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UN: Afghanistan is the most repressive country in the world for women


ISLAMABAD — Since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, the country has become the most repressive in the world for women and girls, deprived of many of their fundamental rights, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

In a statement released on International Women’s Day, the UN mission said the new Afghan leadership has shown an “almost unique focus on imposing rules that leave most women and girls effectively trapped in their homes”.

Despite initial promises of a more moderate stance, the Taliban has imposed harsh measures since seizing power in August 2021, as US and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their withdrawal from Afghanistan after two decades of war.

They banned the education of girls beyond sixth grade and banned women from public spaces such as parks and gymnasiums. Women are also banned from working in national and international non-governmental organizations and must cover themselves from head to toe.

“Afghanistan under the Taliban remains the most repressive country in the world when it comes to women’s rights,” said Roza Otunbayeva, special representative of the UN secretary general and head of mission in Afghanistan.

“It has been heartbreaking to see their methodical, deliberate and systematic efforts to push Afghan women and girls out of the public sphere,” she added.

The restrictions, particularly bans on education and NGO work, have drawn fierce international condemnation. But the Taliban have shown no signs of backing down, saying the bans are temporary suspensions in place, allegedly because women did not wear the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, properly and because gender segregation rules were not enforced. not respected.

As for the ban on university education, the Taliban government said that some of the subjects taught were not in line with Afghan and Islamic values.

“Confining 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-harm,” Otunbayeva also said.

“This will not only condemn women and girls, but all Afghans, to poverty and aid dependency for generations to come,” she said. “This will further isolate Afghanistan from its own citizens and from the rest of the world.”

The UN mission in Afghanistan also said it had seen an almost constant stream of edicts and discriminatory measures against women since the Taliban took over – women’s right to travel or work outside from their homes and access to spaces are largely restricted, and they have also been excluded from all levels of public decision-making.

“The consequences of the harm the Taliban inflicts on its own citizens go beyond women and girls,” said Alison Davidian, UN Women’s Special Representative in Afghanistan.

No Taliban-led government official was immediately available for comment.

The UN Security Council was due to meet later Wednesday with Otunbayeva and women representatives from Afghan civil society groups.

According to the statement, 11.6 million Afghan women and girls are in need of humanitarian assistance. However, the Taliban further undermines the international aid effort by banning women from working for NGOs.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.