Afghanistan is world’s most repressive country for women, says UN

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

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

Despite initial promises of a more moderate stance, the Taliban have imposed harsh measures since seizing power in August 2021 when Nato forces pulled out of Afghanistan after two decades of war.

They have banned girls’ education beyond primary level and women from public spaces such as parks and gyms.

Women are also barred from working at national and international non governmental organizations (NGOs) and ordered to cover themselves from head-to-toe.

“Afghanistan under the Taliban remains the most repressive country in the world regarding women’s rights,” said Roza Otunbayeva, special representative of the UN secretary-general and head of the mission to Afghanistan.

Afghan women weave wools for making carpets at a traditional carpet factory in Kabul, Afghanistan (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

The restrictions, especially the bans 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 in place allegedly because women were not wearing the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, correctly and because gender segregation rules were not being followed.

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

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

“It will condemn not only women and girls, but all Afghans, to poverty and aid-dependency for generations to come.

An Afghan woman cleans customers’s shoes in a street in Kabul, Afghanistan (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

Women’s right to travel or work outside the confines of their home and access to spaces is largely restricted, 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 citizens goes beyond women and girls,” said Alison Davidian, the special representative for UN Women in Afghanistan.

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

The UN Security Council was to meet later Wednesday with Ms Otunbayeva and women representatives from Afghan civil society groups.

According to the statement, 11.6 million Afghan women and girls are in need of humanitarian assistance.

However, the Taliban are further undermining the international aid effort through their ban on women working for NGOs.

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