Women rights in South Asia are becoming more and more controversial first with the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan and now with India’s Karnataka episode. Being an important player in the region, what is India doing wrong?
With the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, voices from all over the world expressed concern over the expected state of affairs and human rights abuses on the Afghan territory. Women rights drew a lot of attention during this period; not only internationally but also regionally.
As the Taliban interim government started settling in, key officials from the government made it a point to convey to the world that Afghanistan will protect and treat its population with justice.
However, in view of the situation in the nineties concerning rights in general and women rights in particular, the international community’s concerns have been evident. Soon after the completion of withdrawal in August 2021, among other countries, India’s permanent representative to the UN – Ambassador TS Tirumurti also emphasized “the need for the voices of Afghan women to be heard, aspirations of Afghan children to be realised and the rights of minorities to be protected” adding further the “need to enable all Afghans, including women, children, and minorities, to live in peace and dignity.”
While there is all reason to applaud Ambassador Tirumurti’s timely call from the UN platform, the lack of the same spirit when it comes to the violation of rights of women and minorities within India reflects only a duality of standards. The selectiveness in demonstrating what counts as an issue of concern for the international community and what can only be qualified as an internal matter raises many questions.
Media outlets in India extensively reported on emerging developments regarding what girls and women had to face as Taliban settled in power.
India’s Economic Times described the adoption of a dress code in Afghanistan’s colleges and universities as ‘repressive policies’ of the Taliban. With Karnataka’s Hijab Ban in question, it would not be unfair to call the ban as yet another repressive policy of the Indian state. Women rights and girls’ education are just as vehemently being violated in India.
If we compare the ideologues on which India and current-day Afghanistan are formed, adoption of a certain set of policies in the latter regarding its women draws justification and legality from religious and cultural underpinnings as clearly and loudly advocated by the Taliban. On the contrary, the row, protests and resulting ban over hijab in the Indian state of Karnataka stand in complete denial of the secular essence of India’s constitution (article 25 and 26 of the constitution for specific reference).
Given the sensitive fault lines in the South Asian region, any event inside a country’s borders carry implications for the region.
The persecution of Muslims in India is and will continue to be a cause of alarm for India’s Muslim majority neighbors – Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Transition in Afghanistan sure deserves cooperation from neighbors but India’s discriminatory policies against its Muslim population cannot be left alone under the disguise of “internal matters.”