The situation of Afghan women and girls is not bad, or oppressive, or exploitative: it is extraordinary. In fact, in thinking about this situation, I am led to the conclusion that—in addition to all the other wars being waged today—there is, to be blunt, a war on women.
That's Susie Linfield, giving a pessimistic assessment of the prospects for gender equality in Afghanistan. She continues:
In Afghanistan under the Taliban—and still, to a large extent, today—the situation of women and girls might best be compared to that of German Jews under the Nuremberg laws or to American blacks under Jim Crow (and slavery). It’s not just that Afghan females lack education and skills, though this should not be underplayed. (The female literacy rate in the parts of Pakistan that have traditionally been Taliban-controlled is a stunning 3 percent, and I suspect that the same is true in many parts of Afghanistan.) It’s not just that the political, judicial, and civil rights of women and girls are denied; it’s that their status as human is unrecognized.
After giving some distressing examples of the continuing oppression of Afghan women, including the fact that 'none of this violence, this humiliation, is seen as a crime,' Linfield concludes:
Given all this, I can actually understand the fury and panic of some Afghan males faced with the advent (if indeed it is) of ideas of democracy, equal citizenship, etc. An almost unimaginably radical transformation of social relations and social psychology would be required to bring Afghan women—and men—into the modern world; this would be a revolution in the true sense of the word.
Having compared the situation in Afghanistan with the even more brutal treatment of women and girls in the Congo, Linfield ends with some questions:
Who can explain this barbarism? Who can explain this utter hatred of the female, of female sexuality, of the future, of life? More important, who or what can stop it?