Decree after decree, the Taliban has erased women and girls from public life in Afghanistan, denying them their fundamental rights and freedoms. Meanwhile, "the international community turns a blind eye to these abuses," denounced the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
The Woman Post | Ayda María Martínez Ipuz
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Women's and girls' rights have regressed globally in recent years, and in Afghanistan, this plight has been deep and widespread since the Taliban took power in August 2021, stated the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al-Nashif, during the Interactive Dialogue of the Human Rights Council on Afghan Women and Girls. She lamented the discrimination faced by this group at "all levels."
In 22 months, all aspects of the lives of women and girls have been restricted. Afghanistan is the only country in the world where girls cannot receive education beyond primary school.
Amnesty International added that the prohibition on women working has worsened the economic problems of many families who previously had stable professional incomes, and the suppression of women from government positions has greatly undermined the capacity of the state. Women are increasingly threatened by gender-based violence and by the rigorous restriction of their rights to freedom of assembly and expression, which even affects their choice of clothing.
"The Taliban has institutionalized discrimination against women; they deny our fundamental rights [...] they intend to erase women from society and turn us into prisoners in our own homes," said Fawzia Amini, a former judge of the Supreme Court of Afghanistan, to AI.
Since the fall of the first Taliban regime in 2001, 3.3 million girls received education, and women actively participated in the political, economic, and social life of the country. Despite the ongoing conflict, Afghan women had become lawyers, doctors, judges, teachers, engineers, athletes, activists, politicians, journalists, bureaucrats, businesswomen, police officers, and military personnel.
"The international community must pressure the Taliban to guarantee women's rights and do everything in their power to ensure women are part of the new government. The Taliban cannot eliminate half of Afghanistan's population," insisted Zala Zazai, a former police officer, who is among the profiles highlighted by AI in their campaign for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
The climate of fear
Afghanistan is also the only country in the world that prohibits women from working for international organizations, including the United Nations, as well as from working outside the home in many sectors.
But the worst is the climate of fear and persecution experienced by women in the country. The UN warned that this prohibition on women holding public positions has an additional impact on the ability of women and girls to be seen, heard, and participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives.
In this context, there is no accountability for the violations of their rights, nor is there a gender-sensitive and accessible justice system for them, which the UN called to condemn to draw attention to the need for additional measures to protect their freedoms.
The international community cannot "allow such extreme discrimination and violence against women and girls to be accepted, let alone normalized" in any place, emphasized Al-Nashif.
Special Rapporteur about situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, reminded us that severe, systematic, and institutionalized gender-based discrimination is at the core of the ideology and power of the Taliban.
"This amounts to gender apartheid, a serious human rights violation that, although not yet an explicit international crime, needs to be investigated," he stressed, emphasizing the imperative of not looking the other way. "We hope that the entire international community will join the fight for the rights of Afghan women."
Mental health issues
Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, the Chair of the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls, drew attention to the state of mental health of Afghan women, who are pressured by poverty and uncertainty.
"The deterioration of mental health is one of the main concerns of all the women we have spoken to, and according to a survey, nearly 50% of them know at least one woman or girl who has experienced anxiety or depression since August 2021, and 7.8% know a woman or girl who has attempted suicide," she detailed.
Under these conditions, flagrant forms of gender-based discrimination are committed with impunity, disregarding the rights, safety, and autonomy of women. Without respect for their fundamental rights, women are condemned to live under tyranny, she said.