The Taliban have quietly stopped contraceptives from being sold to women in Kabul and Balkh provinces, ordering pharmacies and drug store centers to no longer stock them, according to sources in these provinces.
Drug sellers in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif have confirmed to Rukhshana Media that their Taliban officials have ordered them not to sell any pills, ampoules, or medicines used as a contraceptive. They say it’s “haram” or forbidden under Sharia law.
The Taliban’s Ministry of Public Health has not issued any official pronouncements on this issue.
Rukhshana Media has also spoken with some women who have say midwives have refused to provide contraceptives where they previously would have. The unofficial ban has doubled the price of available contraceptives, but there is no regulation of the drugs as they are sold secretly on the black market and the Taliban is not tracking their import.
Khadija, 35, a Kabul resident and mother of three, says that her youngest child is one year old. To prevent another pregnancy she would visit a midwife every two months for contraception injections. But two weeks ago, the midwife refused to do so and Khadija had to purchase the drugs at double the price. “The midwife I always visit said the Taliban has told them not to inject contraceptives because it is haram,” she says. “When she said that it was haram, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. When I went to buy tablets instead from outside, the price had doubled.”
Khadija says this decision of the Taliban violates the right of women to make a personal choice and violates the right of families to make decisions about having children. “They have even taken away the peace inside our house,” she says.
Shamim, 42, a mother of four, says that she has been using birth control pills for five years. But three weeks ago, she found herself hunting for the pills among many pharmacies. “Contraceptive tablets were not found in many pharmacies in Kabul,” she said. “The pharmacists told me that it is forbidden, so the price has gone up and it is sold secretly.”
“Personally, I went to three to four places in Deh Khodaidad area of Kabul,” she said. “They all said they don’t have it and it is forbidden.”
Some drug wholesalers in Kabul city confirmed to Rukhshana Media that the Taliban has stopped importing these drugs and other related equipment. This has also pushed the price higher on the black market.
A secret dealer in Kabul city, who did not want to be named, says the Taliban banned all types of contraceptives 20 days ago. “Currently, any type of drug that women use for contraception are prohibited,” he says. “Although they did not tell us a specific reason, but the [the Taliban] said it is not permissible and it is forbidden.”
“About fifteen days ago, four Taliban forces came dressed in white clothes and told us that we no longer have the right to sell these drugs,” he added. “They also confiscated some of the medicines we had.”
Under the previous government, through international organizations and aid work, contraceptives had been more widely available in Afghanistan and used in family planning. Families were equipped to decide whether they wanted to space the births of their children. The previous Ministry of Public Health would distribute contraceptives to women for free in government medical centers. A key goal was to reduce maternal mortality, with the belief that one of the easiest ways to reduce maternal mortality is to have some time in between childbirths.
Samiullah*, a citizen of Mazar-e-Sharif, told Rukhshana Media on the phone that two weeks ago, he and his wife went to one of the gynecologists in Mazar-e-Sharif and bought an implant contraceptive at double the price.
“Previously, the price of an implant was up to 2,500 afghanis,” he said. “Now the price has doubled, and the doctor said, it’s because of the Taliban’s ban.”
The ban has also challenged many midwives because a large part of their work has been to provide injectable contraceptives to women.
Huria Wakil*, 33, is a midwife in Mazar-e-Sharif. She says the Taliban visited their clinic three weeks ago to tell them to stop providing contraception. “They recited a few verses of the Holy Quran, but unfortunately, none of them had a logical reason. When I said, why shouldn’t we be injecting it? They said, it is haram.”
According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) 2022 report, Afghanistan has had the highest maternal mortality rate in Asia. Out of every 100,000 mothers in Afghanistan, 638 mothers die during childbirth. That is a huge jump from pre-August 2021 when the Taliban took over. Back then out of 100,000 mothers, 394 mothers died during childbirth.
From a medical point of view, frequent childbearing can pose a greater risk to women’s mortality. “Women do not take into account the interval between each birth, which ideally is at least three years,” Dr. Anita, one of the obstetrician-gynecologists at the Abu Ali Sinaye Balkhi seminary hospital in Balkh. “This itself contributes to maternal deaths during childbirth.”
.Note:*these names are pseudonyms for security reasons