Afghan men strongly oppose giving women more freedom: Survey
Afghan men strongly oppose giving women more freedom - two in three think they have too much already - and young men are even more reluctant than their elders, a survey said on Tuesday. Nor are women fully on board with the idea of parity. Almost one in three of the Afghan women surveyed think women already have a surfeit of rights and a similar proportion say they are "too emotional" to be leaders.
The male generational gap may be explained by younger men seeking rigid gender roles as they struggle to find work and stability in a country ravaged by war and poverty, said gender equality group Promundo. Religious teachings against women's rights under the Taliban regime had also played a role in hardening views among younger men, said Gary Barker, founder of Promundo-US, which works with men and boys to promote gender equality.
The survey was organised by Promundo and UN Women, the United Nations equality agency. "It is pretty concerning," Barker told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "It says something about the precarious state of a big group of young men who don't know what to hang their identity on." The survey comes amid peace talks between the United States and the Taliban - which controls nearly half of Afghanistan - that may help end war after nearly two decades of conflict.
Afghanistan is not an easy place to be a woman, with forced marriage, domestic violence and high maternal mortality rates, particularly in rural areas, according to equality advocates. Between 1996 and 2001, under the Taliban government, women were banned from work, made to wear a full-length burqa that covered their face and not allowed out without a male relative. Women's rights have improved in recent years under the Western-backed Afghan government, especially in cities such as the capital Kabul, where many women work outside the home and more than a quarter of the parliament is female.
However, the survey of 2,000 adults pointed to a gulf in attitudes between men and women. About two-thirds of men thought women in Afghanistan had too many rights and that women were too emotional to become leaders, compared to less than a third of women. And while nearly three quarters of women said a married woman should have equal rights with their partner to work outside the home, only 15 percent of men agreed. More than half of men also agreed with the statement that "more rights for women mean that men lose out".
Barker said investment in girls' education and empowerment would "hit a wall if we don't also worry about the hearts and minds of men". The report's authors called for action, including education programmes promoting gender equality, work with progressive religious leaders and support for youth campaigns on the issue.
"Conflict, physical and financial insecurity, and lack of education act as drivers of harmful gender attitudes and practices in Afghanistan, and perpetuate the cycles of violence against women in Afghanistan," said Najia Nasim, executive director of Women for Afghan Women. The civil society group urged more work at a grassroots level to drive forward gender equality.
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