The Taliban has stopped the distribution of contraceptives in two of Afghanistan’s major cities, claiming that their use by women is part of a conspiracy by Western countries to control the Muslim population.
Taliban bans contraception calling use a ‘western conspiracy’ https://t.co/wxM2nAFxuS
— The Guardian (@guardian) February 17, 2023
According to the British media outlet The Guardian, Taliban fighters have been going door to door, demanding pharmacies to stop selling birth control devices and medicines, and even threatening midwives.
“They came to my store twice with guns and threatened me not to keep contraceptive pills for sale. They are regularly checking every pharmacy in Kabul, and we have stopped selling the products.” a store owner narrated.
The Taliban ordered other pharmacies in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif not to sell birth control medications.
“Items such as birth control pills and Depo-Provera injections are not allowed to be kept in the pharmacy since the start of this month, and we are too afraid to sell the existing stock.” another shop owner said.
Taliban bans the sale of contraceptives in two major Afghan cities https://t.co/gAXKBB8spv
— Dimsumdaily Hong Kong (@dimsumdaily_hk) February 21, 2023
The Taliban also threatened midwives several times. One veteran midwife who refused to be named said a commander told her she was no longer allowed to go outside and promote the “western concept” of population control, adding that her work is unnecessary.
Another midwife fled Kabul after receiving death threats from the Taliban but still kept in contact with her colleagues who remained.
“The contraceptive ban would drastically affect the already deteriorating reproductive health situation in the country,” she said. “I fear the gains we made in the past decade would be lost after this move.”
Another midwife from Kabul, Fatimah, told the Guardian: “We are living in a suffocating environment. I have not felt so insecure in my entire career.”
For many Afghan women, the ban on birth control came as a shock. The Guardian also told the story of Zainab, who is 17 and has an 18-month-old daughter. She said she was worried about the ban and its consequences for her future.
“I was secretly using contraceptives to avoid immediate pregnancy. I want to raise my daughter well with proper health and education facilities, but it shattered my dreams when the midwife last week informed me that she had no contraceptive pills and injections to offer me.” Zainab said. “I left education to get married, and I don’t want my daughter’s fate to be the same as mine. I seek a different future for my daughter. The last hope to plan my life has ended.”
The Taliban has banned condoms and other forms of birth control in at least two Afghanistan cities, calling the use of contraceptives a "western conspiracy" to control the Muslim population, according to multiple reports.https://t.co/MlybIBa0C6
— ABC News 4 (@ABCNews4) February 21, 2023
Although the Taliban’s Ministry of Public Health hasn’t issued any official statement on the ban, Taliban fighters patrolling the streets of Kabul said that “contraceptive use and family planning is a western agenda.”
The ban on birth control is the latest blow to women’s rights in Afghanistan, which has continuously seen regressive laws being passed restricting women’s access to work and education after the Taliban seized power.
Many activists criticized the move and have called on the Taliban to follow international agreements which allow universal access to sexual and reproductive health care. But for Ustad Faridoon, a Taliban official based in Kandahar, contraceptives are occasionally necessary for a mother’s health, and he said he doesn’t support a total ban.
After the Guardian published their article, The National News published a retort. According to their research, three pharmacies were visited in Kabul, and no such orders were received. The spokesperson for the Taliban’s Ministry for Prohibiting Vice and the Promotion of Virtue, Akif Muhajir, told the National that he did not accept the Guardian’s report and called it “fake news.”