- 31% say women in Afghanistan treated with respect -- a new low
- For the first time, the majority of women and men see poor treatment of women
- Women struggling more to afford basics such as food and shelter
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Taliban's abrupt reversal on March 23 of their decision to allow girls to attend school beyond sixth grade reaffirmed what many Afghans have thought about the treatment of women and girls since the Taliban took control last year.
Gallup surveys conducted as the Taliban completed their takeover of Afghanistan in 2021 showed the percentage of Afghans who said women in their country were treated with respect and dignity dropped to a record low of 31%.
This percentage has been drifting downward over the past several years as the Taliban gained more territory in Afghanistan, but the 13-percentage-point drop between 2019 and 2021 is the largest to date.
Line graph. Trend line showing perceptions of the treatment of women in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2021. The 67% of Afghans who say women are not treated with respect and dignity in their country is a record high.
The Taliban's decision on girls' education dashed the hopes of more than 1 million girls across the country, but the data reinforce how it is only the latest in a string of disappointments for Afghan women and girls since the Taliban returned.
For example, Afghan women are only allowed to work subject to the Taliban's interpretation of Islamic law. And just in the last month, the Taliban banned women from traveling on planes or more than 48 miles from home unless accompanied by male guardians.
Majority of Women and Men Agree That Women Are Not Treated With Respect
Since the Taliban's return seven months ago, Afghan women may have found an ally among Afghan men who share their dismay.
Afghan men -- not women -- accounted for nearly all the declines in the perceived respect for women between 2019 and 2021. Fifty-nine percent of men in 2019 said women were treated with respect and dignity, but this shrank to 37% in 2021. The 22-point drop among men brought men's attitudes more in line with those of women, whose attitudes have not changed much since 2019.
Afghan women in 2021 were significantly less likely than men to say women in their country are treated with respect and dignity, but men and women were still largely in agreement: 26% of women and 37% of men said women are treated with respect and dignity in their country.
Line graph. Trend line showing Afghan women's and men's perceptions of the treatment of women in Afghanistan. Fifty-nine percent of men in 2019 said women were treated with respect and dignity, but this shrank to 37% in 2021. The 22-point drop among men brought men's attitudes more in line with those of women, whose attitudes have not changed much since 2019.
Notably, 2021 marked the first time in the history of Gallup surveys in Afghanistan that the majority of both men and women agreed that women in their country are not treated with respect and dignity. Before last year, the majority of men felt women were treated with respect and dignity.
Taliban's Decision on Girls' Education Could Hurt Those Struggling to Afford Basics
Not only is the treatment of Afghan women seen as worse by both women and men, but the majority of Afghans are suffering from lack of access to food and shelter. The Afghan economy collapsed after the Taliban's takeover, and 22.8 million Afghans faced acute food shortages this winter, according to recent United Nations reports.
The Taliban's recent reversal could potentially jeopardize billions of dollars in humanitarian aid that is tethered to girls' education in Afghanistan -- which could disproportionately end up hurting more women than men.
Three in four Afghans in 2021 said they were struggling to afford food that they or their families needed, with similar levels found in 2019, but large gaps exist between women and men: 82% of women vs. 69% of men said there were times when they could not afford food in the past year.
Line graph. Three in four Afghans in 2021 said they were struggling to afford food that they or their families needed, with similar levels found in 2019, but large gaps exist between women and men: 82% of women vs. 69% of men said there were times when they could not afford food in the past year.
Similarly, nearly six in 10 (58%) Afghans reported being unable to afford adequate shelter for their families in the past year. This is not a new high (it was higher in 2008), but women struggled disproportionately to men: 62% of women vs. 55% of men struggled to afford adequate shelter.
In late 2001, when the Taliban were ousted by U.S. and NATO coalition forces, Afghan women began to take back their lives and freedoms. Simple liberties that the Taliban had forbidden became available to Afghan women and girls. Millions were able to return to school and pursue an education. They returned to work and started businesses, became doctors, lawyers, judges, parliamentarians, journalists, human rights activists and joined the Afghan government.
The Taliban have been trying to turn back the clock since they returned, despite their assurances to the contrary. But this time, Afghan women are not alone in feeling like women in their country are not treated with respect and dignity.