A United Nations expert has stated that the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan could amount to “gender apartheid” as the country’s de facto authorities continue to seriously abuse their rights.
“Serious, systematic and institutionalized discrimination against women and girls is at the heart of the Taliban’s ideology and rule, which also raises concerns that they may be responsible for gender apartheid,” Richard Bennett, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
It may become an international crime
The United Nations defines gender apartheid as economic and social discrimination against individuals on the basis of gender or sex.
“We have indicated the need for further research with regard to apartheid between the sexes, which is not currently an international crime, but may become one,” Bennett told reporters on the sidelines of the council sessions.
“It seems that if we apply the definition of apartheid, which at the moment is about race, to the situation in Afghanistan and use the word gender instead of race, there would seem to be strong indications of that,” he added.
For his part, said movement spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid that the Taliban government applies Islamic law and accused the United Nations and Western institutions of “spreading lies.”
The spokesman added in a statement that “Richard Bennett’s report on the situation in Afghanistan is part of this spreading lies that do not reflect the facts.”
A crime against humanity
The Taliban seized power in August 2021, greatly curtailing women’s freedoms and rights, which include their ability to attend high school and university.
Bennett said in a report covering the period from July to December 2022 that the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls “may amount to gender-based persecution, which is a crime against humanity.”
Bennett reiterated that “this grave denial of women and girls’ basic rights and the strict application of their restrictive measures by the de facto authorities may constitute a crime against humanity of gender-based persecution.”
In April, Taliban authorities began imposing a ban on Afghan women working for the United Nations after banning women from working for aid groups in December.
The Taliban authorities say they respect women’s rights in accordance with their strict interpretation of Islamic law.
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