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    Mother’s name in electronic Afghan national identity card is about gender equality

    September 8th, 2015 | by Voice of South Asia
    Mother’s name in electronic Afghan national identity card is about gender equality
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    By: Freshta Karim in Afghanistan

    After the union cabinet in September 2012 gave its nod to the
    electronic national identity card (e-tazkira), the government of
    Afghanistan expressed its readiness to replace the old paper identity
    card with the new and technologically-advanced identity card.

    In the new identity card, besides other details as the marks of
    identity, individual and his/her father’s name, grandfather’s name and
    nationality will be mentioned.

    The project, however, was temporarily put on the backburner after
    people belonging to different ethnicities raised concerns over marking
    everyone’s ‘nationality’ as Afghan, which they claimed is used only
    for majority-Pashtuns.

    It triggered a national debate last year and the political atmosphere
    became highly charged. While the issue of ‘nationality’ hogged
    headlines; nobody, not even the civil society groups or the champions
    of women rights, asked why there is no mention of mother’s name in the
    new identity card.

    The issue of mentioning mother’s name in the new identity card, I
    feel, is as important, if not more, than the issue of ‘nationality’.

    From the time tazkira (identity card) was first launched in
    Afghanistan during the reign of reformist King Amanullah Khan
    (1919-1929), it has included only the names of father and grandfather.

    Mother’s name, in fact, has never been mentioned on any important
    legal document in the history of this country.

    Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, millions of dollars have been
    invested on education and the empowerment of women, both by the Afghan
    government and its international partners.

    A large number of ‘ambitious’ projects have been carried out to uplift
    and empower the people of Afghanistan, who had been groping in dark
    for years.

    Since 2004, when the Constitution of Afghanistan was formally enacted,
    both men and women are considered equal citizens of the country,
    although it is a work in progress.

    In fact, in the Population Registration Act of Afghanistan, identity
    is defined as “full information about a person that include father’s
    name. There is, bizarrely, no mention of mother’s name.

    Mention of father’s name, and not the mother’s name, in the identity
    card suggests that father has more rights over his child and he or she
    should only be identified as father’s child.

    It does great disservice to mothers, who render exemplary sacrifices
    to bring up the children. It scandalously ignores the fact that it is
    the mother who carries the baby for nine months in her womb and
    nourishes and feeds the child.

    Once, a man asked Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who among the people is
    most deserving of companionship. He replied, not once, but thrice that
    it is the mother. The fourth time the man asked, Prophet Muhammad
    (PBUH) said father.

    This tradition, which is mentioned in Sahih Bukhari, implies that the
    mother deserves immense love and respect.

    Unfortunately, in our deeply patriarchal society, it is a norm not to
    mention the names of female members of family, including the mother.
    Their names are mentioned only when it comes to abusive and derogatory
    remarks.

    The decision to not mention the name of mother in the new identity
    card has to be seen in that particular context.

    But, why and how the names of women became such a disgrace? It has
    neither roots in the rich Islamic traditions nor has it anything to do
    with our glorious heritage.

    If we examine the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), it bears eloquent
    testimony to how important the role of women was in that period. He
    had many women in his life, which included Halima (foster-mother),
    Amina (mother), Khadija and Aisha (wives) and Fatima (daughter).

    Similarly, the 5000 year old history of Afghanistan has been enriched
    by illustrious women like Rabia Balkhi, Zarghuna Anaa, Malalai of
    Maiwand, Gawhar Shad Begum and many others. Their legacy continues to
    be a beacon of inspiration for millions of women in this country.

    In the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, women are known merely in
    their role as mothers, wives or sisters. The other aspects of their
    identity are largely and brutally suppressed. They are denied their
    rights and often subjected to various forms of exploitation and
    discrimination. Even their gravestones do not mention their name but
    their identity is written as daughters or wives of someone.

    This lacuna was highlighted by President Ghani while launching the
    National Action Plan on Implementation of the United Nations Security
    Council Resolution 1325 on Women and Peace and Security in June 2015.

    “Woman is woman, she should not be identified as daughter, sister,
    mother; her identity is woman,” President Ghani stressed.

    Many countries – like India, Germany and United Kingdom – do not
    mention the name of parents on the biometric card, although they
    collect and store all the personal information. Some countries – like
    Pakistan and Bulgaria – mention only father’s name. But there are some
    countries like Hungary that mention only mother’s name.

    Some people might argue that even the developed countries do not have
    mother’s name in their national identity cards so it should not be
    seen as an issue of women’s rights.

    But, it is important to note that the struggle for equal rights and
    empowerment of women continues in many western countries. We should
    not blindly imitate them and see our ‘progress’ on the basis of
    parameters set by them. Our fight should be for gender equality to
    ensure that every citizen gets what he or she deserves.

    Some people might argue that the time is not yet ripe to raise such
    sensitive issues of women’s empowerment. That is not necessarily true.
    We must use every opportunity that comes our way to contribute to the
    discourse of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

    It is indeed a highly sensitive issue, and some hyper-sensitive men
    might even boycott the registration process if they are asked to
    mention their mother’s name in the identity card.

    But, nothing is impossible. If the warring groups of warlords can join
    hands for peace and stability in Afghanistan, if we can negotiate
    peace with the armed opposition groups, we can also discuss the
    possibility of including mother’s name in the new identity card.

    We have a reformist leader in President Ashraf Ghani, who does not shy
    away from publicly expressing his love and admiration for the First
    Lady. He must seize this opportunity to create history by doing what
    his predecessor failed to do.

    The electronic national identity card gives us a historic opportunity
    to make every child realize that he or she belongs as much to the
    mother as to the father.

    Mentioning mother’s name in the new electronic identity card would
    send a symbolic message to half of the population that they too are
    part of the country’s legal system and have the same rights as their
    male counterparts.

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