Over the past two years, the Taliban have systematically excluded Afghan women and girls from public life. This group has extensively violated women’s rights and deprived them of the most basic human rights. According to reports from international human rights organizations, the Taliban have issued more than 50 restrictive edicts pushing women to the margins of society.
Recently, on the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly, a session titled “Combatting Gender Apartheid: The Situation of Women and Girls in Afghanistan” was held, featuring senior United Nations experts. The United Nations expressed deep concern over the dire human rights situation, particularly the vulnerability of women and girls, and this session aimed to address “gender apartheid” and related issues concerning women’s and human rights. The organization emphasized that the situation of women in Afghanistan reflects “systematic gender apartheid.”
It should be noted that one of the proposed agenda items for this session was the idea of convening a special General Assembly session to address gender apartheid in Afghanistan and define this concept of human rights per the Afghan context. However, the Taliban have persisted in torture, detention, and imposing restrictions on women. Recently, this group arrested a female protester along with her four-year-old child.
Senior human rights experts from the United Nations have addressed “gender apartheid” against Afghan women and girls during the 78th United Nations General Assembly session. The United Nations stated that the return of the Taliban to power marks a significant and crucial turning point in Afghanistan. According to this organization, deep concerns have arisen regarding human rights, and especially women’s rights in the country.
In one of the sideline sessions of the 78th United Nations General Assembly, “gender apartheid” in Afghanistan and critical issues related to human rights and women’s rights under Taliban rule were discussed. The United Nations website regarding this session states: “As the international community gathers for the United Nations General Assembly, addressing the multifaceted challenges faced by Afghan women and robustly supporting their fundamental rights and status is imperative.”
The United Nations has added that under the rule of the Taliban regime, Afghan women and girls are facing multiple challenges that almost entirely exclude them from society. According to the United Nations, these challenges are deeply rooted, encompass various aspects of women’s lives and reflect “gender apartheid” in a systematic manner.
Naseer Ahmad Faiq, the chargé d’affaires of Afghanistan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, who was present at this session, says: “During this session, the proposal to hold a special General Assembly session to address gender apartheid in Afghanistan was raised.”
However, Mitra Mehran, a women’s rights activist who attended this session, told the Hasht-e Subh Daily, “International human rights mechanisms for addressing and responding to the Afghan context were discussed in this session.”
She adds that the United Nations has decided to revisit the draft of crimes against humanity after four decades, and gender apartheid will be included as a crime against humanity in it. Ms. Mehran states that there has been lobbying during this session to officially recognize “gender apartheid” for inclusion in international documents, with countries and their representatives advocating for it. She further notes that some countries, including Malta, the Dominican Republic, and South Africa, have provided financial event sponsorship.
According to this women’s rights activist, Richard Bennett, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, believes that “gender apartheid” should currently be defined and applied temporarily in the situation of Afghanistan.
It’s worth mentioning that “gender apartheid” is being discussed at the 78th United Nations General Assembly, following demands from some women’s protest movements that the UN officially recognizes “gender apartheid” in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Notably, Tamana Zaryab Paryani, one of the protesting women, had gone on a hunger strike in Cologne, Germany, a few days ago. With her twelve-day hunger strike, she called on the United Nations and the German Parliament to acknowledge the “gender apartheid” enforced by the Taliban. Several other protesting women and girls, in solidarity with this cause, staged hunger strikes in various cities worldwide, including Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan.
Furthermore, Mohra Faby, a transgender advocate, also went on a hunger strike in Malmo, Sweden, to demand the official recognition of “gender apartheid” by the Taliban against the LGBTQ community in Afghanistan. Her protest tent was dismantled by Swedish police, but she has resumed her protest in another part of the city. She urges Sweden and the United Nations to officially recognize the Taliban’s “gender apartheid” against transgender communities and women.
Previously, Richard Bennett, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, had called on the world to consider “gender apartheid” in Afghanistan as an international crime in a published report. He also urged the Taliban to be accountable for the severe and systematic harassment of women. Mr. Bennett emphasized in his report that the actions of the Taliban against women in Afghanistan can be described as “sexual harassment” and a “crime against humanity.” He added, “Severe, systematic, and institutionalized discrimination against women and girls is at the core of the Taliban’s ideology and rule. Although such serious human rights violations have not yet been recognized as an explicit international crime, further studies are necessary in this regard.”
With their control over Afghanistan, the Taliban have enforced strict orders that have effectively removed women from all aspects of public life. Currently, women officially have no access to education beyond the third grade, and they are excluded from employment in all government and private sectors except for healthcare.
It should be noted that in the United Nations session, Richard Bennett, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Heather Barr, the head of the women’s section of Human Rights Watch, and several Afghan political and women’s rights activists participated. It is still unclear what specific actions and plans will be taken to officially recognize “gender apartheid” by the Taliban in Afghanistan. However, this demand has been widely and persistently raised by the majority of women and intellectuals in Afghanistan.
Afghan women protesters have continuously called on the global community, especially the United Nations, to recognize the widespread human rights violations by the Taliban as crimes against humanity and gender apartheid through protest marches and press conferences. The Taliban, on the other hand, have stated that their restrictions on women are temporary and that they value women under the framework of Islamic Sharia law.
In the latest incident, the Taliban detained a female protester and her four-year-old child in Kabul. Neda Parwani, the protesting woman, has been in Taliban custody for over a week, and her whereabouts and the fate of her child remain unknown.