António Guterres: Afghan girls are exiles in their own country

Presenting his priorities for 2023, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at the UN general assembly in New York on Monday that “women and girls in Afghanistan are exiles in their own country, banned from public life, with every aspect of their lives controlled by men”.

The UN, António Guterres said, will seek to build consensus around human rights in the most challenging situations in Afghanistan. And that the rights of women and girls were being trampled and deadly terrorist attacks continued.

In addition to Afghanistan, the UN chief also touched on the crackdown of women protesters in Iran for demanding their “fundamental human rights”. “While the most extreme examples get attention, gender discrimination is global, chronic, pervasive and holds every single country back.”

Guterres also pledged to “double down” on support for measures towards greater gender equality.

Shortly after returning to power in August 2021, the Taliban banned girls from secondary schools, and in December last year, it ordered a ban on women from universities, which the group defended as necessary to prevent the mixing of genders.

Many countries, human rights organisations, UN agencies, and Guterres himself, have repeatedly asked the Taliban to reverse their bans on women education and work. The Taliban leadership, however, have refused to change course on restrictions on women and girls.