're belief's. That's why it called they're belief's. So much segregation between people now a days including the most among the black especially women in general. They're is always a way of escape, even if you have to fight to your death. Only one person can judge you and take away your free and thet's GOD!

    March 8, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  86. Daniel

    As I remember,the Communist leaders tried to get women to exercise the rights as equals to men back in the 1980's,but it failed,since most Afghans considered the Communist regime a mere puppet of the Russians,just as the current regime is a puppet of NATO.
    If I were Afghan I'd resent the presence of foreign troops on my soil.But will the women really begin to exercise equal rights?

    March 8, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  87. mobadthangood

    A lot of the reasons I see on here are exactly why the Muslim Extreemists are determined to "eliminate the infidel dogs"(Americans)from the earth. The reasons on here are what they DO NOT want to happen.
    The more we try to force or impress this upon them the more they are clinging on these ways. They DO NOT want "western ways" forced on them regardless of whether they are in their country or ours. There have been many documented, news media cases where Muslims have killed or tried to kill their children, especially daughters, for trying live American(western) lifestyles.
    We will never see Muslim women empowered with the same powers as men in this century or our lifetime.

    March 8, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  88. Kate

    want to win the war? empower the women.

    March 8, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  89. Monique Hudson

    It's really a shame that women are still treated as less than second class citizens in this part of the wrold. The raw facts in this article shook me to my core.

    March 8, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  90. DiLiNi


    March 8, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  91. William T. Taylor

    It's sad to read about minority has happened throughout history. We have made great strides, but I am confident Afghan women are feeling great pain! I am happy for the positive changes but I am very sad for Afghan women and others.......sadly it may take a few more generations.

    March 8, 2010 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  92. John

    It has always been curious to me with the above facts in the middle east for all women why US women's groups has opposed the wars.

    March 8, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  93. Angela Higbee

    That is one of the reasons the Taliban need to be wiped out, after that work on the men. It will take years but it's a start. Please US, Nato; do not leave Afghanistan too soon

    March 8, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  94. woman

    These are some of the reasons why our troops (many of which are woman) are over there... Afghanistan and Iraq... standing up for those who can't stand up for themselves (yet)... God Bless America

    March 8, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  95. Chandra from Nepal

    Respect & empower women to maintain peace & develop nation. Women are not object, neither doll for men nor kids producing machine.

    March 8, 2010 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  96. Ayat

    I am a Muslim women, and what i hate about the whole situation in Afghanistan is that the general public links the conditions of the women with the religion...It is all culture....There Is Nothing in the holy Quran that says we have to wear a burka....The hi jab is a sign og modesty, and if you do choose to cover your whole body It is by choice.... The mothers importance is emphasized...and we are the only religion where a women is allowed a divorce, as long as there is reason....

    Do i agree with their conditions??? Absolutely not....Something should be done ASAP to better it. But at the same time maintain the respect deserved for their beliefs and religion,.

    March 8, 2010 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Kitty

      You're right. It's only people who are using the religion as an excuse who are to blame. They hide behind the religion and culture so when someone tells them it is wrong they say they are only acting this way because of their religion/traditions. It's cowardly, and they are turning their culture and religion into a joke by doing so. They are hurting the real believers.

      November 30, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  97. NYC

    Discusting, ignorant, stupid mentality of men in that country. Pitiful !

    March 8, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  98. Li'l TX'n

    It is hard to hear of the plight of women in other countries, especially where there is abuse and/or conditions existing which keep women second class citizens in their own country. It is not possible for most of us to affect women in those situations; however, we can look at our own local situations and help where we can to alleviate the suffering of and help to elevate the situations of women in our own local area. Whether through the giving of money, time, tallent, or just a helping hand to an individual, we can and should make a difference, if not a world away, then in our own neighborhood, city, and state. Just look beyond yourself. You don't have to go very far to find someone who needs your help.

    March 8, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  99. gordon peterson

    afghanistan will never be in trhe 21st century until women have equal rights. the current government does little to help them. karzai is as pigheaded as most of the men there. he is a corrupt leader. laws must be passed to correct this problem.

    March 8, 2010 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  100. angela averette

    it is very stupid that women are treated badly. men are no more better at working than women

    March 8, 2010 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |