Op-ed by Judy Lotas was published on Sunday, 8/29/21 in News & Observer at https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/article253797648.html
The Taliban wrecked Afghan lives during their five-year reign of terror, 1996-2001. Now they’re poised to do it again.
I had heard about the Taliban back in the days of dial-up internet. I read all I could stand. The Taliban even had a website. The things they were doing to women and men — but mostly women — were unspeakable.
After 9/11, I traveled to Afghanistan to see what women in United States might do for women there. It was suggested that we give cows, goats and chickens to Afghan women so they could sell milk and eggs. All of us at Lotas Patton New York, the NYC ad agency where I was a partner, pitched in to raise funds. Generous friends donated. We made the arrangements the returned to Afghanistan to deliver.
We flew into Kabul then drove to Jalalabad — five of us in an SUV, two young men following us with Kalashnikovs. Hot dust ground itself into our teeth and hair as we passed cave after cave in Osama bin Laden’s old neighborhood.
Three of our Afghan friends took charge of finding safe places to meet the Afghan women, many whom were widowed by years of war. They were grateful for the animals and we didn’t need words to know it.
We had also collected a lot of women’s and children’s clothing, which we laid out so the women could “shop.” A cosmetics company had donated lipsticks for our trip. They went fast.
In Jalalabad, we immediately learned that men were in charge. Of everything.
Women did not leave the family compound. Men did the shopping and outside socializing, women stayed home. In the dingy guest house, only men were seen. When my friend and I ventured out in search of bleach to clean the shower, the men’s angry stares were frightening — but also enraging.
The perverted form of Islam practiced by the Taliban allows for the purest form of patriarchy. Women don’t leave home without a male family member. Women cover their faces. Women are uneducated. Women don’t have careers or jobs or any form of independence.
Should a woman commit adultery, she is beheaded. We saw an exact site in Kabul where that had recently taken place.
Why patriarchy over partnership between and among the sexes? Why did our nation’s founders exclude women or any feminine pronouns from the Constitution? Power must be the greatest of aphrodisiacs, else why not share?
It’s an ugly thing, patriarchy. It’s been served up as protection, as God’s will, as a man’s noble responsibility.
Thin arguments created to deny women the right to property, right to vote, right to have a credit card in her own name. Step by step, American women have made progress against injustice. But the glaringly obvious step our country should take, now, is to amend our Constitution to make justice concrete. Just 24 words: “Equality of rights, under the law, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
We hope and pray for the safety and freedom of women and girls in Afghanistan. We demand that our own country practice the equality we preach and add the Equal Rights Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.
Judy Lotas now lives in Duck, NC. She and her friend Fern Halyard traveled to Afghanistan after 9/11 to deliver cows, goats and chickens to women there.