Taliban leaders in Afghanistan are institutionalising large-scale and systematic gender-based discrimination and violence against women and girls, a group of 36 UN human rights experts have said.
“We are concerned about the continuous and systematic efforts to exclude women from the social, economic, and political spheres across the country,” the experts said in a statement Monday.
“These concerns are exacerbated in the cases of women from ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities such as the Hazara, Tajik, Hindu and other communities whose differences or visibility make them even more vulnerable in Afghanistan.”
The Taliban have introduced a series of restrictive measures against women and girls since the takeover of the country in August. Many women have been barred from returning to their jobs.
Taxi drivers have been directed not to pick up female passengers who are not wearing a specific hijab.
Women fear repercussions if they leave the house without a male relative.
“These policies have also affected the ability of women to work and to make a living, pushing them further into poverty,” the experts said.
“Women heads of households are especially hard hit, with their suffering compounded by the devastating consequences of the humanitarian crisis in the country.”
Denied access to school
Of “particular and grave concern” is the continued denial of the fundamental right of women and girls to secondary and tertiary education, the statement continued.
The vast majority of girls’ secondary schools remain closed, and most girls who should be attending grades 7-12 are denied access to school, based solely on their gender, the experts said.
They also noted the increased risk of exploitation of women and girls, including trafficking for child and forced marriages, and forced labour.
“Various vital, and sometimes lifesaving, service providers supporting survivors of gender-based violence have shut down for fear of retribution, as have many women’s shelters, with potentially fatal consequences for the many victims in need of such services.”
Other efforts to dismantle systems designed to respond to gender-based violence included discontinuing specialised courts and prosecution units responsible for enforcing the 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Institutions that were set up to assist and protect vulnerable women and girls like the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the Independent Human Rights Commission or women’s shelters have been closed or physically occupied.
Women and girls in Afghanistan have been protesting the measures continuously for the past five months, demanding their rights to education, work and freedom.
Taliban fighters have repeatedly beaten, threatened or detained demonstrating women.
The group of experts reiterated their call to the international community to step up urgently needed humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people and the realisation of their right to recovery and development.