The United Nations (UN) considered today that Afghanistan has become, since the seizure of power by the Taliban, the most repressive country in the world for women and girls, deprived of many basic rights.
In a statement released on International Women’s Day, the UN mission in Afghanistan said the country’s new rulers had shown an “almost singular focus on enforcing rules that leave the majority of women and girls effectively trapped in their homes”.
Despite initial promises of a more moderate stance, the Taliban have imposed tough measures since taking power in August 2021, when US and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their withdrawal from Afghanistan after two decades of war.
The Taliban banned the education of girls beyond the sixth grade and banned women from public spaces like parks and gyms.
Women are also banned from working in national and international non-governmental organizations and required to walk around covered from head to toe.
“Afghanistan, under Taliban rule, remains the most repressive country in the world with regard to women’s rights,” said Roza Otunbayeva, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of Mission in Afghanistan.
“It has been harrowing to witness their methodical, deliberate and systematic efforts to drive Afghan women and girls out of the public sphere,” she added.
The restrictions, especially bans on education and work in non-governmental organisations, have drawn strong international condemnation, but the Taliban show no signs of relenting, claiming the bans are temporary suspensions, allegedly because the women were not wearing the Islamic headscarf correctly, or hijab, and denying any gender segregation.
As for the ban on university education, the Taliban government alleges that some of the subjects taught were not in line with Afghan and Islamic values.
“To confine half the country’s population to their homes in one of the world’s greatest humanitarian and economic crises is a colossal act of national self-aggression,” said Otunbayeva.
“This will condemn not just women and girls, but all Afghans to poverty and aid dependency for generations to come,” she insisted, adding: “It will further isolate Afghanistan from its own citizens and the rest of the world.”
The UN mission in Afghanistan also said it had seen an almost constant stream of decrees and discriminatory measures against women since the Taliban seized power – the right to travel or work outside the confines of their homes and access to public spaces are largely restricted. . Women are equally excluded from all levels of public decision-making.
“The implications of the harm the Taliban are inflicting on their own citizens go beyond women and girls,” said Alison Davidian, UN Special Representative.
No Taliban-led government official was available for comment on these UN positions.
The UN Security Council is due to meet today with Otunbayeva and women representing Afghan civil society groups.
According to the statement, 11.6 million Afghan women and girls are in need of humanitarian assistance.
However, the Taliban are undermining the international aid effort by banning women from working for non-governmental organizations.