The regressive Taliban government has now barred men and women from eating out at restaurants together in the western Afghan city of Herat. The rule needs to be followed even by married couples.

The Taliban have been continuously and gradually restricting interaction between men and women in the public sphere. The Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in its latest decree has also asked men and women to visit public parks in Herat on different days.

We told women to go to parks on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The other days are set aside for males to visit for leisure and exercise," said Riazullah Seerat, a Taliban official, according to a report in The Independent.

The development comes a week after the Taliban government made it compulsory for women to cover themselves from head to toe using a "chadori," an all-covering burqa that also veils the face.

The order had even suggested that women should not step out of their houses unless necessary. After taking over Afghanistan last year in August, the Taliban had indicated that they would adopt a more flexible attitude towards women and their rights.

However, they have been gradually imposing more and more restrictions on Afghan women's daily lives. They have been barred from boarding a flight without a male relative, and women cannot undertake any long journey without a male relative or guardian.

The Taliban had taken the same approach in the 1990s. If women violated any of the restrictions, they were subjected to flogging or in some cases were even stoned to death.

The UN Security Council also held an emergency meeting last week on the Taliban's latest crackdown on Afghan women. A UN report had also warned that restricting women from taking part in the workforce will have a devastating impact on the economy.

The Taliban have imposed various restrictions on women and girls, despite pledging a softer rule compared with their first stint in power in the 1990s Photo: AFP / Wakil KOHSAR