For Women in Afghanistan, the Election Was a No Show

The Washington Post reports that unlike five years ago when Afghan women eagerly registered and turned out to vote, the tide turned on Aug. 20.

“That heady season of political emancipation seemed long gone.”  Key points in the article:

• With threats of violence, especially in the rural south, “many families kept their women home on election day, even if the men ventured out to vote.”

• Many segregated female polling stations were empty, with participation being much lower than in 2004 presidential and 2005 parliamentary elections.

• Because women’s faces are not allowed on their voting cards, men took their cards to the polls and changed their votes as desired.

• Because women cannot be in the same places as men who aren’t their guardians, when women didn’t show up as polling monitors, men took over. When men take over, women cannot be seen with them.

“Things are reverting, and it’s because of a mix of insecurity, economy and culture,” said Soraya Sobrang, a physician and member of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. “For a few years when security was better, women could participate in public life and the new constitution gave them political rights. But then the attacks started, and people were warned not to send their daughters to school, not to send their wives to work. All their new rights came under threat, and nothing really changed in their lives.”

Now, Sobrang said, many Afghan women have lost hope.