The Taliban have quickly gained control of vast sections of Afghanistan after the evacuation of American and NATO soldiers from the nation in July. The president has resigned, and the administration is in disarray, reports the ABC.

The Taliban have increased their brutality due to their success, lack of pushback from Afghan troops, and limited international pressure.

Taliban commanders, who have taken control of the provinces of Badakhshan and Takhar, issued an order to local religious authorities in early July, instructing them to produce a list of females above the age of 15 and widows under the age of 45 for “marriage” with Taliban fighters. It’s unclear if they’ve complied or not.

Women and girls will be transported to Waziristan in Pakistan to be re-educated and converted to “authentic Islam” if these forced weddings occur.

This mandate has instilled terror in the hearts of women and their families in certain regions, forcing them to escape and join the ranks of internally displaced persons, contributing to Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis. Nine hundred thousand individuals have been displaced in the last three months alone.

A reminder of the Taliban’s harsh regime

This Taliban directive is a stark warning of what lies ahead, as well as a frightening reminder of the Taliban’s brutal 1996–2001 regime. Women were subjected to ongoing human rights violations, denied employment and education, forced to wear the burqa, and prohibited from leaving home without a male “guardian” or mahram.

Despite claims that they have softened their attitude on women’s rights, the Taliban’s actions and recent efforts to enslave thousands of women show the exact opposite.

In addition, the Taliban have stated that they intend to deny females education beyond the age of 12, prohibit women from working, and reintroduce the legislation that requires women to be escorted by a guardian.

Afghan women’s achievements during the last two decades, notably in education, employment, and political engagement, are in jeopardy.

The concept of offering “wives” is intended at enticing terrorists to join the Taliban. Sexual enslavement, not marriage, is a war crime and a crime against humanity, and forcing women into sexual slavery under the pretense of marriage is a war crime and a crime against humanity. The Geneva Convention specifies in Article 27:

“Women must be especially protected against any attack on their honor, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any other form of indecent assault.”

The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1820 in 2008, stated that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity.” It recognizes sexual assault as a military strategy aimed at humiliating, controlling, and terrorizing civilians in the community.

What can we do to fight back? The world must take decisive action in Afghanistan to avoid crimes against women.

ABC reports that there are three policy steps, according to Resolution 1820, which emphasize the significance of integrating women as equal partners in the peace process and condemn all kinds of gendered violence against civilians in armed conflict. It urges the Taliban to:

  1. Ensuring that women’s rights be protected, as entrenched in Afghanistan’s Constitution, national laws, and international law.
  2. Demanding that peace talks continue with Afghan women taking an active role. Currently, the Afghan government’s delegation has just four women peace negotiators.
  3. The lifting of sanctions on the Taliban must be subject to the Taliban’s commitment to women’s rights. Women’s rights and access to school and work must be made conditional on funding from the European Union and the United States, the two major contributors to Afghanistan at the moment.

Efforts by the UN and the international community to guarantee that survivors of sexual abuse have equal legal protection and access to justice would be welcomed by women across the region.

Sexual assault must not be tolerated as part of a comprehensive strategy for achieving long-term peace, justice, and national reconciliation in Afghanistan.