In a joint report to the Human Rights Council of the UN, Richard Bennett, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, and Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, president of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, affirmed that the situation of women and girls in the country is the worst in the world.
“Women and girls in Afghanistan experience severe discrimination that can amount to gender-based persecution and a crime against humanity. Furthermore, it can be termed as apartheid of gender, since the de facto authorities seem to be governed by a systemic discrimination intended to subjugate women and girls to total domination,” Bennett said.
“Although backlash against the rights of women and girls has developed in different countries and regions in recent years, nowhere else in the world has there been such a widespread, systematic and global attack on women’s rights. and girls like in Afghanistan,” Estrada-Tanck said.
The experts noted that edicts enacted by the Taliban since they took control of the country in August 2021 have placed widespread restrictions on the rights of women and girls, including their freedom of movement, dress and behavior, access to education, work, health and justice.
The restrictions have also drastically affected the participation of women and girls in political, public, economic and socio-cultural life, and have led to a significant increase in spousal and intrafamily violence.
The experts traveled to Afghanistan from April 27 to May 4, visiting Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif. They met with women and men from civil society, businessmen, religious leaders, teachers, journalists, UN agencies, the diplomatic community, international NGOs and de facto officials.
The report highlights that “the flagrant violations of the fundamental right to education quality will have lifelong consequences, not only in terms of employment opportunities, but also in access to basic services such as health care.
The document refers to how Afghan women today they are prohibited from working outside the home in most sectorsleaving home without a male relative, or maharamaccess public bathrooms, parks and gyms, and move freely around the country.
This stifling environment is having an impact on the mental health of women and girls, with widespread alerts of depression and suicideespecially among adolescents who are prevented from continuing their studies, the report says.
No health protection
Restrictions placed on women and girls are also limiting their access to routine and emergency health care, with dire consequences for their health and sexual and reproductive rightswhile adding more pressure to a health system already overburdened by poverty and years of war.
“Since girls and women can only be cared for by female doctors, unless the restrictions are quickly reversed, there is a real risk of multiple preventable deaths, which could amount to femicide,” the study said.
No legal protection
The UN experts expressed their deep concern about the absence of legal protection for women and girls, the systematic application of the discrimination and the normalization of gender violence -including gender-related homicides-, forced and child marriage, sale of girls and organs, child labour, human trafficking and unsafe migration.
Women do not have access to legal professionals. Some female lawyers continue to provide legal services from their homes, but are barred from entering courtrooms in most towns, the report explains.
The experts also heard testimony from women who filed for divorce, but were reprimanded by a judge with comments such as: “Your hand is not broken, your leg is not broken, why do you want a divorce?” Women who reported domestic violence to the police were told that they ‘shouldn’t complain’, or that they probably ‘deserved to be beaten’.
Lastly, the document calls on the de facto authorities to respect and restore human rights of women and girls, and urges the international community to remain engaged with the situation in Afghanistan and to take concrete steps to support accountability for gross violations of women’s fundamental guarantees.