The UN’s top expert on rights in Afghanistan urged countries Monday to consider making “gender apartheid” an international crime, helping hold the Taliban accountable for its grave and systematic abuses against Afghan women.
Since ousting a foreign-backed government in August 2021, the Taliban authorities have imposed many restrictions on women, barring girls from secondary school, pushing women out of many government jobs, preventing them from travelling without a male relative and ordering them to cover up outside the home.
“It is imperative that we do not look away,” Richard Bennett told the UN Human Rights Council.
Presenting his latest report, the UN special rapporteur on the situation in Afghanistan told the council that the Taliban’s actions could constitute the crime against humanity of “gender persecution”.
In addition, “grave, systematic and institutionalised discrimination against women and girls is at the heart of Taliban ideology and rule, which also gives rise to concerns that they may be responsible for gender apartheid”, he said.
Such “serious human rights violations, which although not yet an explicit international crime, requires further study,” he insisted.
Framing gender apartheid as an international crime would highlight that other countries and the broader international community “have a duty to take effective action to end the practice”, the report said.
“Women often talk about being buried alive, breathing, but not being able to do much else without facing restrictions and punishments,” said Shaharzad Akbar, the head of the Rawadari rights group and former head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.