There have been a lot of stories lately about low voter turnout among women in Afghanistan.  This news is sad and discouraging….particularly because the turnout appears to be significantly lower than the ’04 and ’05 elections. 

Most analysis of this situation has concentrated on the Taliban-led campaign of intimidation which caused many women to stay home. While the intimidation no doubt is the cause of a lot of the female apathy, there might be another thing at work here.  We see it in our own country.  Asked why they don’t vote, many Americans cite the fact that there’s little difference in the candidates and that no matter the outcome of the election, nothing will change. It’s sort of a “they’re all a bunch of rascals up there” attitude.  I suspect there’s a bit of the same thing happening in Afghanistan.

Both leading candidates–Abdullah and Karzai–promised to help change the lives of women; both had women working on their campaigns.  But take the case of President Karzai, who despite his rhetorical calls for women’s rights, weeks before the election signed a law making it legal for a husband to starve his wife if he is denied sexual services.  

Perhaps the media should give the women of Afghanistan more credit for understanding the painful truth; neither candidate is likely to bring sweeping changes to the lives of women there…so why risk the trip to vote. 

Give Afghan women a candidate who will and they will no doubt brave those Taliban threats.