Afghan women under Taliban most repressed, UN says

Wednesday March 08 2023
Afghan women protesting

Afghan female university students crowd outside a university in Kabul guarded by Taliban security personnel. Afghanistan's Taliban rulers banned university education for women nationwide, provoking condemnation from the US and the UN over human rights violations. PHOTO | WAKIL KOHSAR | AFP


“Afghanistan under the Taliban Government is the "most repressive country in the world" for women's rights, with authorities effectively trapping women and girls in their homes,” the United Nations said on Wednesday.

AFP journalists said about 20 women on March 8, 2023, held a rare demonstration in the streets of Kabul, calling on the international community to protect them.

The Taliban Government adheres to an austere interpretation of Islam and has imposed a slew of restrictions on girls and women since seizing power in August 2021.


Taliban fighters check commuters along a road in Kunduz, Afghanistan. PHOTO | AFP

"It has been distressing to witness their methodical, deliberate, and systematic efforts to push Afghan women and girls out of the public sphere," Roza Otunbayeva, head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, said in a statement marking International Women's Day.

The UN mission said the crackdown was a "colossal act of national self-harm" at a time Afghanistan faces some of the world's largest humanitarian and economic crises.


Taliban bars women

Taliban authorities have removed women from all but essential government jobs or are paying them a fraction of their former salary to stay at home.

Women are also barred from going to parks, funfairs, gyms, as well as public baths; and ordered to cover up in public - ideally with a ‘burqa’.

But the biggest crackdown has been on teenage girls and university students, with the authorities banning them from secondary schools and higher educational institutions.

Read: Taliban ban Afghan women from universities

Some women have staged sporadic protests against the bans, risking arrest, violence and social stigma. However, authorities usually disperse them swiftly.

Afghan women

Afghan women protesting against Taliban rule in Kabul. PHOTO | HOSHANG HASHIMI | AFP

"The time has come for the UN to take a decisive and serious decision concerning the fate of the Afghan people," one of the protesters at the Kabul rally read from a statement.

Afghan hunger crisis

No country has officially recognised the Taliban government as Afghanistan's legitimate rulers, with the right to education for women a sticking point in negotiations over aid and recognition.

Aid agencies said more than half the country's 38 million people were facing hunger and nearly four million children were suffering from malnutrition.

The crisis was compounded late last year when the Taliban leadership banned Afghan women from working with NGOs, forcing several aid agencies to suspend their vital work.

Foreign aid has also declined dramatically since Afghanistan's assets were frozen by the United States after the Taliban returned to power, further aggravating the crisis.

Read: Biden demands Taliban free last US hostage

Alison Davidian, the UN Special Representative for Women in Afghanistan, said the implications of the government's policies impacted all Afghans and will resonate throughout generations.