The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recently released a report describing the challenges facing women and girls in Afghanistan as “gender apartheid” and that it should be called a “crime.” Co-authored by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, the report outlines the systemic discrimination that Afghan women face as well as their unwavering resilience in the face of adversity at the hands of the Taliban regime.
The report is based on interviews with 79 Afghans, of whom 63 were inside Afghanistan, with a variety of backgrounds including journalists, lawyers, teachers, students, and businesswomen. The authors also relied on a survey from March 2023 of over 2000 Afghan women across 18 provinces as well as a focus group in 11 provinces. The report includes information gathered during a visit to Afghanistan by the Special Rapporteur and the Chair of the Working Group where they met with representatives of civil society, women’s groups, religious leaders, etc.
Based on this widespread survey of the country, the findings of this report revealed that Afghan women are systematically denied basic human rights in crucial areas such as education, health services, free movement, and representation in public and political life. These restrictions have led to a surge in feelings of depression and isolation, and various forms of violence including domestic abuse.
It is important to note that these deprivations predominantly stem from the Taliban’s policies and edicts issued daily. However, these edicts go beyond just regulating women, as many edicts are directed at punishing men for the behavior of women as well. Women’s rights advocates and policy experts have often expressed deep concern over the normalization of discrimination and violence against women within Afghan society and the undermining of their freedom and agency through such edicts.
Gender Persecution – Crime Against Humanity
Together, the reports highlights, the various forms of discrimination that Afghan women face amount to gender persecution, a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute. The report also maintains that gender apartheid is an accurate description of the situation facing Afghan women due to the institutionalized nature of this discrimination. This apartheid framing serves as a call to action for the international community to respond to this practice.
Ultimately, the report concludes with a series of recommendations for the international community to remain engaged in Afghanistan and take concrete steps toward accountability. Some of these recommendations include creating a report on gender apartheid in Afghanistan, supporting funding for women-led organizations, and supporting those seeking justice in international courts.
This report serves as a reminder of the importance of the imperative to stand in solidarity with Afghan women in the face of the egregious human rights violations. The threat to women’s liberties posed by the Taliban leadership represents one of the worst cases of gender discrimination in the world. It is incumbent upon the global community to heed the guidance outlined in this report and to commit to listening and supporting Afghan women.
UN – OHCHR 06/15/2023