Systemic gender oppression in Afghanistan may amount to crimes against humanity

Systemic gender oppression in Afghanistan may amount to crimes against humanity

The de facto authorities in Afghanistan, the Taliban, swept back into power in August 2021 and swiftly began curtailing women’s rights, including imposing stricter dress codes, banning higher education for girls, excluding women from the job market, and restricting freedom of movement in public spaces. 

This repression is bolstered by the Taliban’s use of violence, mainly through murder, enforced disappearance, torture, rape and other inhumane acts, according to the UN expert’s latest report. 

“The Taliban’s institutionalisation of its system of oppression of women and girls, and the harms that it is continuing to entrench, should shock the conscience of humanity,” said Mr. Bennett. 

Systemic ‘gender apartheid’ 

Since the Taliban takeover, a series of verbal and written decrees have effectively eliminated the fundamental freedoms of Afghan women and girls, with violence being used to enforce their edicts.  

According to the report, the systematised oppression will disempower Afghan women across generations, ingraining their inferior socioeconomic status and State-enforced dependence on men. 

Mr. Bennett is firmly of the viewpoint that “gender apartheid” most fully encapsulates this ongoing injustice, given its institutionalised and ideological nature.

The Human Rights Council-appointed expert is recommending Member States recognise the concept of gender apartheid and propel its codification. He believes doing so will effectively address the unmatched human rights crisis confronting Afghan women. 

‘All tools’ approach needed

The UN expert is calling on the Taliban to take immediate steps to restore the fundamental rights of women and girls. He is also pushing for an “all tools” approach to dismantle the Taliban’s institutionalised system of gender oppression and to hold those responsible to account. 

This would involve international accountability mechanisms including the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). It would also include pursuing cases at the national level. 

Mr. Bennett opposes any legitimization of the Taliban leadership until concrete, measurable, and verified improvements on human rights take place. 

“Afghans, in particular Afghan women and girls, have shown tremendous bravery and determination in the face of Taliban oppression. The international community must match this with protection and solidarity, including decisive and principled action, which places human rights front and centre,” the UN expert said.

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