Foreign Ministers of 12 Nations, EU Representatives Call Taliban’s Ban on Working Women Reckless As Even UN Programmes Temporarily Stopped

The latest: In a joint statement, foreign ministers of 12 countries and representatives of the European Union (EU) said that Taliban’s ban on working women puts at risk millions of Afghans who depend on humanitarian assistance for their survival. Apart from this, the United Nations said that some “time-critical” programs in Afghanistan have been temporarily stopped and warned many other activities will also likely need to be paused because of the ban by the Taliban-led administration on women aid workers.

Go deeper:

  • While calling the Taliban’s order reckless and dangerous, the statement urged the group to urgently reverse its decision of barring female employees of national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from the workplace.
  • The statement had been issued by the Foreign Ministers of Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States and the High Representative of the European Union.
  • “Women are absolutely central to humanitarian and basic needs operations. Unless they participate in aid delivery in Afghanistan, NGOs will be unable to reach the country’s most vulnerable people to provide food, medicine, winterization, and other materials and services they need to live.  This would also affect the humanitarian assistance provided by international organisations, as they utilise NGOs to deliver such materials and services,” the statement added.
  • The statement also noted that the Taliban seems disinterested in seeking normal relations with the international community as they continue to demonstrate their contempt for the rights, freedoms, and welfare of the Afghan people, particularly women and girls.
  • They urged the Taliban to respect the political, economic, social, and cultural rights of women and girls in Afghanistan and said that they stand in solidarity with the Afghan people’s calls for girls and women to return to work, school, and university, and for women to continue to play essential roles in humanitarian and basic needs assistance delivery.
  • The joint statement also said that the signatories are in discussion with the United Nations to avoid any disruption and allow the continuation of all humanitarian operations of international and national NGOs.
  • UN aid chief Martin Griffiths, the heads of UN agencies and several aid groups said in a joint statement that women’s “participation in aid delivery is not negotiable and must continue,” calling on the authorities to reverse the decision.
  • “No country can afford to exclude half of its population from contributing to society,” said the statement, which was also signed by the heads of UNICEF, the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization, the UN Development Programme, and the UN high commissioners for refugees and human rights.

Back story: Last week, the insurgent group had ordered an indefinite ban on university education for all female students in the country. The Taliban administration had also asked all local and international non-governmental organisations to stop their female employees from coming to work. The NGO order came in a letter on Saturday from Taliban’s Economy Minister Qari Din Mohammed Hanif. Abdel Rahman Habib, spokesman for the Taliban’s ministry of economy, accused female workers at the foreign aid groups of breaking dress codes by not wearing hijabs. It said any organization found not complying with the order will have their license revoked in Afghanistan.

  • After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August last year, the insurgent group had claimed that there would be no discrimination against women.
  • Both secondary education for girls and higher education for women have already been stopped by the Taliban. The Economy Ministry’s order comes days after the Taliban banned female students from attending universities across the country, triggering backlash overseas and demonstrations in major Afghan cities.

Zoom out: There has been global outrage over the increasing restrictions which the Taliban has imposed on women. In a statement on Tuesday, the 15-member Security Council said the ban “represents an increasing erosion for the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms”. It called for the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls in Afghanistan. The Security Council too urged the Taliban to reopen schools and swiftly reverse such policies and practices.

  • The council declared that Saturday’s ban on female aid workers “will have significant and immediate implications for humanitarian work in the country, including for the United Nations”.
  • At least five global aid groups have also suspended operations in Afghanistan because they were unable to run their programmes without female staff.
  • The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Twitter on Tuesday that the sanctions “must be repealed” because they constitute unjustified violations of human rights. “The silencing of women and girls has caused great suffering and dealt a severe blow to the capabilities of the Afghan people,” she said.
  • UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous said in a statement that the de facto authorities of Afghanistan have once again found new ways to harm the women and girls of Afghanistan. Bahous said that in barring women from contributing to the efforts of aid organisations, the Taliban suspended aid for half the population of Afghanistan, “aid that they depended on and without which they will not survive.”
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