04/16/2013, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN
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Burqa sales down in Kabul

Young women, who can now go to school or work, are more likely to reject the garment that covers their bodies from head to toe. Afghan production has also been undermined by cheaper imports from China. Brisk sales continue however in areas where the Taliban presence is still strong.

Kabul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Afghanistan's homegrown burqa industry has seen a sharp drop in demand because of an increase in imports of cheaper Chinese-made burqas and a decline in demand, except in the southern region of the country where it remains high.

In the capital, women, especially the younger ones, who can now go to school or have a job, have stopped wearing the garment that envelops women from head to toe, including the eyes shaded by a net.

Hajji Husain, a veteran burqa maker, told AP that he used to dye between 30 to 40 burqas, but now he only dyes a few garments on a good day.

"The reason is that now more people are going out with bare faces and fewer with burqas, it is out of fashion," he explained.

The other reason that is undermining Afghan production is the arrival of Chinese imports.

Costing half or even a third of locally produced garments, imported Chinese burqas also come embroidered, which means Afghan seamstresses only have to sew on the cap and netted veil for the garment to be ready.

In the areas where the Taliban presence is still strong, the situation is different. Here, the burqa, seen in the West as a symbol of women's oppression, continues to be required and sold.

However, for human rights activists, the burqa is not a crucial problem. Much more important, they argue, are issues like domestic violence, forced marriages and a society that continues to deny to women any freedom.

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