South Asia

Global Debate on Women Rights in Afghanistan

On 9 March 2022, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held an Open Debate on Women, Peace, and Security, during which the situation of women’s rights in Afghanistan was discussed. The debate shed light on the harsh reality that Afghan women have been facing since the Taliban’s takeover of the country in August 2021. Afghanistan has long been recognized as one of the most repressive countries in the world regarding women’s rights, and the Taliban’s return to power has only worsened the situation. Pakistan has joined with international community in condemning the policies adopted by Taliban regime and continues to call for moderation and flexibility.

Afghanistan has a long history of patriarchal traditions that have prevented women from enjoying basic rights and freedoms. Under the Taliban’s previous rule from 1996 to 2001, women were subjected to severe restrictions, including being barred from attending school, working outside their homes, or leaving their homes without a male relative. Women who violated these restrictions were punished severely, often facing physical violence and imprisonment.

Since the Taliban’s return to power, there have been numerous reports of violations of women’s rights. Women have been banned from working in most sectors, including the public sector, healthcare, and education, except in a few limited roles, and even then, they are required to work in gender-segregated settings. Girls have been barred from attending school beyond the age of 12, and women are not allowed to travel without a male relative or a signed permission letter from a male guardian. The Taliban have also banned women from participating in sports and entertainment activities and have imposed dress codes that require women to wear a burqa or a full-length veil in public.

The Taliban’s restrictions on women have had devastating consequences for Afghan women’s health, education, and economic opportunities. Before the Taliban’s takeover, there were significant gains in women’s education and employment in Afghanistan, but those gains are now in danger of being reversed. Women who were employed in various sectors, including healthcare and education, have lost their jobs, leaving them without a source of income to support their families. The ban on girls’ education has also deprived them of their right to an education and the opportunity to achieve their full potential.

There have also been reports of increasing violence against women, including forced marriages, domestic violence, and sexual harassment. The Taliban have not taken any concrete steps to address these issues and have instead continued to impose their repressive policies on women.

On March 7th, 2022, the European Union (EU) imposed sanctions on two acting ministers of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) government for their role in promoting gender-segregated practices and banning women’s education in public spaces. The two ministers sanctioned are Neda Mohammad Nadim, the acting minister of higher education, and Mohammad Khalid Hanafi, the acting minister for the propagation of virtue and prevention of vice.

The EU’s decision to impose sanctions on the two ministers is a response to the Taliban’s continued violations of women’s rights in Afghanistan since their return to power in August 2021. The Taliban’s policies have been widely criticized by the international community, with many countries, including the EU, condemning the group for their repressive measures against women and girls.

Neda Mohammad Nadim, the acting minister of higher education, has been accused of promoting gender-segregated classrooms, which deprive women of the opportunity to pursue higher education. Mohammad Khalid Hanafi, the acting minister for the propagation of virtue and prevention of vice, has been accused of enforcing strict dress codes and promoting gender segregation in public spaces, which restrict women’s freedom of movement.

The EU’s decision to impose sanctions on the two ministers sends a strong message to the Taliban that their continued violations of women’s rights will not be tolerated. The sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes, which will limit the two ministers’ ability to travel internationally and access their financial assets.

The EU has been actively working to support women’s rights in Afghanistan, and the decision to impose sanctions on the two ministers is a part of that effort. The EU has also been providing humanitarian assistance to Afghan women and girls, including support for education and health care. The EU’s efforts are aimed at empowering Afghan women and girls to achieve their full potential and lead a life of dignity and respect.Bottom of Form

Afghanistan has a long history of women’s rights violations, and the Taliban’s return to power has only worsened the situation. The Taliban’s policies have deprived women of their basic rights and freedoms, leaving them vulnerable to violence, poverty, and oppression. The international community must take immediate steps to address the situation and ensure that Afghan women’s rights are protected. The UNSC Open Debate on Women, Peace, and Security is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to address the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan and protect the rights of women and girls.

Awais Abbasi

The author is Islamabad based researcher and political commentator. He is currently serving as visiting fellow in University of South Asia.

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