Photo: KabulNow file photos

UN Experts Call for Recognizing Gender Apartheid as Crime Against Humanity

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN – Several UN experts have jointly called for the inclusion of gender apartheid as a crime against humanity, emphasizing the Taliban’s institutionalized system of discrimination and oppression of women and girls, which they argue amounts to gender apartheid.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, February 20, the experts emphasized that the increasing global challenges necessitate the recognition of gender apartheid as a crime against humanity, shedding light on the plight of women and girls in Taliban controlled Afghanistan.

“Gender apartheid is not merely a theoretical possibility or legal construct, but a real threat and lived reality for millions of women and girls around the world – a reality that is currently not explicitly codified in international law,” the experts said.

Since their resurgence to power, the Taliban’s severe restrictions on women’s rights have established one of the world’s most oppressive regimes for women and girls.

Taliban defines women’s rights in accordance with their strict interpretation of Islamic law and has shown no sign of bending amid mounting backlash and pressure to respect the rights of women under international human rights laws.

As the ruling regime in Kabul continues to impose further restrictions on the fundamental human rights of women and girls, there have been many women-led protests both inside and outside the country calling for the recognition of gender apartheid  under Taliban rule.

Since then, several rights groups and experts have voiced concerns that the draconian treatment of women and girls by the Taliban amounts to gender apartheid as their rights to education, employment, mobility, appearance, and other freedoms have been gravely curtailed.

Last year in December, during the 21st annual Mandela Lectures in South Africa, Malala Yousafzai, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, echoed the calls of Afghan women for the recognition of the Taliban’s oppressive policies as ‘gender apartheid’.

“Our first imperative is to call the regime in Afghanistan what it really is. It is gender apartheid,” she said, emphasizing the need to recognize gender apartheid as a crime against humanity.

Earlier this month, two international rights organizations, the International Service for Human Rights and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, jointly appealed to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), urging immediate attention to the ongoing gender-based persecution by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The rights groups argued that the Taliban’s misogynistic edicts and stringent restrictions have resulted in severe marginalization and exclusion of women and girls in all their diversity, similar to apartheid on racial grounds in South Africa.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated on Tuesday that the Taliban must reverse “the outrageous ban” on women and girls.

“Women & girls must be able to fully & meaningfully participate in all aspects of Afghan life – from seats in classrooms to the tables where decisions are made,” Guterres said.

“The Taliban’s rule makes codifying gender apartheid in international law particularly urgent, as it would allow the international community to better identify and address the regime’s attacks on Afghan women and girls for what they are,” the experts said.

“This recognition would not only honor the aim of the apartheid prohibitions in general, but would also be a crucial step towards respecting and asserting the centrality of gender equality,” they concluded, calling on member and observer states of the UN General Assembly to uphold human rights principles.