Firstly, let me state a few things. I am a woman and I have been to Afghanistan, multiple times in fact. At no point have I ever felt unsafe due to being a female. Unsafe because there was an American Blackhawk helicopter flying overhead with a 19 year old holding a machine gun, unsafe because of the rare but real risk posed to anyone travelling around this war-torn enigma, but never due to being a female.
There is always an expectation that foreign women are to be treated differently from local women. Part of it is purely and simply racism, in this instance positive racism, but part of it is because as western women we’re probably too far gone to be saved by their standards.
When you’re in a tour group with other women and men nothing will actually happen while walking along the streets or seeing the sites. Of course you’ll get stares and strange looks, but then again so will the foreign men in your group most likely as well. Let’s face it, we’re also staring at all of them since we’re in a very different unique part of the world.
The main risks to safety in Afghanistan don’t see sex, and are the same faced by everyone who travels there. After all, it is a country in conflict.
Of course there is a new issue, and that’s the fact that the Taliban has taken control and are imposing their strict version of Islam. A recent rule change made it illegal for women to show anything but their eyes, a truly horrible outcome for women, but how will it affect foreign women travelling there? So far it hasn’t. The few foreign women who have travelled to Afghanistan recently have not been harassed or targeted for not covering their faces, and it seems the rule won’t apply to non-Afghanis.
This of course does leave you with the question of whether it’s ethical to be travelling around enjoying a freedom (if it can be put that way) that local women don’t have the privilege of. That’s a tough question, and one that each one of us individually can only answer. My personal take is that the more foreigners and foreign interaction that can be had the better. Our presence has always been warmly welcomed and we can also make even a small difference by trying to frequent female owned businesses such as restaurants.
In accommodation there has always been the understanding that foreign women unaccustomed to wearing a headscarf all day as well as baggy unflattering conservative clothes are able to dress more comfortably, however going forward there might now be unease with the idea of the general rules and expectations being pushed too far. In our accommodation in Kabul t-shirts and shorts have always been fine for women to wear, however the pants or long skirts might need to stay on now.
But all in all, while it’s not completely safe for anyone to travel to Afghanistan, it’s no more unsafe for women. But we've been traveling to Afghanistan for years and believe we can help you have a wonderful experience whilst keeping you safe !