Women in Afghanistan and China Research Paper

Pages: 20 (6230 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 21  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Sports - Women

¶ … rhythm and blues artist James Brown, "This is a man's world (Newsome)." In his song, It's a Man's, Man's Man's World, Brown goes on to list things that the male gender has created and contributed to society, such as the train, boats, and the car; all to ease the heavy load of life. Following these chauvinistic statements is the hard-hitting line that gives the song a chance at redemption. It would mean nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl. Throughout history, and even biblically, women have commonly existed in tandem to men, having to follow and hardly being given the chance to lead.

Walking into this class I could have never have anticipated what I was to learn this past semester. Growing up as a first generation American in a Middle-Eastern, Orthodox home, I was quite sheltered. I was unaware of the self-inflicted prejudices I had come to hold and the restraints they created within me. It was an eye-opening experience, that made me re-evaluate everything I had been raised to believe, and the ways of life I had blindly followed like a sheep in a herd. However, contrary to popular belief, ignorance is not always correlated to blissfulness.

I. Introduction

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My own revelations regarding my own background and heritage have caused me to become more interested in the plight of women from other cultures. Two of the cultures that have spiked my interest are China and Afghanistan. These cultures have received considerable attention in the past few years for different reasons. The women in Afghanistan have received attention due to the political conflicts occurring within their nation's borders (Howlett). The world press has spent time searching for stories as a result of these conflicts and one of the stories that has found an interesting following is the plight of Afghan women. The press, most of whom are from Western Europe and North American media outlets, has made a major issue of the treatment received by the Afghan women. This treatment may indeed be bothersome but little attention has been afforded the cultural reasons for this treatment or what can be done to remedy the situation.

Research Paper on Women in Afghanistan and China Assignment

Chinese women have also received considerable attention but not because of the presence of the foreign press but because of political conflicts within the country. Interestingly, for the first time in many years the political situation within China has settled down and, in the process, the Chinese people are escaping years of isolation and emerging as part of the international community (Stiftung). The attention being afforded China is related to their sudden and influential participation as an economic participant in the world market place (Woo). For most of its history China has positioned itself either on the periphery or outside the world market and the fact that they have now taken such an aggressive approach has intrigued everyone and the demand for information regarding their culture, their history, and their economy is escalating daily (Padilla). In the process, the press, like they have in Afghanistan, has searched for a variety of story lines and how the Chinese women have been treated culturally and historically has been the focus of many of these stories.

The examination of these two cultures of women brings to the surface two groups of women with clear differences. These differences will be reviewed but the similarities in their status will also be examined. Regardless of the cause both Chinese and Afghan women have been oppressed and placed in a position of subordination that Westerners find bothersome and intolerable. Perhaps with more information and explanations a greater understanding of both cultures can be attained and an enlightened approach can be developed that assists both cultures in their transition to the modern world.

II. History of Afghan Women

The treatment by the Taliban of women inside Afghanistan is notorious. It has been the source of much discussion in recent years and has even been used by some as a justification for the United States military presence in Afghanistan (Ellis). The fact is, however, that the deplorable situation of the Afghan women preceded the Taliban, and if fact, some of the prior ruling regimes in Afghanistan have treated women far worse than the Taliban ever has. Viewing the plight of women inside Afghanistan purely from a before and after Taliban does the Afghan women a disservice.

To fully understand the position of women in Afghan culture it is necessary to examine the background in which these women live. Most of Afghanistan consists of very rugged terrain with the majority of the population living in rural areas. Some modernizations has occurred in and near the Kabul region but for the most part Afghans live like they have lived for hundreds of years (Countries and Their Cultures). The rural areas of Afghanistan are sparsely populated and are dominated by tribal powers. These rural communities are typically patriarchal and gender roles are determined by tribal traditions and the dictates of the Quran. Afghanistan is historically an Islam country and the influence of the Quran here is quite pervasive.

The present state of women in Afghanistan is not good but this has not always been the case. During the twentieth century there were two brief periods when the status of women inside Afghanistan actually showed improvement. These two periods were totally unrelated to each other in how they occurred but they demonstrated that the potential exists for change.

The first period of improvement occurred during the reign of Amanullah (Poullada). Amanullah Khan ruled Afghanistan from 1919 to 1929 after leading the country to independence from the United Kingdom. During the ten years of his reign, he attempted to initiate dramatic political and social change inside Afghanistan. For the first time in Afghan history women were encouraged to attend schools and centuries old traditions such as strict dress codes for women were relaxed. Amanullah publicly campaigned against the practice of polygamy in Afghanistan and demonstrated his support for monogamy by marry his wife, Queen Soraya Tarzi. The Queen actually took an active role in the governing of the country and in the setting of social and political policy. Through her example, many women publicly participated in organizations throughout Afghanistan and actually held public positions. Such involvement was unheard of previously in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, Amanullah's modernization efforts were met with much opposition. He was able to put down one early revolt but eventually fell victim to reactionary forces inside the country. The policy that caused Amanullah to lose favor with the masses was his institution of allowing women to choose their own partners and abolishment of selling of brides. Amanullah eventually abdicated in 1929. Once Amanullah's reign ended so did most of the pro-western type social reforms that he supported.

The second period of reform occurred during the early 1970's when a member of the family of the then king of Afghanistan, Muhammad Zahir Shah, an individual known as Daoud overthrew the king and installed himself as president. His designating himself as president, however, was in name only. Although a republic had been declared established in Afghanistan free elections were never held and Daoud was essentially a dictator. Daoud, however, did manage to initiate a series of reforms similar to those brought into prominence by Amanullah. The period saw women become members of university faculties and members of Parliament. Bride selling was again prohibited and the minimum age for marriage was raised to 16. An attempt at granting equal rights to women but before said reform could be enacted the reactionary forces picked up their efforts and social change never occurred.

Daoud had come to power through the assistance of a communist underground party named the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) who had assisted under the understanding that their members would receive key government positions in exchange (Gall). Daoud, however, failed to honor his agreement and the Peoples Democratic Party managed to eventually seize power from Daoud. The PDPA, which was closely aligned with Soviet Russia, began to intensify reforms but, like Amanlluah before them, the PDPA met with fierce opposition from tribal and religious authorities and the reforms had to be slowed down and, eventually, cut back. The PDPA's push for social reform inside Afghanistan led to the ten-year war between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, the birth of Mujahideen groups inside Afghanistan, and the decline of women's status to the levels of the 19th century.

These two brief periods of reform in Afghanistan demonstrate that there is some support within the country for adopting a more modern approach to the role of women in society. Unfortunately for the Afghan women these periods of reform have been short-lived and have been marked by subsequent reactionary periods where the reforms have been abolished. It should be pointed out that the movement toward reform has occurred in and around Kabul and that the forces fighting against reform have been based in the rural areas of Afghanistan. This rural/urban divide is strong inside Afghanistan and it characterizes… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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