Unanswered Questions

I often observe how the Afghan men and boys treat women and girls in our society—how they think about them and what they expect from their future wives. It is shocking.

I have had discussions with many boys in Afghanistan who are well educated, rich, and free to do whatever they like, but with regard to their future wives they demand a double standard.

Unfortunately, nowadays there are many women who have turned to prostitution to earn money to support their families, and though this is illegal it gives men the opportunity to fulfill their physical needs. I don’t mind this. As a free human, I think you have choices to do what you want. But what makes me angry is the demands these boys and men put on their future wives.

While they do whatever they want when they are young—drinking, having lots of girlfriends and physical relationships with different women—they still want their wives to be pure and to be virgins. The first kiss must be saved for him, the husband; the first boy’s hand a girl holds must be that of her husband’s.

When I ask a boy why he wants a virgin when he is not one, he doesn’t know. He answers, “Because I am a man and my case is different than a girl’s.”

Do you think it is fair that a girl is expected to be a virgin for her husband, when he is not? Do you think the reasons a man gives for what he is doing are fair and justify what he does? Is it acceptable that men impose a double standard on women?

By Marzia N.

Photo by Mohammad Kherkhah


  1. Alexis Wiggins says:

    I love this, and love the title. You ask uncomfortable questions. They are uncomfortable because confronting the truth is uncomfortable. This double standard CAN change, slowly, through women, especially us women educating our sons to respect women and not some virtuous ideal that serves only to please men.

  2. All very good and fair questions, Marzia.

    Double standards are neither reasonable nor fair.


  3. Sahar Muradi says:

    Salaam Marzia jan,
    Thank you so much for your eloquent essay. I think it is very important to shine a light on hypocrisies and double standards. As an Afghan woman, your questions really resonated with me. I think there is so much emphasis placed on the purity of the girl and little to no emphasis on the qualities/behaviors/actions of the boy. I loved that you asked a young man directly and he couldn’t provide a clear answer. Understanding and change comes from having these conversations, person to person. So thank you for that, and for your words!


  4. Michelle Stark says:

    That is a great question Marzia. I have also question to the double standard that men hold us to, but not quiet to the same extent. I don’t think that women should be held to such a higher standard when men are allowed to be with whom ever they wish. Why should it be any different if women are not virgins when they marry? If these men want to have a pure wife they should not contaminate her with the things they have done with other women.
    Here in the society I live in, for women to have relations with multiple men are considered to be a “slut,” or a whore. If you are a man that has relations with more than one woman they are more likely to be praised for it then to be looked down upon.
    There is a loophole to be able to be with a man before marriage but there are rules we have to follow. We are allowed to choose who we want to marry, so we “date” before we settle down with one partner. A funny way to put it would be trial and error. When we date, we can only have one other partner and have any relation we want with our partner if they give their consent -which includes hand holding, kissing, sex, etc. (depending on their religious views). A major issue is if they commit adultery and cheat on their partner. Again it is much worse if the one committing adultery is the woman. At that point we can break up with this partner and look for a new partner.
    But what happens to those women that are with many men before marriage or before they date, and does anyone choose them in the end?

  5. Jessica says:

    I agree with your questions, in which, they are logical ones to be asked. In my opinion it is not fair, but in a man’s defense we as women expect something out of our men as well. Although, they expect us to be pure we expect them to be strong and be able to protect us. If a man is weak in our eyes we do not want them, and for them if a woman has slept with many men it shows the same thought of her being weak. To stay pure for whom you marry shows that you as a woman have the strength to over come things in your life, and you are not easily manipulated by just anyone. It is unfair but each person has a different reason and expectation which in the eyes of another would be considered irrational.

    – Jessica

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