Militant organisation Taliban confirmed the prohibition of the use of gyms and parks by women on Sunday, 13 November, days after banning them from public baths and fairs. The Ministry of Vice and Virtue, which has instated the ban, has also offered some explanations for the decision.
What Has the Taliban Said About the Bans?
Ministry of Vice and Virtue spokesperson Mohammed Akef Mohajer said that the Taliban "tried its best" over the past 15 months – since its takeover of Afghanistan – to avoid restricting the entry of women into parks and gyms by imposing segregation.
"But, unfortunately, the orders were not obeyed and the rules were violated, and we had to close parks and gyms for women," he said, according to Al Jazeera.
"In most cases, we have seen both men and women together in parks and, unfortunately, the hijab was not observed. So, we had to come up with another decision, and for now, we ordered all parks and gyms to be closed for women."Mohammed Akef Mohajer, Spokesperson, Ministry of Vice and Virtue
Gyms have been closed for women because their trainers were male and some gyms were common for men and women, Mohajer told the news agency AFP.
Hammams, or traditional public bathing houses, that have traditionally been segregated by sex, have also been restricted for women.
"Currently, every house has a bathroom in it, so it won't be any issue for the women," the Taliban official said.
How Have Afghan Women Reacted?
The bans have fuelled concerns about women's health and freedom in Afghanistan.
"You've taken our right to study. We are not allowed to work. We now can't exercise in a gym. Do we not have the right to do anything anymore? Why is the world not listening to us?" women inside the locker room of a gym can be heard telling an official of the Taliban in a video circulated on social media.
In the video, the women can be heard telling the official that it is a women-only gym and that they exercise with their hijabs on.
The ban on women in parks has had a fallout on children as well.
"Today, my grandchild was crying and asking me to take her to the city park. When we came here, they didn't allow us to go inside. My grandchild is so disappointed and now we are going back home," a woman shared in a video tweeted by Amnesty International.
Women in the city of Herat took to the streets to assert their protest against the Taliban's restrictions. A video from the demonstration shows protesters holding placards and raising slogans.
United Nations Women Special Representative for Afghanistan, Alison Davidian, has also condemned the ban. "This is yet another example of the Taliban's continued and systematic erasure of women from public life... We call on the Taliban to reinstate all rights and freedoms for women and girls," she was quoted as saying.
(With inputs from AFP and Al Jazeera.)