The Taliban are wiping out women from the public sphere, UN experts warn

A painting on the wall of the former embassy for women's affairs in Kabul, Afghanistan, reading "Brave" and "Afghan women no longer silent", 3 January, 2022. (Credit: Reuters/Ali Khara)

Women are being removed from the public sphere in Afghanistan through Taliban policies that constitute a “collective punishment of women and girls”, a group of UN experts warned on Monday.

“We are concerned about the continuous and systematic efforts to exclude women from the social, economic, and political spheres across the country,” the experts said in a press release.

The group of than 30 experts appointed by the UN to oversee human rights issues includes special rapporteur on violence against women Reem Alsalem, special rapporteur on human trafficking Siobhán Mullally and special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Morris Tidball-Binz.

Since taking over the country in August 2021, the Taliban has imposed restrictive measures on women and girls, for instance barring them from going back to work or to school, from being in public without a male relative or from using public transport by themselves.

Read our series: Dispatches from women in Afghanistan

“In addition to severely limiting their freedom of movement, expression and association, and their participation in public and political affairs, these policies have also affected the ability of women to work and to make a living, pushing them further into poverty,” the group added.

The country, whose GDP depends up to 42 per cent on foreign aid, saw many of its major donor countries pull out their support in retaliation to the Taliban’s takeover and many of its assets overseas frozen.

Compounded with the economic fallout of the pandemic and ravaging droughts, the collapse of the banking system has sent Afghanistan spiralling into a humanitarian crisis.

The UN launched last week a record appeal for $5bn to help the 22 million Afghans that are being pushed into poverty and food insecurity.

The experts called on countries to step up their efforts to provide the much needed assistance, while continuing “to hold the de facto authorities accountable for continuous violations of the rights of half of the Afghan society and to ensure that restrictions on women and girl’s fundamental rights are immediately removed”.

Read more: Afghanistan: UN calls for record aid increase to avert ‘catastrophe'

“Any humanitarian response, recovery or development efforts in the country are condemned to failure if female staff, women-led organisations, and women in general – particularly those from minority communities – continue to be excluded from full participation in the needs assessments as well as in the decision-making, design, implementation and monitoring of these interventions,” the experts said.