The UN in Afghanistan calls for an immediate end to draconian restrictions on the rights of women & girls by the de facto authorities
KABUL - On International Women’s Day, the United Nations in Afghanistan is renewing its call on the country’s de facto authorities to halt and reverse harsh restrictions on the fundamental rights of women and girls.
Since August 2021, the Taliban de facto authorities have demonstrated an almost singular focus on imposing rules that leave most women and girls effectively trapped in their homes. These restrictions are at odds with human rights obligations set forth in instruments concerning human rights and fundamental freedoms to which Afghanistan is a State party and by which it is bound, and damage Afghanistan’s prospects of recovering from decades of war.
“Afghanistan under the Taliban remains the most repressive country in the world regarding women’s rights, and it has been distressing to witness their methodical, deliberate, and systematic efforts to push Afghan women and girls out of the public sphere,” said Roza Otunbayeva, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
“Confining half of the country’s population to their homes in one of the world’s largest humanitarian and economic crises is a colossal act of national self-harm. It will condemn not only women and girls, but all Afghans, to poverty and aid-dependency for generations to come. It will further isolate Afghanistan from its own citizens and from the rest of the world,” Otunbayeva said.
UNAMA has recorded an almost constant stream of discriminatory edicts and measures against women by the de facto authorities since August 2021.
In September 2021, the de facto authorities suspended girls’ secondary education and, despite public pronouncements to the contrary, extended the suspension indefinitely when classes resumed in March 2022. Although the de facto authorities have said that they are in the process of aligning the school curriculum with Islamic values and cultural norms, no progress has been visible. In December 2022, the de facto Ministry of Higher Education suspended university education for women.
The denial of access to education has innumerable actual and potential physical and psychosocial repercussions, including suicides; child marriage; early childbearing; poverty-related losses such as in regard to health, nutrition, well-being and wealth due to lower earnings; diminished agency, decision-making and related social capital; and increased risk of domestic violence and sexual exploitation and abuse.
Women’s right to travel or work outside the confines of their home and to access public spaces is largely restricted. Women have also been excluded from all levels of public decision-making.
“Afghan women have shown incredible courage and resilience in the face of their ongoing and systematic erasure,” said Alison Davidian, Special Representative for UN Women in Afghanistan.
“The implications of the harm the Taliban are inflicting on their own citizens goes beyond women and girls. It impacts all Afghans and will resonate throughout generations. The rights of women and girls must be restored immediately in order to build an inclusive, peaceful and hopeful Afghanistan.”
Women human rights defenders peacefully protesting have been targeted, beaten, and arrested. Combined, these decrees, directives, and rules limit women’s ability to earn a living, access health care and education, escape violence, and exercise their rights.
In 2023, 13.8 million Afghan women and girls are in need of humanitarian assistance – yet the de facto authorities have undermined the unprecedented international aid effort by also banning women working in non-governmental organizations, even though they are crucial to the delivery of life-saving help.
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