Guess what? The Taliban’s treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan could amount to a crime against humanity, according to a UN report presented on Monday at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. While presenting his report at the meeting, Richard Bennett said the Taliban’s policy was calculated and deliberate to oppress women.
- Richard Bennett presented his new report at the 52nd annual session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday.
- In a report covering July to December 2022, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, found that the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls “may amount to gender persecution, a crime against humanity”.
- He also said that no country can work with half of its large population, who are practically locked up at home.
- “The Taliban’s intentional and calculated policy is to repudiate the human rights of women and girls and to erase them from public life,” Bennett told the United Nations Human Rights Council. “It may amount to the international crime of gender persecution for which the authorities can be held accountable,” he added.
- Bennett said the Human Rights Council should send a strong message to the Taliban that the “abysmal treatment of women and girls is intolerable and unjustifiable on any ground, including religion”.
- “The cumulative effect of the restrictions on women and girls has a devastating, long-term impact on the whole population, and it is tantamount to gender apartheid,” he said.
- The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights said that restrictions imposed on women and girls in Afghanistan have a long-term devastating impact on Afghanistan’s entire population.
- “The role of women employees in providing assistance is very important,” Bennett noted. “I call on the actual authorities to immediately lift the ban on women working for NGOs.”
- Bennett added that the detention of activists creates fear in society and has a frightening effect on the fundamental freedoms of citizens. To protect communities, he said, more needs to be done.
- He said that in addition to this, there must be accountability for human rights violence in Afghanistan and long-term immunity against crimes should be challenged, whether against crimes committed in the past or what is currently being committed.
- Bennett said conditions in Afghanistan have continued to deteriorate since he submitted his initial report to the council back in September and noted, “Afghans are trapped in a human rights crisis that the world seemed powerless to address.”
- Bennett reported on widespread human rights violations, on the flogging in public of hundreds of women, children and men for alleged crimes including theft and so-called illegitimate relationships. He said he had received credible reports of multiple extrajudicial killings of fighters by the Taliban, of arbitrary arrests, torture, and ill treatment.
- “There must be consequences for those responsible for serious human rights violations,” he said. “Longstanding impunity needs to be challenged for past as well as present crimes.”
Why it matters? The Taliban seized power in August 2021, drastically curtailing women’s freedoms and rights, including their ability to attend high school and university.
- The Taliban have in the past said they respect women’s rights in line with their interpretation of Islam and Afghan culture and that they plan to open schools in future once they establish certain conditions for girls.
- The United Nations reports that since the Taliban takeover of the country in 2021, the poverty rate has doubled with 28 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including more than six million Afghans on the brink of famine.
Back story: In December, the Taliban banned most female aid workers, prompting many aid agencies to partially suspend operations in the midst of a humanitarian crisis unfolding during the cold winter months.
- Not only are women and girls barred from visiting parks, gyms, and public baths, but new edicts issued by the Taliban have prevented women from attending universities and banning them from working with non-governmental organizations.
- In addition to depriving women of work and education, the group has imposed severe crackdowns on women. Women cannot travel without deprivation and must also observe the group’s hijab.
Zoom out: This comes even as the UN Women’s Status Commission on Monday began its meeting on the status of women in the world and is scheduled to continue until March 17. The status of women, especially in countries like Afghanistan, will be central to the discussion of representatives of governments.
- The Taliban in Afghanistan has eliminated women and girls from the “social arena,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a meeting of the Commission on the Situation of Women.
- He stressed that the UN will pursue the fundamental rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.
- “Our message to [Taliban] officials was that Afghan women and girls have fundamental rights and we will never stop fighting for them,” Guterres said, referring to a recent visit by the deputy chief constable and head of the UN Women’s Body.
- Apart from this, Nasir Ahmad Andisha, ambassador and permanent representative of Afghanistan at the United Nations in Geneva, took the floor before the council, validating the litany of severe abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law described by the special rapporteur.
- Andisha said that the arbitrary arrests and forceful detentions of peaceful human rights defenders, university professors and activists “should be investigated as gender persecution — a crime against humanity.”
- He called for the establishment of an independent investigative mechanism that could collect, analyze, and preserve evidence of human rights violations of Afghans, “especially those of women, children, and vulnerable groups.”
- Also, in a joint statement to the UN Human Rights Council, EU member states and some Western nations expressed deep concern about the deteriorating situation of women and girls in Afghanistan under the Taliban control.
- A joint statement by 70 countries, including the European Union, was issued on Monday to address a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
- The statement indicates that Western countries have prioritized the human rights situation, particularly the situation of women in relation to the Taliban.
- The European Union considers the full realization of the right to education for Afghan women as a fundamental condition for achieving sustainable development, it stated. It added that women’s academic deprivation in Afghanistan deprives them of access to human rights and equal opportunities without discrimination.
- EU member states also believe that banning women from working in NGOs puts millions of Afghans who need humanitarian assistance at risk to continue their lives.
- The European Union stressed that the restrictions imposed on Afghan women undermine Afghanistan’s capacity to move towards lasting peace, economic development and the enjoyment of human rights.
- Even, Britain’s representative to the UN Human Rights Council said that the Taliban have made it nearly impossible for the Afghan people to live with dignity and security.
- Half of Afghanistan’s population is virtually locked in their homes, said Simon Manley, Britain’s representative to the UN Human Rights Council. “If women use their freedom, they are at risk of being arrested and beaten,” she added.
- Manley noted that domestic violence is on the rise and that girls face the devastating fate of forced marriage instead of going to school and planning freely for their future.