UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Afghanistan Says Taliban Is Normalizing Systematic Violations of Women’s Rights

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan, Richard Bennett.

The latest: In his latest report submitted to the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights for Afghanistan, Richard Bennett has stated that the Taliban is normalizing systematic violations of women’s rights.


Go deeper:

  • Bennett’s report speaks of women’s fundamental rights being crushed with arbitrary detention of women protesters, prohibition of the right to secondary education and higher education, and the right to work and to be in public spaces.
  • The special rapporteur catalogues widespread, serious abuses, and suggests that their “discriminatory denial of women and girls’ fundamental human rights may amount to gender persecution, a crime against humanity.”
  • The special rapporteur describes a country under the Taliban in which there is “very little tolerance for difference, and none for dissent.” Journalists are increasingly subject to surveillance, intimidation, violence, and detention.
  • The special rapporteur also documents the severe human rights implications of the economic crisis that has been exacerbated by international sanctions and the abrupt loss of foreign aid, which supported most government services. An estimated 18.9 million Afghans – half the population – are experiencing acute food insecurity. This dire humanitarian crisis has been made worse by the Taliban’s refusal to allow women to work. Although female health workers are meant to be exempt, they “are severely hampered by the policies of the de facto authorities.”

Between the lines: Human Rights Watch responding to the report, said, “Denying women basic rights discrimination is an example of sexual harassment that may turn into crimes against humanity.” HRW also emphasises the human rights situation of minorities in Afghanistan, saying that Hazaras, Shiites and other religious minorities have historically faced discrimination and abuse in Afghanistan.

  • According to its findings, the pattern of attacks that killed and injured thousands of civilians during the previous government has continued after the Taliban took control. In the year following the Taliban takeover in August 2021, at least 1,000 people were killed in bombings apparently carried out by armed groups linked to the Islamic State (ISIS). Most of the attacks targeted Hazaras.
  • Human Rights Watch says the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur is not limited to the post-Taliban period. Bennett has also urged the Dutch to pay financial compensation to victims of the bombing of civilians in Daikundi in 2007.


Zoom out: This comes even as global demand for more sanctions against the Taliban rise. In a letter to the US secretary of state on Thursday, House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Michael McCaul criticized the White House’s “poor response” to the Taliban’s “heinous treatment” of Afghan women and girls.

  • He called for more measures, including a complete ban on issuing visas to Taliban officials. McCall wrote that he was concerned about the US government’s weak response to the Taliban’s removal of Afghan women and girls from the social arena.
  • “Although on February 1, 2023, the State Department announced visa restrictions against the Taliban… But the next day, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price reiterated that only six Taliban officials were subject to visa restrictions. “In total [now], only eight Taliban members have been banned from entering the US legally,” he added.
  • “I call on the US government to take stronger steps in response to the Taliban’s inhumane treatment of women and girls and to impose additional sanctions against Taliban officials,” McCaul said.
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