Why would life under the Soviet system have been liberating for women in Afghanistan during the 1980s?
Life under the Soviet system in the 1980s (and beginning with the ascent to power of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, or PDPA, in the late 1970s) would have been liberating for women because it freed them from traditional restraints. The PDPA and the Soviets were Marxist and, as such, were officially atheist and were in favor of equal rights for women.
Before the PDPA came to power, Afghanistan’s government allowed women to be legally controlled by men as they traditionally had been. For example, women were essentially required to remain veiled (though not by law) and the vast majority of girls received no schooling. These restrictions existed in part because of traditional tribal values and in part because of the influence of very conservative Muslim religious leaders.
When the PDPA came to power, and later when the Soviets invaded, the Afghan government became much more interested in promoting women’s rights. Communism is officially atheistic and sees religion as a way of suppressing the working class and the peasants. Communist ideology also sees sexism as an outdated way of thinking and promotes the idea of sexual equality. For these reasons, the PDPA instituted many reforms that improved women’s rights in Afghanistan. For example, they outlawed forced marriages and they instituted education for girls. By doing these things, they (at least in our view) made life better for women in Afghanistan. Because women’s rights were expanded under the PDPA, it is possible to argue that life during this time would have been liberating for women in Afghanistan.