The Taliban had seemed to replace Afghanistan's women's ministry with "Ministries of Prayer and Guidance and the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice."

Reuters reported that workers in Kabul on Friday replaced signs for the country's women's ministry with a department that once enforced strict religious doctrines.

When the Taliban was last in power, its the Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice that operated as the Taliban's moral police. The ministry maintained stringent rules limiting women's and girls' autonomy and barred them from work and education.

For several weeks, women employees had been going to work. But despite the Taliban's promise of a different discourse of women in the country, they were repeatedly told to return home and locked out of the building, Axios reported.

Women were also not allowed to work in government ministries with men. The new ministry seemed to be just a slightly rebranded name for the Taliban standards of behavior that turned the group into a notorious organization in the 1990s.

The ministry's religious police officers were also known for beating or lashing women who went against the rules, such as going outside their homes with male escorts and not wearing proper Islamic clothes.

The New York Times reported that they had also banned girls from school after primary grades and refrained women from seeking jobs. Unwed couples were at risk of being stoned to death for adultery.

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Women in Afghanistan Under Taliban Rule

According to Taliban member Mohammad Yousuf, Taliban members noted that the institution is important as the main purpose is to serve Islam, making it compulsory to have the said ministry.

The minister of higher education, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, said earlier this week that women could continue to study in universities and postgraduate programs. However, they can only do so in gender-segregated classrooms while wearing appropriate Islamic dress.

In Kabul and other cities, women who have protested in support of their rights have been beaten by Taliban members. Taliban special forces had used tear gas and rifle butts, among others, to stifle protests.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan is currently monitoring the Taliban's behavior. The U.N.-arm was created in 2002.

Zarifa Ghafari, Afghanistan's youngest mayor and the first female mayor of Maidan Sharh province, expressed her worries under the Taliban rule. She said the organization would come for people like her and kill her.

Ministry of Virtue and Vice

The said ministry, established when the Taliban first came to power, exercised its rule between 1996 and 2001, BBC reported.

The ministry was responsible for deploying religious police onto the streets to impose the Taliban's strict interpretation of Islamic religious law, known as Sharia.

Entertainment such as music and dancing were banned, as well as soap operas. Pastime activities such as playing chess or flying kites were also not allowed. Prayer times were also strictly enforced.

Men were made to grow bears, and Western-style haircuts do not receive warm welcomes. Two Taliban members noted that they did not expect the Taliban to impose the same rules that the group had in the past. They added that its enforcers would likely not be police or soldiers.

Human Rights Watch had dubbed the ministry as a "notorious symbol" of abuses. Last September 7, the Taliban announced a list of cabinet posts. It included an acting minister for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice but did not mention of a women's minister. 

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Written by: Mary Webber

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