Taliban ban women in northern Afghanistan from using public bathhouses

Many households in the cities of Mazar-i-Sharif and Herat are dependent on the public bathhouses for cleaning.

Matthias Ang | January 08, 2022, 07:14 PM

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Afghan women in the country's northern provinces of Balkh and Herat will no longer be allowed to use public bathhouses, according to an announcement by the Taliban.

The measure was announced by Sardar Mohammad Heydari from the Taliban’s Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice on Jan. 3.

He was also quoted by Turkish media Anadolu Agency and Afghan media TOLOnews as saying that women are now only allowed to take private baths while wearing a hijab.

Communal bathhouses for men will also be controlled, he added.

NGOs and Afghan women point out lack of bathing facilities for some households

The announcement has sparked outrage among NGOs and Afghan women, The Guardian reported.

Winuss Azizi, from the NGO Visions for Children in Afghanistan, pointed out that many households in the cities of Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif did not have facilities to heat large quantities of water.

As such, they rely on the public bathhouses in the winter, with women performing their prayer purification rituals at these places.

According to The Guardian, only 39 per cent of neighbourhoods have access to proper water and sanitation within Herat itself.

Human Rights Watch associated director for women's rights, Heather Barr, was quoted as saying that she was "enraged" at the "cruelty" as it denied women relief from the cold for no reason at all.

This is not the first time that the Taliban have banned women from using public bathhouses however -- a similar measure was enacted under the Taliban's previous rule from 1996-2001.

Latest in a growing list of social restrictions

The ban on women from using public bathhouses is part of a growing list of social restrictions that the Taliban have imposed on the country since taking power in Aug. 2021.

The Taliban have also ordered shop owners to behead mannequins on the grounds that figures representing the human form contravene Islamic laws.

On Dec. 26, 2021, the Taliban issued a directive for women in Afghanistan, saying that if they intend to travel long distances -- more than 72 kilometres -- they should only be offered transport if they are accompanied by a male relative.

In addition to that, the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice urged vehicle owners to refuse women who do not wear head or face coverings.

Music of any kind is also banned in vehicles.

Barr added that the move "shuts off opportunities for women to be able to move about freely."

The directive also restricted women from fleeing "if they are facing violence in the home," Barr added.

Most secondary schools are still shut for girls, and women are banned from working as government employees except in certain specialised roles.

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Top photo by Majid Saeedi/Getty Images