Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > The United States-Taliban Peace Deal and the Perpetuation of (...)

The United States-Taliban Peace Deal and the Perpetuation of Patriarchy

Thursday 30 September 2021, by siawi3


The United States-Taliban Peace Deal and the Perpetuation of Patriarchy

Posted on April 3, 2020

by Maryam Laly

The U.S. Taliban peace deal agreement perpetuates patriarchal culture and gender inequality in Afghanistan. After nearly 18 years of war, the United States and the Taliban signed a tentative peace deal on February 29th, 2020. While Afghans have yearned for peace for decades now, the peace talks did not include the Afghan government or any civil society members. The lack of the Afghan government’s involvement, and specifically Afghan women’s participation, make this deal fraught from the start. This agreement has been portrayed as the foundation for more comprehensive peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghans. However, the Afghan government and society are weary of any negotiations with the Taliban, especially as the war continues to take the lives of hundreds of Afghans across the country daily. Furthermore, the current political developments in the country ignore the specific vulnerabilities of women. The lack of women at the negotiation table perpetuates gender inequality in Afghanistan and leaves a dangerous precedent for peace talks across the globe.

The gender roles created and reinforced by centuries of patriarchy is ingrained in power structures that make up the political and military powers of countries around the world. Despite the fact that the current constitution of Afghanistan, ratified on January 26th, 2004, mandates representation of women in the national assembly (See Articles 83 and 84 of The Constitution of Afghanistan) and prohibits discrimination based on gender, Afghanistan has had a long tradition of disparity between legal rights and implementation of those rights.

Furthermore, the constitution declares Islam as the religion of the state (See Article 2) and Article 3 states that “ No law shall contravene the tenets and provisions of the holy religion of Islam in Afghanistan.” Whenever asked about women’s rights, the Taliban’s response during the peace talks have been “rights within Islam”. The problem is that Islamic interpretation has been vague and subjective. There is a lot of room for interpretation about what constitutes as Islamic. Historically and politically, the religion has been used as a tool to control women, most notably during the Taliban regime when women were subjected to severe laws such as banning education for women and girls and forbidding women from leaving their home without a mahram (a blood-related man). Hence, it’s crucial for women to be at the negotiating tables themselves to ensure their constitutional rights and their interpretation of religion are maintained.

These patriarchal practices have seeped into the peace deal agenda and its negotiating teams represented by a majority of men. Economist Heidi Hartmann defines patriarchy as “the hierarchical relation between men and women in which men are dominant and women are subordinate.” It is the system of oppression where men are granted benefits at the expense of women, i.e.: negotiating a peace deal that purposefully includes ambiguity on women’s issues. One of the key reasons for a hasty deal with the Taliban was the upcoming presidential election in the United States and the need for Donald Trump to fulfill his 2016 campaign promise of withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan and ending the U.S. involvement in the country. In other words, the aim of the negotiations was not to muddy it with comprehensive and thorough analysis of how peace deal with the Taliban may affect women and minorities, but to get a deal at any cost.

The gendered division of labor explain how women were excluded from the conversation. Through control and domination of women and children, men translated the patriarchy into organizational systems and institutions that perpetuate these ideologies. By segregating jobs that pushed women into more traditional roles and domestic labor, women are excluded from most positions of power. This division of labor perpetuates gender inequality through excluding women from important decision-making positions such as peace and security conversations. Indeed, patriarchal divisions of labor function as an “organising principle and systemic feature” within societies aiming to capitalize on the inequality amongst women and men. This division of labor is apparent in both negotiating teams from the US and the Taliban where men, as political and military elites, speak on behalf of all. Meanwhile, women have rarely been part of peace negotiations. According to a Human Rights Watch Report in 2015, only 18 out of 300 peace agreements signed between 1998-2008 addressed women’s rights issues and only 4% of signatories have been women. This is in light of research demonstrating that women’s participation and contribution in peace negotiations increase the chances of reaching and implementing a peace deal.

Furthermore, the current government of Afghanistan led by President Ashraf Ghani is fighting for its own legitimacy, showcased by the contested recent presidential elections that resulted in two simultaneous presidential inaugurations. In order to maintain his legitimacy as president-elect, Ghani has shifted his strategy from criticism of the deal to easing into the peace deal agreement by accepting to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 Afghan prisoners held by the Taliban. The hasty and opportunistic tendencies of the current peace process is alarming. Not least because it does not consider the wishes of the majority of the country, and specifically of Afghan women and marginalized groups.

According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 3.7 million students out of school in Afghanistan, 60% of them are girls. These staggering numbers are even more pronounced among rural children. Who will represent the wishes of the Afghan youth who lack their basic human rights? The answer is clear that the peace deal is yet another perpetuation of gender inequality and patriarchy in Afghanistan. In order to have an inclusive and lasting peace, the power-holders, namely the United States and the Afghan governments, must recognize that women and other marginalized groups should be part of the process. Ensuring an intersectional approach to the peace process, where the most disadvantaged of Afghans can have a seat at the table means that the rest of the country will be represented.

Maryam Laly is a member of Free Women Writers collective, Maryam Laly is passionate about human rights issues. She has a degree in Government with minors in Peace Studies and Arabic from St. Lawrence University. She hopes to contribute in building a better and safer Afghanistan through her writing and advocacy.