Afghanistan Global Womens Rights

The Taliban “Suggests” the UN replace its national Afghan women staff with men. The UN says it is “steadfast” not to replace Afghan women with men. 

In a recent meeting, the UN Envoy for Afghanistan told the UN Security Council that the Taliban, “act against the key values expressed in the United Nations Charter.” Roza Otunbayeva stated that while the Taliban wants to be recognized by the UN and its 192 member nations, the group continues to imposes restrictions against the fundamental human rights of Afghan women and girls. 

The UN Envoy said she has been “blunt” with the Taliban leaders about the “obstacles” the group has created for themselves, making international recognition “nearly impossible.” 

During the briefing, Roza Otunbayeva also highlighted that despite the Taliban’s request to replace the UN’s national Afghan women staff with Afghan men, the UN remains “steadfast” not to replace Afghan women with Afghan men. 

The people of Afghanistan and the international community “share a common anguish with women and girls again banned from receiving a quality education and participating in public office,” said the representative of Afghanistan, calling it “gender apartheid.” 

The UN faces a concerning dilemma for continued activity in Afghanistan and delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians. Otunbayeva stated that the UN will not “put its national female staff in danger,” which means women are no longer reporting to the office. But in order to respect the principle of non-discrimination, all male staff performing non-essential tasks have been asked to stay home. The UN is standing firm on its decision to not replace female national staff with male national staff, despite requests and pressure from the de facto authorities.

This exacerbates an existing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, where high poverty levels and starvation have made people reliant on donor funding and UN cash shipments to survive. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Carl Skau, visited Afghanistan and reported witnessing “one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises.” As a result of the latest restrictions on women’s employment combined with funding cuts from the WFP, rations have been reduced, affecting 8 million highly-vulnerable people. 

The Taliban is responsible for creating these difficult conditions by issuing edicts against women and girls and establishing a gender apartheid in Afghanistan. As long as these restrictions are in place, they will not, and should not, be recognized by the international community. According to Otunbayeva, during UN conversations with Afghans across the country, they reveal that the Taliban decrees are unpopular. The Taliban is missing both domestic and international legitimacy, in addition to “inflicting suffering on their population and damaging their economy.”

The United States currently has 3,900 staff in Afghanistan through the United Nations Assistance Mission In Afghanistan (UNAMA), including 400 women nationals and 200 women internationals. The UN directive is that the Taliban must change its behavior in order to get the recognition they seek. Until then, the UN has not abandoned the people of Afghanistan under these trying circumstances and continues to call for an end to the de facto regime’s discriminatory policies. 

UN 06/21/2023; AP 06/21/2023

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