Constitutional Gender Quotas and Women's Symbolic Representation: The Case of Afghanistan
Constitutional Gender Quotas and Women’s Symbolic Representation: The Case of Afghanistan
Mona Tajali
Abstract: Women in Afghanistan, taking advantage of the opportunities provided by their country’s reconstruction efforts in the early 2000s, worked diligently to ensure that the new Afghan constitution included important rights for women, including the advancement of right to political representation. Indeed the 2004 Afghan constitution reserved at least 27% of the lower house parliamentary seats for women, guaranteeing their presence in formal political decision-making. Although women’s political presence came to a sudden halt with the unexpected fall of the Afghan government in August 2021, this paper argues that the Afghan gender quota provision nonetheless has important symbolic implications for Afghan women’s political roles in two central ways. First, the quotas, which were a long-time in the making, justified women’s political presence to themselves as well as their male-dominated political and cultural context. Second, with the sudden coming to power of the Taliban in 2021, the quotas have greatly contributed to invigorating local women’s protests and their key demand for women’s political representation, comprising one of the most outspoken anti-Taliban and pro-democracy forces. Despite backlash from the militant Taliban, women, with the support of diverse transnational solidarity networks, are refusing to be silent, demanding equal inclusion in the country’s political structures.

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