Taliban 2.0: Targeting women globally

The Taliban misogynist mentality is alive and well, and in fact it is thriving and mushrooming globally.

Women at a park in Mumbai 370 (photo credit: Seth J. Frantzman)
Women at a park in Mumbai 370
(photo credit: Seth J. Frantzman)
A group of village elders, all men, conducted a council meeting to enact important social policies. The decrees they passed include: Women under age 40 are banned from going out shopping. Girls must wear head scarves in public. Girls are not allowed to use cellphones. Marriages that are not based on parental arrangements are banned. Women under 40 are banned from going out after sunset.
This might seem like Afghanistan under Taliban rule in the late 1990s.
However, this is, in fact, India in 2012.
Not far from the country’s capital, New Delhi, in a village in the Baghpat district of the state of Uttar Pradesh, a panchayat, or local traditional government system, passed these new rules as of February 2012.
Couples who fall in love and want to marry are excommunicated from the village, because “love marriage,” as it is called in India, is viewed as a dishonor, especially to the girl’s family. Panchayat members describe the fatwa banning women under 40 from shopping without a chaperone as a preventative measure since women going alone can “give rise to crime.” Similarly, the fatwa for girls to wear head scarves is explained as a measure for their own safety.
As for the cellphone ban imposed on girls, one member is quoted in the Mail Online India as saying, “We are of the view that our immature daughters and sisters shouldn’t carry a mobile phone because it leads to various implications...We want to prevent them from any wrongdoing and protect them from bad elements.”
Surprisingly, some village women supported the fatwas, but this panchayat’s Taliban-like views and chauvinism mark a very alarming trend in India, and it is not exclusive to Muslim fanaticism.
Rape and gang rape of career women in Delhi have reached near epidemic proportions. Shockingly, the victims are usually blamed for the rape because of what they were wearing and the time of night they ventured out, many to head home from jobs or universities at odd hours.
The misogynist attitudes among many in India are potent reminders that, despite all the economic growth and development, mentalities have not changed. Many people continue to follow old chauvinist notions of girls and women embodying the source of temptations, social degradation, crimes and dishonor. In other words, it is the fault of all girls and women that men rape and commit crimes in society.
Violence against women is also on the rise in India. In many recent cases, mobs of men have attacked young women in front of bars and other public places, on the basis that these women were “corrupted.” Some of these physical assaults have been caught on video and have gone viral.
In a now infamous case last July in Mangalore, members of the fanatic right-wing Hindu Janajagrana Vedike raided a resort and assaulted girls they described as “partying indecently.” The men are caught on video slapping, pushing, and thrashing the women.
The mob also assaulted a reporter and cameraman who were filming the crimes. The perpetrators justified their actions by claiming that they were serving as “moral police.”
The Taliban misogynist mentality is alive and well, and in fact it is thriving and mushrooming globally. In northern Mali, Islamic militants have taken over, and the first set of fatwas has targeted women: They must cover up, and they must not venture outside, even to go to the market. Thousands of refugees have fled the militant-held areas, but the women left behind face new harsh realities added to the already difficult life in the extremely poor African country.
When the Taliban emerged in the mid-1990s, fighting their way to the seat of power in Kabul during the Afghan civil war, reports trickled out about their notoriously harsh fatwas that shut down and suffocated the lives of girls and women, and exacted the most brutal extrajudicial punishments for the pettiest transgressions.
I remember viewing the rise of the Taliban as one of the darkest milestones in modern history, and my premonitions about the dangerous precedent of their backward ideology spreading and influencing other fanatics worldwide rendered many nights sleepless.
Misogyny, of course, is as old as time itself. However, we live in modern times when universal norms for human rights and gender equality are to be respected, and violations are not to be tolerated. The global trends we are seeing in enacting new local laws and fatwas, and moral policing, that perpetuate misogynist attitudes and policies as well as violence against girls and women only point to one thing: We are experiencing a second, broader wave of “talibanization” of societies in different parts of the world, something I refer to as “Taliban 2.0.”
It indicates internal ideological divisions and crises within Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism, wherein we see numerous examples of verbal and other forms of attacks against women and gender equality coming from their respective “fanatical” elements. Taliban 2.0 is not just an Islamic phenomenon.
However, it seems that nothing is being done about it. In most cases in India, the perpetrators of violence have been released, if they were arrested in the first place. Victims continue to be blamed. Women continue to bear the “original sin,” in many respects for all of society, by virtue of their anatomy and allure. These attitudes and attempts to stifle women’s rights and freedoms, in the name of morality and social order, should face a zero-tolerance policy from governments and law enforcement. But we see much complacency among them, and so women continue to suffer.
When police have tried to enforce the law, sometimes they experience a rude awakening. When police attempted to arrest the panchayat organizers, the scene turned violent. The police arrested two panchayat members, but then, according to NDTV, the officers “were brutally attacked while a police vehicle was set on fire. Angry villagers also blocked the national highway and damaged a bus. They even beat up the passengers, forcing the police to finally release the two leaders.”
Is this a sign of things to come?
The writer, a PhD, is an associate professor at the US Naval War College in Rhode Island. The views expressed are her own.