KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – Afghanistan's leading government organization for women has announced plans to abandon their struggle for women's equality in Afghanistan and said they merely hope to be treated with the same basic dignity given to animals.
Dr. Husn Banu Ghazanfar, Afghanistan's Minister of Women's Affairs since 2006, has announced that her ministry will formally disband next month and turn over all women's issues in the country to the Afghan chapter of the group the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
"In a bow to reality, we have given up all hope of gender equality and merely wish to receive the same legal protection as a man's cow or goat," Dr. Ghazanfar said during a tearful press conference in Kabul. "At least livestock can work outside the house."
Her remarks were repeatedly interrupted by angry male hecklers, occasional gunfire, and at least one attempt to stone her to death.
"We won't ask for anything insulting, like being treated like a man," Ghazanfar pleaded, trying to calm the angry mob. "But maybe being treated like a female ... camel? Or at least being able to ride in the cab of the truck with the sheep."
Ghazanfar explained that her decision was based on historical precedent. Prior to Afghanistan's civil war, Afghan law treated women on the same legal plane as livestock and violence against women was historically prosecuted as animal abuse, if anyone actually bothered to report it.
Full gender equality was briefly achieved during the Soviet invasion, when Afghan women were gassed, shot, and lost limbs at roughly the same rate as men.
Today, in some Middle Eastern countries, killing a man's wife can lead to reparations in the form of a certain number of livestock; however, under Afghanistan's topsy-turvy laws, killing that same man's livestock can lead to reparations in the form of a certain number of wives or daughters.
Ghazanfar said her decision had been prompted by the repeated failures to accomplish even such basic goals such as raising the age of marital consent past six, keep a shelter for abuse victims open more than a month before being burned down, or guaranteeing women the right to choose — the method of their execution.
A recent vote in Afghanistan's parliament sought to repeal its groundbreaking Elimination of Violence Against Women Law after many legislators were puzzled by who could possibly have a problem with something so mundane. One even publicly joked that it would be easier to ban smoking or cursing.
However, Ghazanfar said the final straw was when the Afghan government ordered the immediate removal of all Afghan women legislators because their husbands should lawfully occupy their seats.
"I have heard western journalists say we are treated like slaves," Ghazanfar later told Duffel Blog from the safety of her up-armored mobile home. "I wish! At least under Afghan law slaves have to be fed twice a day and can only be beaten in private by a uniformed representative of the Afghan government."
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani said he disagreed that women's rights had deteriorated in recent years and hoped for an opportunity to publicly debate Ghazanfar's husband or other suitable male relative.
He added, "Under the Taliban, unescorted women in public were beaten and sometimes executed. Even ten years ago, we still had a rash of women burning themselves to death to escape marriage. However, thanks to progress, that now happens today in public under the watchful eye of concerned citizens."
A representative from PETA Afghanistan has already issued a statement condemning Ghazanfar for associating of cows and goats with women and called for her immediate execution.