Strict rules for female students as Afghan Universities reopen

Private universities resumed functioning in war-torn Afghanistan on Monday with the Taliban – which has promised a more moderate government, including assurances of human rights, particularly those concerning women and children – allowing female students to attend classes. Despite assurances in recent weeks that women’s rights would be honoured in accordance with Islamic law, it is unclear what that will mean in practice.

The hardline Islamist group has still, however, imposed restrictions on the clothes they may wear, where and how they are seated in class, who can teach them, and even the length of their classes. When it last ruled from 1996-2001, the group banned girls from school and women from university and work. The Acting Minister Abdul Baqi Haqani emphasised that only female lecturers will be allowed to teach girls’ classes, TOLO News reported. According to Haqani, joint classes are not acceptable at universities. Teachers and students at universities in Afghanistan’s largest cities – Kabul, Kandahar and Herat – told Reuters that female students were being segregated in class, taught separately or restricted to certain parts of the campus. The females have been separated from their male peers by curtains or boards down the middle of the room. The Taliban said last week that schooling should resume but that males and females should be separated. Meanwhile, officials from the private universities and institutions said they were willing to implement the new format required by the Ministry. The officials are worried about the girls’ low attendance at the universities.