Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan

Drawing by Shira Badakhshi
The situation of women and girls rights in Afghanistan has returned to its pre-2002 state, when the Taliban last ruled the country, effectively erasing progress on women’s rights in the intervening 20 years.

UN-Experts state:

“The 2002 celebration of International Women’s Day was filled with optimism, despite the long-standing discrimination against them by the previous Taliban regime. (…)
Now, over two decades later, girls in Afghanistan have been banned from secondary school and women from tertiary education. Women and girls have been banned from entering amusement parks, public baths, gyms and sports clubs for four months. Women have been banned from working in NGO offices. Since the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban in August 2021, women have been wholly excluded from public office and the judiciary. Today, Afghanistan’s women and girls are required to adhere to a strict dress code and are not permitted to travel more than 75 km without a mahram. They are compelled to stay at home.
The international community must continue to provide robust support to Afghan women:
1) Reaffirm their commitment by taking concrete actions to support and realise the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, in particular their right to
education and employment.
2) Prioritise women and girls rights in all their engagements with the de facto authorities and demand the immediate reversal of edicts and policies that
assault women’s and girls’ rights.
3) Take proactive measures to support Afghan women to engage in decision making processes in Afghanistan and about Afghanistan.
4) Increase support to Afghan women so that they can resume employment, access aid and healthcare (including reproductive healthcare), and have an adequate
standard of living.”

Human Rights Watch criticized in a statement of 6.2.2024:

“The crisis in Afghanistan has largely disappeared from the news. It was pushed aside by the war in Ukraine and the humiliation and fatigue of Western countries whose twenty years of military and civilian intervention ended in dust and defeat. As a new war unfolds in the Middle East, Afghans do not have the option to just move on and forget—for women and girls in particular, life under the Taliban involves ever-deepening misery.
There is broad consensus that the situation in Afghanistan is the most serious women’s rights crisis in the world. The country is ranked last on the Women, Peace and Security Index and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan has referred to “the unprecedented deterioration of women’s rights.” Afghan women—and officials at the UN and elsewhere—have called it “gender apartheid.” Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 75 years ago, there may never have been anything like it—except once, from 1996 to 2001 when the Taliban previously controlled Afghanistan.
Their ban on women working in most roles in aid agencies is putting more women and girls in crisis. In Afghanistan’s increasingly gender-segregated society, if women workers are not there to deliver aid to women, they will often go without aid. Beyond blocking basic access to food at risk, even the chance to walk in a park, play a sport, or enjoy nature is being stripped away from Afghanistan’s women and girls.
Recent Taliban crackdowns on women’s employment in the private sector, including ordering the closure of all beauty salons at a cost of 60,000 women’s jobs, signal a continuing assault on the livelihood of Afghan women. The closure of beauty salons also signifies the loss of one of the very few women-only spaces outside the home—a crucial source of community and support, especially given that the Taliban systematically dismantled services for women and girls experiencing domestic violence.
Women who protest these violations face terrible consequences including enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, and torture. From threats, beatings, and abusive conditions both during detainment and release, the Taliban continue to commit severe abuses against an ongoing—and underreported—string of women’s rights defenders. More recently they have also begun widespread detaining of women and girls on accusations that they were not wearing “proper hijab.”
Afghanistan today faces a constant flow of new restrictions against women and girls—and the Taliban are nowhere near done with their dystopian project.”

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