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UN: Afghanistan is the world’s most repressive country for women


ISLAMABAD – Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the country has become the most repressive country in the world for women and girls, deprived of many of their basic rights, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

In a statement released on International Women’s Day, the UN mission said Afghanistan’s new rulers have shown an almost “exceptional focus on imposing rules that effectively lock most women and girls into their homes.”

Despite initial promises of a more moderate stance, the Taliban have imposed harsh measures since seizing power in August 2021 as US and NATO forces are in the final weeks of their withdrawal from Afghanistan after two decades of war.

They have banned education for girls after sixth grade and women from public areas such as parks and gyms. Women are also not allowed to work for national and international non-governmental organizations and must cover themselves from head to toe.

“Afghanistan under the Taliban remains the most repressive country in the world on women’s rights,” said Roza Otunbayeva, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of Mission in Afghanistan.

“It was disturbing to witness their methodical, deliberate and systematic efforts to push Afghan women and girls out of the public sphere,” she added.

The restrictions, especially the ban on education and NGO work, have drawn fierce international condemnation. But the Taliban have shown no signs of backing down, claiming the bans are temporary suspensions, allegedly because women did not properly wear the Islamic headscarf or hijab and because gender segregation rules were not followed.

Regarding the ban on university education, the Taliban government has said that some subjects taught were not in line with Afghan and Islamic values.

“Locking half the country’s population to their homes in one of the world’s greatest humanitarian and economic crises is a colossal act of national self-harm,” Otunbayeva also said.

“It will not only condemn women and girls, but all Afghans to poverty and dependence on aid for future generations,” she said. “It will further isolate Afghanistan from its own citizens and from the rest of the world.”

The UN mission in Afghanistan also said there has been a near-constant stream of discriminatory decrees and measures against women since the Taliban takeover — the right of women to travel or work beyond the confines of their homes and access to spaces is largely limited, and they have also been excluded from all levels of public decision-making.

“The implications of the harm the Taliban are inflicting on their own civilians goes beyond women and girls,” said Alison Davidian, the UN Women’s Special Representative in Afghanistan.

No officials from the Taliban-led government were immediately available for comment.

The UN Security Council was scheduled to meet later Wednesday with Otunbayeva and female representatives of Afghan civil society groups.

According to the statement, 11.6 million Afghan women and girls are in need of humanitarian aid. However, the Taliban are further undermining international aid efforts by banning women from working for NGOs.

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