Afghan women de­nied their iden­ti­ties

New Straits Times - - World -

KABUL: Mother of Chil­dren, My House­hold, My Weak One or in far cor­ners, My Goat or My Chicken: these are some of the terms Afghan men use to re­fer to their wives in pub­lic in­stead of their names, the shar­ing of which they see as a grave dis­hon­our wor­thy of vi­o­lence.

But, a so­cial me­dia cam­paign to change this cus­tom has been per­co­lat­ing in re­cent weeks, ini­ti­ated by young women. The cam­paign comes with a hash­tag that trans­lates as #WhereIsMyName.

The ac­tivists’ aim is to chal­lenge women to re­claim their most ba­sic iden­tity and to break the deep­rooted taboo that pre­vents men from men­tion­ing their fe­male rel­a­tives’ names in pub­lic.

“This is just a spark, the pos­ing of a ques­tion to the Afghan women about why their iden­tity is de­nied,” said Ba­har So­haili, a sup­porter of the cam­paign.

Like many so­cial me­dia ef­forts, this one be­gan small. Since then, more ac­tivists have turned it into a topic of con­ver­sa­tion by chal­leng­ing celebri­ties and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to share the names of their wives and moth­ers.

Mem­bers of par­lia­ment, se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and artistes have come for­ward in sup­port, pub­licly declar­ing the iden­ti­ties of fe­male mem­bers of their fam­i­lies.

How­ever, the cam­paign also has its de­trac­tors.

Has­san Riza­yee, an Afghan so­ci­ol­o­gist, said the cus­tom was rooted in tribal ways of life.

“Ac­cord­ing to tribal logic, the im­por­tant thing is the own­er­ship of a woman’s body.

“The body of a woman be­longs to a man, and other peo­ple should not even use her body in­di­rectly, such as look­ing at her.

“Based on this logic, the body, face and name of the woman be­long to the man.”

He said re­vers­ing such deeply in­grained tra­di­tions would take a long time, in­clud­ing chang­ing what chil­dren were taught. NYT

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