(MENAFN - Daily Outlook Afghanistan) Scores of Afghan women are addicted to narcotic drugs. To alleviate their pain and anguish, about 900,000 women and children seek solace in drugs, regardless of their ill effects. The graph of addiction to drugs is said to be on the rise in Afghanistan and women are highly prone to it for one reason or another. Cultural restrictions and religious taboos have not been able to hamper their involvement in the activity. This intake of drugs, however, has been counterproductive rather than mitigating sufferings.
There are many motivating factors behind the drug addiction of Afghan women. Decades of war and violence are one of the main reasons. The patriarchal system of the Afghan government has marginalized them from social and political mainstream and curtailed their freedom. The Taliban regime treated women as pariahs. In traditional mindset and tribal structure, women are deemed to only satiate the men's carnal desires and are not allowed to get out without male supervision. Public and domestic violence against women has also increased to a great extent. Forced and under-age marriage prevails in the Taliban-dominated areas. Treating women as inferior creatures and stoning them to death in public have traumatized them and forced them to lessen their mental pressures through drug addiction.
In post-Taliban Afghanistan, the agony of women has continued due to the unending violence against them. The Afghan Constitution, which was approved in 2004, entitles men and women to exercise their rights and liberty freely. Discrimination has no room in the Constitution as Article22 states, 'Any kind of discrimination and distinction between citizens of Afghanistan shall be forbidden. The citizens of Afghanistan, man and woman, have equal rights and duties before the law. Despite this, women in the country undergo violence both in public and private spheres. Consequently, some women become drug addicts because they use drugs as painkillers.
Social ills and contact with addicted individuals have also played a role in this regard. Living with their addicted spouses for years, women inhale the smoke and gradually get used to it. Some addicted men force their wives to use drugs to make them dependent on them and not ask for divorce; other women become addicted for existing in a sub-culture of addicted friends. They try drugs just for the heck of it and for having fun with friends.
Afghan women have easy access to drug because of their vast cultivation in different provinces. It goes without saying that militants, mainly the Taliban, capitalize on cultivating and smuggling drugs. The strongholds of the Taliban in Helmand province thrive on poppy production. Poppy forms the bulk of their financial support. It is for this reason that the Taliban have never declared cultivation of poppy as prohibited by religion though Islam forbids it. Afghan President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani said earlier that international drug dealers and countries that provide transit facilities to them have earned 800 billion dollars from narcotic cultivation in the past 17 years. This is also a motivating force behind the addiction of Afghan women to drugs.
Afghan women perform backbreaking labor, especially in the remote areas and do not have the time to sing lullabies to their children. To finish their household chores without disturbance, some women give their children drugs to keep them calm or to soothe their pain and this has also led to their children's addiction. Being part of an unhealthy environment comprising addicted families, colleagues and surroundings, women are further drawn to the unfortunate sub-culture.
It is not difficult to understand that Afghan women are left at the mercy of social ills, financial constraints and political challenges. Their life and liberties are threatened by warring parties and they are viewed as inferior creatures in a traditional society. In the tribal belts, a predominantly parochial mindset exists which also includes domestic violence. Drugs are a panacea for the wounds and mental pressures of these women. The only question is that do drugs soothe pain and suffering?
The horrible consequences of drug addiction cannot be questioned. With an increase in the addiction rate, the graph of poverty also rises and increases the vulnerability of women. To meet their financial needs, some addicted women succumb to the carnal desires of men. Many other women fall victim to rape. The involvement of both men and women in narcotics further paves the ground for crime and corruption. Women are also abused by drug dealers and smugglers and their pressing needs multiply their susceptibility to social ills.
Addicted women play a highly destructive role in society. They spoil the future of their children by providing an unhealthy environment and handing down drug addiction to their progeny and both become a burden on society. With an increase in the addicted population, the crime rate rises and society is further dragged into the social and cultural quagmire. Addiction also breeds poverty. The addicted individuals are not able to work; they can only beg on the streets or commit crimes. Further, these people push their families to violence. Addicted women vent their rage and anger on their children when they cannot get drugs. Addicted women then become mental, physical and emotional baggage and cannot play a positive role in society.
Addicted women are also exposed to degradation and mistreatment. The males around them not only lose trust in them but also insult them and label them as criminals. Socially, the entire family of an addicted woman is stigmatized. Addicted women bear the brunt of humiliation, rape and sexual harassment.
Cultivating and using drug is prohibited under the Constitution of Afghanistan. Article 7 says, '…The state shall prevent all kinds of terrorist activities, cultivation and smuggling of narcotics, and production and use of intoxicants. How come then that drug addiction among both men and women is so common in Afghanistan?
The way public and domestic violence is perpetrated against drug addicted women in the country is against national and international laws. It is clear that the rights and dignity of these women are trampled upon with impunity. Though the law provides protection but the judiciary and executive do not implement it in an effective manner. Perhaps it is the inaction of the government's apparatus that further worsens the situation.
The Ministry of Counternarcotic simply does not do enough. The United States government estimates that in 2014 Afghanistan cultivated 211,000 hectares of poppy and produced 6,300 metric tons of opium. Despite pledging to intensify its drug-control efforts at the December 2014 London Conference on Afghanistan, President
Ashraf Ghani's administration has not succeeded in tackling the issue and the country still remains one of the world's largest drug producers.
To reduce female addiction, the government must eliminate such factors as combating terrorist networks and drug mafias, prosecuting violators of women's rights, raising public awareness through short-term seminars, implementing anti-drug laws effectively, providing more investment opportunities and ending corruption in the government machinery. The Ulema Council also needs to act proactively and canvass against poppy cultivation on the one hand and against male and female drug addiction on the other, and focus on the social harms and the adverse effects on society.