ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Taliban have decreed they are banning forced marriage of women in Afghanistan, a move likely meant to address criteria the international community considers a precondition to recognizing their government and restoring aid.
The move was announced on Friday by the reclusive Taliban chief as poverty surges in Afghanistan, following the religious militia's takeover in August that pushed out U.S. and international forces and led foreign governments to halt funds that had been a mainstay of the economy.
Women's rights improved markedly over the past two decades of international presence in Afghanistan but are seen as under threat with the return of the Taliban.
According to the Associated Press, the minimum age for marriage, which previously was set at 16 years old, was not mentioned on the decree.
The decree said “both (women and men) should be equal" and “no one can force women to marry by coercion or pressure," the news outlet reported.
Still, girls between seven to 12 years old are banned from attending school, and since the Taliban takeover, most women cannot return to their jobs.