D’Alessandro: In the pandemic, we found that activity in the unpaid care sector is the only sector that went up, while all other sectors fell. So, it’s important from an economic standpoint. And those 800 day care centers — they are not just creating a physical space where children will be looked after, but they’re also a way to create jobs and opportunities. When you create a new system, you are professionalizing the care work and you are also recognizing the value of that work.

Violence against women is a big problem in Argentina. The number of women killed reached a 10-year high during the lockdown, and there have been major protests against violence dating back to almost six years ago. Why is this still happening?

Alcorta: The femicide rate in Argentina has remained high for the past 20 years and those of us who study this phenomenon know that there are many issues that create the conditions for extreme violence. Often, higher inequality is correlated with more violence. Gender stereotypes also have a lot to do with this as does the culture — some Latin American societies are more tolerant of this violence. And of course, there are the shortcomings in the state agencies, like the police. Until 2015, Argentina didn’t officially track femicides. They used to be called “crimes of passion.” And there was no institutional structure that looked into violence against women, so we created a nationwide, federal agency.

The changes needed are huge and structural in nature so they can’t be resolved in a couple of years or with one administration.

The president has made gender equality a priority, but women are still a minority among ministers and other high positions in government. Will that change?

Ibarra: Not so many years ago, there weren’t any women at all in high-ranking positions and the creation of the Ministry of Women is a major highlight of this administration. Now, is that enough? No. But we are much better off than where we used to be.

We started a group on WhatsApp called “Women in Government” — a network of more than 250 women. And we get together, we have discussions, we share experiences and help one another. It’s important because we come from a culture that is male dominated and it’s easier for men to team up. So each woman and feminist who joins the government is opening up doors to change things.

Alcorta: This administration has the highest share of women in high-ranking positions — 37.5 percent, compared with the previous administration which had 22 percent. Certainly, as you go up to the level of ministers, you see that share get smaller. Argentina was also the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean that set a gender quota for Congress in 1991 and, since 2017, we have a parity law for Congress.

Until we took office 13 provinces had parity laws, and there was still another 10 left. Last year, seven provinces implemented provincial parity laws as well and now we have three left. One of our goals is to work with those remaining provinces so that all provinces have parity. This is a process — participation in Congress allows women to also become officials in the executive branch.

D’Alessandro: We can advocate laws related to gender parity and request that women are represented in the high levels of government and in Congress, but we still have many serious problems. In the judiciary, there’s a clear gender gap, but also in trade unions and in the business sector. I think this demonstrates the difficulties of society, which, at its core, is still a male-dominated patriarchal, unequal structure with clear discrimination against women. That’s what we need to fight.

It’s fascinating that you often call yourselves feminists and activists. That kind of language is rare — maybe even radical — for government officials. Do you face any backlash for that?

Ibarra: Yes, but we welcome that. Whenever someone says, “Where is the ministry for men?,” we say, “Well, men don’t need to get together and defend their rights and that’s great. But we need to make sure that women have the same rights.” That’s why we are feminists. We’re not against men. All we want to do is take apart a system that has abused and hurt women.

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Once-a-Decade Census Shows an Aging, Better-Educated China

Births are falling. The population is aging. The work force of the world’s second-largest economy is shrinking.

China’s latest once-a-decade census, which was conducted last year, showed the slowest population growth since the 1960s, confirming that the country is in the midst of an urgent demographic crisis.

The results may push the government to loosen its family planning restrictions, which have shaped the most intimate aspects of Chinese society — marriage, childbirth and child-rearing — for decades. But the stark need for change has also underscored how reluctant the authorities have been to fully let go of control.

according to World Bank data. Last year, just 12 million babies were born in China, the lowest official number since 1961, as the country was emerging from a devastating famine.

Experts cautioned that the pandemic may have been a major factor, but births have now declined for four consecutive years.

The numbers make clear that China’s aging crisis will not be resolved anytime soon. As older Chinese people occupy a greater share of the population, while the younger work force who would support them declines, China’s pension funds and underdeveloped facilities for older adults are sure to feel strain. Adults above 60 now make up 18.7 percent of the population, compared with 13.3 percent in 2010.

Liang Jianzhang, a demography expert at Peking University, said he expected that the government would lift its remaining limits on fertility soon. Five years ago it ended its one-child policy and allowed families to have two children, but families who have more can still be penalized or denied benefits.

forcing women to have fewer babies as part of an effort to control the Muslim ethnic minorities there.

Stuart Gietel-Basten, a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology who studies demography. But that ratio is still higher than normal, suggesting a lingering preference for boys, he added.

The advancement of women faces more official obstacles, too. In an effort to address the fertility crisis, officials in recent years have sought to push women back into traditional gender roles. Feminist activists have been detained or censored online.

39 percent of adults aged 25 to 64 in countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development had some form of tertiary education.) But it is a tremendous accomplishment for a country that in 1997 had fewer than 3.5 million undergraduate and graduate students.

Still, experts have noted that the surging numbers of college graduates may bring a new problem: a dearth of well-paid jobs to employ them. China’s economy is still largely reliant on blue-collar labor. Ning Jizhe, the head of China’s National Bureau of Statistics, acknowledged the gap at a news conference about the census on Tuesday.

“Employment pressure on college students is increasing,” he said. “The pace of industrial transformation and upgrading needs to speed up.”

Unless the new crop of educated young people can find stable jobs, Professor Gietel-Basten said, the fertility rate may drop even further. “If you’ve got a situation where you have graduate unemployment and it’s difficult to access these good jobs,” he said, “why would you have more babies?”

Wang Feng, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine. As the northeast continues to empty out, those disparities may become even more pronounced, he added.

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In Xinjiang, China Targets Muslim Women in Push to Suppress Births

When the government ordered women in her mostly Muslim community to be fitted with contraceptive devices, Qelbinur Sedik pleaded for an exemption. She was nearly 50 years old, she told officials in Xinjiang. She had obeyed the government’s birth limits and had only one child.

It was no use. The workers threatened to take her to the police if she continued resisting, she said. She gave in and went to a government clinic where a doctor, using metal forceps, inserted an intrauterine device to prevent pregnancy. She wept through the procedure.

“I felt like I was no longer a normal woman,” Ms. Sedik said, choking up as she described the 2017 ordeal. “Like I was missing something.”

Across much of China, the authorities are encouraging women to have more children, as they try to stave off a demographic crisis from a declining birthrate. But in the far western region of Xinjiang, they are forcing them to have fewer, as they tighten their grip on Muslim ethnic minorities.

internment camps and prisons. The authorities have placed the region under tight surveillance, sent residents to work in factories and placed children in boarding schools.

By targeting Muslim women, the authorities are going even further, attempting to orchestrate a demographic shift that will affect the population for generations. Birthrates in the region have already plunged in recent years, as the use of invasive birth control procedures has risen, findings that were previously documented by a researcher, Adrian Zenz, with The Associated Press.

crimes against humanity and genocide, in large part because of the efforts to stem the population growth of Muslim minorities. The Trump administration in January was the first government to declare the crackdown a genocide, with reproductive oppression as a leading reason; the Biden administration affirmed the label in March.

Ms. Sedik’s experience, reported in The Guardian and elsewhere, helped form the basis for the decision by the United States government. “It was one of the most detailed and compelling first-person accounts we had,” Kelley E. Currie, a former United States ambassador who was involved in the government’s discussions. “It helped to put a face on the horrifying statistics we were seeing.”

Beijing has accused its critics of pushing an anti-China agenda.

in March. “No one nor any agency shall interfere.”

To women in Xinjiang, the orders from the government were clear: They didn’t have a choice.

Last year, a community worker in Urumqi, the regional capital, where Ms. Sedik had lived, sent messages saying women between 18 and 59 had to submit to pregnancy and birth control inspections.

“If you fight with us at the door and if you refuse to cooperate with us, you will be taken to the police station,” the worker wrote, according to screenshots of the WeChat messages that Ms. Sedik shared with The Times.

encourage births, including by providing tax subsidies and free IUD removals. But from 2015 to 2018, Xinjiang’s share of the country’s total new IUD insertions increased, even as use of the devices fell nationwide.

The contraception campaign appeared to work.

report by a Xinjiang government research center read. “They have avoided the pain of being trapped by extremism and being turned into reproductive tools.”

Women like Ms. Sedik, who had obeyed the rules, were not spared. After the IUD procedure, Ms. Sedik suffered from heavy bleeding and headaches. She later had the device secretly removed, then reinserted. In 2019, she decided to be sterilized.

“The government had become so strict, and I could no longer take the IUD,’” said Ms. Sedik, who now lives in the Netherlands after fleeing China in 2019. “I lost all hope in myself.”

leaked last year from Karakax County, in southwestern Xinjiang, which revealed that one of the most common reasons cited for detention was violating birth planning policies.

government notice from a county in Ili, unearthed by Mr. Zenz, the researcher.

operated under secrecy — many were subjected to interrogations. For some, the ordeal was worse.

Tursunay Ziyawudun was detained in a camp in Ili Prefecture for 10 months for traveling to Kazakhstan. She said that on three occasions, she was taken to a dark cell where two to three masked men raped her and used electric batons to forcibly penetrate her.

“You become their toy,” Ms. Ziyawudun said in a telephone interview from the United States, where she now lives, as she broke down sobbing. “You just want to die at the time, but unfortunately you don’t.”

Gulbahar Jalilova, the third former detainee, said in an interview that she had been beaten in a camp and that a guard exposed himself during an interrogation and wanted her to perform oral sex.

The three former detainees, along with two others who spoke to The Times, also described being regularly forced to take unidentified pills or receive injections of medication that caused nausea and fatigue. Eventually, a few of them said, they stopped menstruating.

The former detainees’ accounts could not be independently verified because tight restrictions in Xinjiang make unfettered access to the camps impossible. The Chinese government has forcefully denied all allegations of abuse in the facilities.

in February.

Beijing has sought to undermine the credibility of the women who have spoken out, accusing them of lying and of poor morals, all while claiming to be a champion of women’s rights.

Even in their homes, the women did not feel safe. Uninvited Chinese Communist Party cadres would show up and had to be let in.

The party sends out more than a million workers to regularly visit, and sometimes stay in, the homes of Muslims, as part of a campaign called “Pair Up and Become Family.” To many Uyghurs, the cadres were little different from spies.

The cadres were tasked with reporting on whether the families they visited showed signs of “extremist behavior.” For women, this included any resentment they might have felt about state-mandated contraceptive procedures.

When the party cadres came to stay in 2018, Zumret Dawut had just been forcibly sterilized.

Four Han cadres visited her in Urumqi, bringing yogurt and eggs to help with the recovery, she recalled. They were also armed with questions: Did she have any issues with the sterilization operation? Was she dissatisfied with the government’s policy?

“I was so scared that if I said the wrong thing they would send me back to the camps,” said Ms. Dawut, a mother of three. “So I just told them, ‘We are all Chinese people and we have to do what the Chinese law says.’”

But the officials’ unwelcome gaze settled also on Ms. Dawut’s 11-year-old daughter, she said. One cadre, a 19-year-old man who was assigned to watch the child, would sometimes call Ms. Dawut and suggest taking her daughter to his home. She was able to rebuff him with excuses that the child was sick, she said.

Other women reported having to fend off advances even in the company of their husbands.

Ms. Sedik, the Uzbek teacher, was still recovering from a sterilization procedure when her “relative” — her husband’s boss — showed up.

She was expected to cook, clean and entertain him even though she was in pain from the operation. Worse, he would ask to hold her hand or to kiss and hug her, she said.

Mostly, Ms. Sedik agreed to his requests, terrified that if she refused, he would tell the government that she was an extremist. She rejected him only once: when he asked to sleep with her.

It went on like this every month or so for two years — until she left the country.

“He would say, ‘Don’t you like me? Don’t you love me?’” she recalled. “‘If you refuse me, you are refusing the government.’”

“I felt so humiliated, oppressed and angry,” she said. “But there was nothing I could do.”

Amy Chang Chien and Fatima Er contributed reporting.

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Biden Officials Place Hope in Taliban’s Desire for Legitimacy and Money

WASHINGTON — President Biden’s plan to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan has drawn sharp criticism that it could allow a takeover by the Taliban, with brutal consequences, particularly for the rights of women and girls.

In response, top Biden administration officials have offered a case for why the outcome may not be so dire: The Taliban, they say, might govern less harshly than feared after taking partial or full power — in order to win recognition and financial support from world powers.

That argument is among the most significant defenses against those who warn that the Taliban will seize control of Kabul and impose a brutal, premodern version of Islamic law, echoing the harsh rule that ended with the American invasion after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken made the case on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” saying that the Taliban must gain power through an organized political process and not through force “if it wants to be internationally recognized, if it doesn’t want to be a pariah,” he said.

Mr. Blinken announced that the administration would work with Congress to expedite a commitment of $300 million in humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan, pledged last fall under the Trump administration.

“As the United States begins withdrawing our troops, we will use our civilian and economic assistance to advance a just and durable peace for Afghanistan and a brighter future for the Afghan people,” Mr. Blinken said in a statement.

In a background briefing for reporters after Mr. Biden’s withdrawal announcement last week, a senior administration official said the denial of international legitimacy would be a punishment for any effort to roll back human rights and women’s rights in the country.

Other U.S. officials and some prominent experts call this “pariah” theory valid, saying Taliban leaders have a record of seeking international credibility, placing a high priority on the removal of sanctions against them. Taliban officials have made clear their desire for foreign aid to rebuild their country after two decades of grinding war.

military aid to Afghanistan’s government in hopes that its security forces will not be overrun.

But in the long term, there is almost no doubt that the Taliban will either become part of the Afghan government or take over the country entirely. How the United States will respond is unclear.

a paper published last month by the United States Institute of Peace, before Mr. Biden’s announcement, Mr. Rubin contended that America “has overestimated the role of military pressure or presence and underestimated the leverage that the Taliban’s quest for sanctions relief, recognition and international assistance provides.”

Mr. Rubin added that the agreement Taliban leaders signed with the Trump administration in February 2020 committed Washington to beginning the process of removing U.S. and United Nations sanctions on the group, including some that are targeted at its individual leaders. It also featured a guarantee that the United States “will seek economic cooperation for reconstruction with the new post-settlement Afghan Islamic government.”

released a report.

most prominent human rights advocates.

“America doesn’t shovel out aid unconditionally,” Mr. Malinowski said. “Most American aid is designed to help governments do the very things that the Taliban despises.”

The Taliban were presented with such choices when they controlled much of Afghanistan in the 1990s. For several years in a row, the group sent delegations to United Nations headquarters seeking recognition there, to no avail.

A desire for recognition and assistance was not enough, however, to make the group heed the United States’ demand that it hand over Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden, a stance that ultimately led to Afghanistan’s invasion after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I think the Afghans deserve more than just being told, well, the Taliban better not do this,” said Christine Fair, a professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and who has studied Afghanistan for years. “They’re really clear that they want to roll back the rights of women. And they don’t want to contest elections. They believe that they should be given a piece of the government because they have killing power.”

Ms. Fair added that the Biden administration should be placing more focus on the role of neighboring Pakistan, which has long had great influence over the Taliban.

H.R. McMaster, a retired three-star general who served as national security adviser during the Trump administration, said it was “delusional” to believe that the Taliban had fundamentally changed in 20 years, and dismissed the idea that the group was seeking greater international acceptance.

It is false, he said, to think “there is a bold line between the Taliban and Al Qaeda,” he said on Monday during a discussion for the Belfer Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in which he roundly criticized Mr. Biden’s decision.

“They have said that their first step is to reestablish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” he said. If that were to happen, it would be “a humanitarian catastrophe of a colossal scale.”

Mr. Eggers said that the reality could be more nuanced, and one that could confound American policymakers.

“For example, what if Afghanistan ends up being about as bad as the Saudis with regard to their treatment of women?” he said. “That’s not good enough, but what do we do then?”

Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

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Women Are Battling China’s Angry Trolls. The Trolls Are Winning.

The feminists’ social media accounts had been slowly disappearing in China for days. And when that wasn’t enough for their angry critics, a powerful voice on the internet stepped in to help.

In a discussion on the popular Chinese platform Weibo, one of the critics asked for better guidelines on how to file complaints against women who shared feminist views. The user suggested that the company add “inciting mass confrontation” to the list of violations that could have them removed. A Weibo account long affiliated with the company’s chief executive, Wang Gaofei, joined the conversation to offer tips.

“Here,” the person using the account said on April 14, posting a screenshot with easy instructions for filing complaints against the women. Under “type of complaint,” click “inciting hatred,” the screenshot showed. Under specific reason: “gender discrimination.”

half a dozen state media reports and a podcast. “He accused me of gender discrimination, which is the most laughable thing in the world,” she said.

Ms. Liang, a 28-year-old lawyer in New York, is one of the women whose accounts were removed by Weibo. She is suing the company for violating China’s civil code, saying it did not adequately explain its accusations against her.

The women’s accounts first started disappearing after March 31. Two days earlier, Xiao Meili, a well-known feminist in China, had left a hot pot restaurant in the southwestern city of Chengdu, angry that a man had ignored her repeated requests to stop smoking illegally indoors. The man was so furious that he hurled a cup of hot liquid at Ms. Xiao and her friends.

four other feminists on a charge of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” ahead of a campaign about sexual harassment on public transportation. The detentions led to an international outcry.

Feminist ideas have slowly entered the mainstream. Many women have been encouraged by the small gains in the country’s nascent #MeToo movement. And feminist thought appeals to Chinese women who feel that the government fails to address issues of gender discrimination, said Lu Pin, a veteran women’s rights activist based in New York whose account was also removed.

There are few outlets for women to vent in China. “That’s why they go online,” Ms. Lu said.

domestic violence, the difficulties of getting a divorce and gender discrimination in the workplace. Gender-related issues are often among the most talked-about subjects on the platform. But in a male-dominated culture, that has led to resentment.

Many of the most active opponents of China’s rising online feminist discourse have hundreds of thousands of followers. Some are celebrated in state media and allied with a broader nationalist movement that sees any form of criticism as an affront to Beijing. Women are easy targets, facing death threats and accusations of being “separatists.”

Douban, an internet forum and review website, has also recently removed at least eight groups dedicated to women’s issues, according to China Digital Times, a website that tracks Chinese internet controls. Douban declined to comment.

After the hot pot incident, Taobao, an e-commerce site in China, removed 23 items from Ms. Xiao’s online store, saying that they were “prohibited content,” according to a notice viewed by The New York Times. All of the items had the word “feminist” written on them. Ms. Xiao sued Weibo in a Beijing court on April 14, seeking access to her account and $1,500 in compensation.

After she posted her lawsuit on WeChat, China’s ubiquitous instant messaging platform, her public account was removed for “violating regulations.”

Ms. Liang, the lawyer, said she was one of the many women inundated by abuse after she posted supportive messages for Ms. Xiao. She was furious when her Weibo account was frozen, because it meant she could no longer defend herself, she said. “It’s the equivalent of sealing your mouth shut, hanging you up and leaving you to burn,” she said.

One of Ms. Liang’s supposed offenses was sharing a post on Twitter by the group “Chinese for Uyghurs.” Her critics used it to accuse her of being unpatriotic by spreading awareness of the plight of the oppressed Muslim minority.

Despite the risks, many women continue to share messages of support for those who have been kicked off Weibo, Ms. Liang said. She described the platform as “the only open space for me to speak out” and said she wanted her account back, even though she knew that the same angry users would be waiting for her when she returned.

“I think having this space is especially important for young women on the internet,” she said. “I refuse to give it up to those disgusting people.”

Elsie Chen contributed reporting. Lin Qiqing contributed research.

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Afghan Women Fear The Worst after U.S. Withdrawal

KABUL, Afghanistan — Farzana Ahmadi watched as a neighbor in her village in northern Afghanistan was flogged by Taliban fighters last month. The crime: Her face was uncovered.

“Every woman should cover their eyes,” Ms. Ahmadi recalled one Taliban member saying. People silently watched as the beating dragged on.

Fear — even more potent than in years past — is gripping Afghans now that U.S. and NATO forces will depart the country in the coming months. They will leave behind a publicly triumphant Taliban, who many expect will seize more territory and reinstitute many of the same oppressive rules they enforced under their regime in the 1990s.

The New York Times spoke to many Afghan women — members of civil society, politicians, journalists and others — about what comes next in their country, and they all said the same thing: Whatever happens will not bode well for them.

military and police, held political office, become internationally recognized singers, competed in the Olympics and on robotics teams, climbed mountains and more — all things that were nearly impossible at the turn of the century.

President Biden made his final decision to pull out all U.S. troops by September, some lawmakers and military officials argued that preserving women’s rights was one reason to keep American forces there.

more than 1,000 schools have closed in recent years.

“It was my dream to work in a government office,” said Ms. Ahmadi, 27, who graduated from Kunduz University two years ago before moving to a Taliban-controlled village with her husband. “But I will take my dream to the grave.”

If there is one thing that decades of war have taught Afghans, it is that conflict was never a good way to achieve human or women’s rights. Since the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, war has continuously fueled more war, eventually undermining any humanitarian achievements.

Under the U.S. occupation, education opportunities, cultural shifts, employment and health care have benefited some and barely affected others, especially in rural areas. In those places, some of the war’s most brutal chapters played out with many civilians dead and livelihoods devastated.

Often, women’s opinions are unclear in these parts, where roughly three-quarters of Afghanistan’s 34 million people live, and are often unreachable because of geographical, technological and cultural constraints.

report released in February said. “U.S. efforts to support women, girls and gender equality in Afghanistan yielded mixed results.”

Still, the Taliban’s harshly restrictive religious governing structure virtually ensures that the oppression of women is baked into whatever iteration of governance they bring.

The Taliban’s idea of justice for women was solidified for Ms. Ahmadi when she saw the insurgents beat the unveiled woman in front of her in Kunduz Province.

For many other Afghan women, the government’s judicial system has been punishment of a different kind.

Farzana Alizada believes that her sister, Maryam, was murdered by her abusive husband. But a police investigation of any sort took months to start, thwarted by absent prosecutors and corruption, she said. Ms. Alizada’s brother-in-law even pressured her to drop the charges by accusing her of stealing. The police asked her why she was pushing the case if her sister was dead.

Domestic violence remains an enduring problem in Afghanistan. About 87 percent of Afghan women and girls experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

“I lost all the hope I have in this government. In some cases, maybe the Taliban is better than this system.” Ms. Alizada said. “No one is on my side.”

Ms. Alizada’s sentiments were similarly portrayed in Doha, Qatar, at the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Despite months of negotiations, there has been little progress, especially when it comes to discussing women’s rights, which neither side has made a priority.

At a separate peace conference held in Moscow in March between the Afghan government, political power brokers and the Taliban, only one woman, Habiba Sarabi, was on the 12-member delegation sent by the Afghan government. And only four are a part of the 21-person team in Doha.

“Moscow — and Doha, as well, with its small number of women representatives — laid bare the thin veneer of support for genuine equality and the so-called post-2001 gains when it comes to who will decide the country’s future,” said Patricia Gossman, the associate Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

But one of the gains that is almost indisputable has been Afghanistan’s access to the internet and the news media. Cellphone coverage extends across much of the country, meaning that Afghan women and girls have more space to learn and connect outside their familial bubbles and villages. The Afghan news media, too, has blossomed after large investments from foreign governments and investors, and many women have become nationally known journalists and celebrities.

But even their futures are uncertain.

Lina Shirzad is the acting managing director of a small radio station in Badakhshan, in Afghanistan’s restive north. She employs 15 women and fears, given the growing insecurity, that they will lose their jobs. Even some of the larger national outlets are looking to relocate employees or move some operations outside the country.

“With the withdrawal of foreign forces in the next few months, these women that are the breadwinners for their family will be unemployed,” Ms. Shirzad said. “Will their values and achievements be maintained or not?”

Fahim Abed contributed reporting from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar.

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Afghan Women Fear the Worst, Whether War or Peace Lies Ahead

KABUL, Afghanistan — Farzana Ahmadi watched as a neighbor in her village in northern Afghanistan was flogged by Taliban fighters last month. The crime: Her face was uncovered.

“Every woman should cover their eyes,” Ms. Ahmadi recalled one Taliban member saying. People silently watched as the beating dragged on.

Fear — even more potent than in years past — is gripping Afghans now that U.S. and NATO forces will depart the country in the coming months. They will leave behind a publicly triumphant Taliban, who many expect will seize more territory and reinstitute many of the same oppressive rules they enforced under their regime in the 1990s.

The New York Times spoke to many Afghan women — members of civil society, politicians, journalists and others — about what comes next in their country, and they all said the same thing: Whatever happens will not bode well for them.

military and police, held political office, become internationally recognized singers, competed in the Olympics and on robotics teams, climbed mountains and more — all things that were nearly impossible at the turn of the century.

President Biden made his final decision to pull out all U.S. troops by September, some lawmakers and military officials argued that preserving women’s rights was one reason to keep American forces there.

more than 1,000 schools have closed in recent years.

“It was my dream to work in a government office,” said Ms. Ahmadi, 27, who graduated from Kunduz University two years ago before moving to a Taliban-controlled village with her husband. “But I will take my dream to the grave.”

If there is one thing that decades of war have taught Afghans, it is that conflict was never a good way to achieve human or women’s rights. Since the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, war has continuously fueled more war, eventually undermining any humanitarian achievements.

Under the U.S. occupation, education opportunities, cultural shifts, employment and health care have benefited some and barely affected others, especially in rural areas. In those places, some of the war’s most brutal chapters played out with many civilians dead and livelihoods devastated.

Often, women’s opinions are unclear in these parts, where roughly three-quarters of Afghanistan’s 34 million people live, and are often unreachable because of geographical, technological and cultural constraints.

report released in February said. “U.S. efforts to support women, girls and gender equality in Afghanistan yielded mixed results.”

Still, the Taliban’s harshly restrictive religious governing structure virtually ensures that the oppression of women is baked into whatever iteration of governance they bring.

The Taliban’s idea of justice for women was solidified for Ms. Ahmadi when she saw the insurgents beat the unveiled woman in front of her in Kunduz Province.

For many other Afghan women, the government’s judicial system has been punishment of a different kind.

Farzana Alizada believes that her sister, Maryam, was murdered by her abusive husband. But a police investigation of any sort took months to start, thwarted by absent prosecutors and corruption, she said. Ms. Alizada’s brother-in-law even pressured her to drop the charges by accusing her of stealing. The police asked her why she was pushing the case if her sister was dead.

Domestic violence remains an enduring problem in Afghanistan. About 87 percent of Afghan women and girls experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

“I lost all the hope I have in this government. In some cases, maybe the Taliban is better than this system.” Ms. Alizada said. “No one is on my side.”

Ms. Alizada’s sentiments were similarly portrayed in Doha, Qatar, at the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Despite months of negotiations, there has been little progress, especially when it comes to discussing women’s rights, which neither side has made a priority.

At a separate peace conference held in Moscow in March between the Afghan government, political power brokers and the Taliban, only one woman, Habiba Sarabi, was on the 12-member delegation sent by the Afghan government. And only four are a part of the 21-person team in Doha.

“Moscow — and Doha, as well, with its small number of women representatives — laid bare the thin veneer of support for genuine equality and the so-called post-2001 gains when it comes to who will decide the country’s future,” said Patricia Gossman, the associate Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

But one of the gains that is almost indisputable has been Afghanistan’s access to the internet and the news media. Cellphone coverage extends across much of the country, meaning that Afghan women and girls have more space to learn and connect outside their familial bubbles and villages. The Afghan news media, too, has blossomed after large investments from foreign governments and investors, and many women have become nationally known journalists and celebrities.

But even their futures are uncertain.

Lina Shirzad is the acting managing director of a small radio station in Badakhshan, in Afghanistan’s restive north. She employs 15 women and fears, given the growing insecurity, that they will lose their jobs. Even some of the larger national outlets are looking to relocate employees or move some operations outside the country.

“With the withdrawal of foreign forces in the next few months, these women that are the breadwinners for their family will be unemployed,” Ms. Shirzad said. “Will their values and achievements be maintained or not?”

Fahim Abed contributed reporting from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar.

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Afghans Wonder ‘What About Me?’ as US Troops Prepare to Withdraw

KABUL, Afghanistan — A female high school student in Kabul, Afghanistan’s war-scarred capital, is worried that she won’t be allowed to graduate. A pomegranate farmer in Kandahar wonders if his orchards will ever be clear of Taliban land mines. A government soldier in Ghazni fears he will never stop fighting.

Three Afghans from disparate walks of life, now each asking the same question: What will become of me when the Americans leave?

President Biden on Tuesday vowed to withdraw all American troops by Sept. 11, nearly 20 years after the first Americans arrived to drive out Al Qaeda following the 2001 terrorist attacks. The American withdrawal ends the longest war in United States history, but it is also likely to be the start of another difficult chapter for Afghanistan’s people.

reported that in the first three months of the year there were 573 civilians killed and 1,210 wounded, a 29 percent increase over the same period in 2020. More than 40,000 civilians have been killed since the start of the war.

Over two decades, the American mission evolved from hunting terrorists to helping the government build the institutions of a functioning government, dismantle the Taliban and empower women. But the U.S. and Afghan militaries were never able to effectively destroy the Taliban, allowing the insurgents to stage a comeback.

The Taliban never recognized Afghanistan’s democratic government. And they appear closer than ever to achieving the goal of their insurgency: to return to power and establish a government based on their extremist view of Islam.

Women would be most at risk under Taliban rule. When the group controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, it banned women from taking most jobs or receiving educations and practically made them prisoners in their own homes.

“It is too early to comment on the subject. We need to know much more,” said Fatima Gailani, an Afghan government negotiator who is involved in the continuing peace talks with the Taliban. “One thing is certain: It is about time that we learn how to rely on ourselves. Women of Afghanistan are totally different now. They are a force in our country; no one can deny them their rights or status.”

Afghanistan’s shaky democracy — propped up by billions of American dollars — has given way to an educated urban class that includes women like Ms. Gailani. Many of them were born in Afghanistan in the 1990s and came of age during the U.S. occupation of the country. Now these women are journalists, part of civil society and members of government.

In the countryside, by contrast, fighting, poverty and oppression remain regular parts of life. Despite the challenges, residents found some comfort in knowing that Afghan forces, backed by the American military, were keeping the peace at least in some areas.

Haji Abdul Samad, 52, a pomegranate farmer from the Arghandab district of Kandahar Province, has been displaced from his home for two months because of the heavy fighting there.

“I am too tired of my life. We are now in a position to beg,” Mr. Samad said. “The Americans are responsible for the troubles, hardships that we are going through. Now they are going to leave with their troops, with no peace, no progress. They just want to leave their war behind.”

Fears about the future are as palpable in the presidential palace in Kabul as they are in far-flung corners of the country. And people across Afghanistan are confused about who will soon be in charge.

The Taliban have repeatedly called for President Ashraf Ghani to step down to make way for an interim government, or most likely, their own. Mr. Ghani has refused, instead pushing for elections but also opening the door to more fighting and a potential civil war. The peace talks in Qatar have faltered and the Taliban have all but backed out of proposed talks in Turkey.

“Ghani will be increasingly isolated. Power brokers see every one of his moves as designed to keep himself and his deputies at the helm,” said Torek Farhadi, an adviser to former President Hamid Karzai. “Reality is, free and fair elections are not possible in the country amid war. In fact, it could fuel more violence.”

As American troops prepare to leave and fractures form in the Afghan government, militias controlled by powerful local warlords are once more rising to prominence and attacking government forces.

The American withdrawal will undoubtedly be a massive blow to morale for the Afghan security forces, spread across the country at hundreds of checkpoints, inside bases and along violent front lines. For years, the U.S. presence has meant that American air power, if needed, was nearby. But since the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban, those airstrikes have become much less frequent, occurring only in the most dire of situations.

Without American military support, Afghan government troops are up against a Taliban enemy who is frequently more experienced and better equipped than the average foot soldier.

The history of Afghanistan has been one of foreign invasion and withdrawal: the British in the 19th century and the Soviets in the 20th. After each invasion, the country underwent a period of infighting and civil war.

“It is not the right time to withdraw their troops,” said Major Saifuddin Azizi, a commando commander in the southeastern province of Ghazni, where fighting has been especially brutal in recent days. “It is unreasonable, hasty and a betrayal to us. It pushes Afghanistan into another civil war. Afghanistan’s destiny will look like it did two decades ago.”

Reporting was contributed by Fahim Abed, Najim Rahim and Fatima Faizi from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar.

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Afghans Wonder ‘What About Me?’ as American Troops Prepare to Withdraw

KABUL, Afghanistan — A female high school student in Kabul, Afghanistan’s war-scarred capital, is worried that she won’t be allowed to graduate. A pomegranate farmer in Kandahar wonders if his orchards will ever be clear of Taliban land mines. A government soldier in Ghazni fears he will never stop fighting.

Three Afghans from disparate walks of life, now each asking the same question: What will become of me when the Americans leave?

President Biden on Tuesday vowed to withdraw all American troops by Sept. 11, nearly 20 years after the first Americans arrived to drive out Al Qaeda following the 2001 terrorist attacks. The American withdrawal ends the longest war in United States history, but it is also likely to be the start of another difficult chapter for Afghanistan’s people.

reported that in the first three months of the year there were 573 civilians killed and 1,210 wounded, a 29 percent increase over the same period in 2020. More than 40,000 civilians have been killed since the start of the war.

Over two decades, the American mission evolved from hunting terrorists to helping the government build the institutions of a functioning government, dismantle the Taliban and empower women. But the U.S. and Afghan militaries were never able to effectively destroy the Taliban, allowing the insurgents to stage a comeback.

The Taliban never recognized Afghanistan’s democratic government. And they appear closer than ever to achieving the goal of their insurgency: to return to power and establish a government based on their extremist view of Islam.

Women would be most at risk under Taliban rule. When the group controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, it banned women from taking most jobs or receiving educations and practically made them prisoners in their own homes.

“It is too early to comment on the subject. We need to know much more,” said Fatima Gailani, an Afghan government negotiator who is involved in the continuing peace talks with the Taliban. “One thing is certain: It is about time that we learn how to rely on ourselves. Women of Afghanistan are totally different now. They are a force in our country; no one can deny them their rights or status.”

Afghanistan’s shaky democracy — propped up by billions of American dollars — has given way to an educated urban class that includes women like Ms. Gailani. Many of them were born in Afghanistan in the 1990s and came of age during the U.S. occupation of the country. Now these women are journalists, part of civil society and members of government.

In the countryside, by contrast, fighting, poverty and oppression remain regular parts of life. Despite the challenges, residents found some comfort in knowing that Afghan forces, backed by the American military, were keeping the peace at least in some areas.

Haji Abdul Samad, 52, a pomegranate farmer from the Arghandab district of Kandahar Province, has been displaced from his home for two months because of the heavy fighting there.

“I am too tired of my life. We are now in a position to beg,” Mr. Samad said. “The Americans are responsible for the troubles, hardships that we are going through. Now they are going to leave with their troops, with no peace, no progress. They just want to leave their war behind.”

Fears about the future are as palpable in the presidential palace in Kabul as they are in far-flung corners of the country. And people across Afghanistan are confused about who will soon be in charge.

The Taliban have repeatedly called for President Ashraf Ghani to step down to make way for an interim government, or most likely, their own. Mr. Ghani has refused, instead pushing for elections but also opening the door to more fighting and a potential civil war. The peace talks in Qatar have faltered and the Taliban have all but backed out of proposed talks in Turkey.

“Ghani will be increasingly isolated. Power brokers see every one of his moves as designed to keep himself and his deputies at the helm,” said Torek Farhadi, an adviser to former President Hamid Karzai. “Reality is, free and fair elections are not possible in the country amid war. In fact, it could fuel more violence.”

As American troops prepare to leave and fractures form in the Afghan government, militias controlled by powerful local warlords are once more rising to prominence and attacking government forces.

The American withdrawal will undoubtedly be a massive blow to morale for the Afghan security forces, spread across the country at hundreds of checkpoints, inside bases and along violent front lines. For years, the U.S. presence has meant that American air power, if needed, was nearby. But since the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban, those airstrikes have become much less frequent, occurring only in the most dire of situations.

Without American military support, Afghan government troops are up against a Taliban enemy who is frequently more experienced and better equipped than the average foot soldier.

The history of Afghanistan has been one of foreign invasion and withdrawal: the British in the 19th century and the Soviets in the 20th. After each invasion, the country underwent a period of infighting and civil war.

“It is not the right time to withdraw their troops,” said Major Saifuddin Azizi, a commando commander in the southeastern province of Ghazni, where fighting has been especially brutal in recent days. “It is unreasonable, hasty and a betrayal to us. It pushes Afghanistan into another civil war. Afghanistan’s destiny will look like it did two decades ago.”

Reporting was contributed by Fahim Abed, Najim Rahim and Fatima Faizi from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar.

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Girl’s Rape in Venezuela Becomes a Rallying Cry for Abortion Activists

The assault of a 13-year-old girl in Venezuela and the arrest of her mother and a teacher who helped her end the pregnancy have forced a national debate about legalizing abortion.


MÉRIDA, Venezuela — She wore a ponytail and a red T-shirt, the words “Glitter Girl” sketched across the front.

Gripping her mother’s hand, she spoke softly, describing how she had been forced out of school by Venezuela’s economic crisis, and then was raped at least six times by a neighborhood predator who threatened to harm her family if she spoke out. At just 13, she became pregnant.

With her mother, she sought out a doctor, who told her the pregnancy endangered her life, and then a former teacher, who provided pills that induced an abortion.

But ending a pregnancy is illegal in almost all circumstances in Venezuela. And now the girl was speaking up, she said, because her teacher, Vannesa Rosales, was in jail, facing more than a decade in prison for helping her end a pregnancy — while the accused rapist remained free.

local and international press earlier this year, has become a point of outrage for women’s rights activists, who say it demonstrates the way the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis has stripped away protections for young women and girls. (The Times is not identifying the girl because she is a minor.)

The country’s decline, presided over by President Nicolás Maduro and exacerbated by U.S. sanctions, has crippled schools, shuttered community programs, sent millions of parents abroad and eviscerated the justice system, leaving many vulnerable to violent actors who flourish amid impunity.

But the girl’s assault, and Ms. Rosales’s arrest, has also become a rallying cry for activists who say it is time for Venezuela to have a serious discussion about further legalizing abortion, an issue, they argue, that is now more important than ever.

at least open to a discussion on the issue.

The country’s penal code, which dates back to the 1800s, criminalizes abortion in nearly all cases, with punishments for pregnant women lasting six months to two years and one to nearly three years for abortion providers.

An exception allows doctors to perform abortions “to save the life” of a pregnant woman.

But to obtain a legal abortion, a girl or woman must first find a doctor who will diagnose her with a specific life-threatening condition, said Dr. Jairo Fuenmayor, president of the country’s gynecologic society, and then have her case reviewed before a hospital ethics board.

The process is “cumbersome,” he said, and there are “very few” women who go through it.

The 13-year-old girl may have been eligible for a rare legal abortion, but the process is so infrequently publicized, and there so few doctors who will grant one, that neither she nor her mother knew they could seek one out.

Some women believe that simply raising the issue with a doctor will land them in the hands of the police.

legalize abortion, elevating a discussion about the issue in a region that has long had some of the strictest abortion laws in the world.

“We can ride the wave of the triumph in Argentina,” said Gioconda Espina, a longtime Venezuelan women’s rights activist.

Legalization, however, is far from imminent.

Venezuela is a deeply Catholic country, and many on both sides of the political aisle reject the idea of ending a pregnancy, even amid a crisis.

“Abortion is something that people naturally or instinctively reject,” said Christine de Vollmer, a Venezuelan activist who opposes the procedure. Venezuela may be “chaotic,” she said, but, “I don’t think the idea will catch.”

Hugo Chávez, who began the country’s socialist-inspired revolution in 1999, never took a strong position on abortion, but often asked feminist activists — many of whom supported abortion rights and his cause — to put his larger political movement ahead of their own demands.

sometimes disappeared for months or years in the Venezuelan justice system, and she worried that her partner was about to do the same.

Ms. Rosales’s lawyer, Venus Faddoul, exited the courthouse. No hearing today, she said. And it would probably be weeks before a judge took up the case.

Ms. Escobar collapsed, consumed by anger and anxiety. Soon, she was shaking violently and struggling to breathe.

“We are powerless,” she cried.

internet outrage that Venezuela’s attorney general, Tarek Saab, took to Twitter to clarify that he had issued an arrest warrant for the accused rapist.

The authorities in Mérida soon released Ms. Rosales to await trial under house arrest.

Abortion rights activists last month met for hours with Mr. Rodríguez, the National Assembly president, where they proposed a change to the penal code, among other ideas.

The country’s influential association of Catholic bishops responded with a letter imploring the country to stick with the status quo.

Powerful international organizations, the association said, were trying to legalize abortion “by appealing to fake concepts of modernity, inventing ‘new human rights,’ and justifying policies that go against God’s designs.”

Ms. Rosales remains in legal limbo. Six months after her arrest, she has yet to have her first day in court. The accused person is still free.

“This goes beyond being a negligent state,” she said. “This is a state that is actively working against women.”

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