UN rights body seeks reversal of Taliban policies restrictive of Afghan women’s rights

Afghan women and girls have been demonstrating against the Taliban's rules restricting their freedom in recent months [Getty]

The United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution on Friday condemning rights violations against women and girls in Afghanistan, urging the ruling Taliban to end restrictive practices described as making them “invisible” in society.

The Taliban seized power for a second time in Afghanistan last August as international forces backing a pro-Western government pulled out.

Critics say women’s rights have since been undermined with new curbs on their clothes, movement and education, despite earlier Taliban vows to the contrary.

“Since August 2021, the human rights situation in Afghanistan has seriously deteriorated, especially for women and girls,” said Czech ambassador Václav Bálek on behalf of the European Union, which brought the resolution.

“Restrictive measures put in place by the Taliban are making (them) invisible in Afghanistan society”.

The council’s decisions are not legally binding but carry political weight and can lead to official investigations.

Friday’s resolution, backed by dozens of countries, was passed without a vote, although China’s mission disassociated itself from the outcome, describing it as “not balanced”. It is one of 11 draft resolutions under consideration on Friday.

Among its supporters was the Afghanistan envoy Mohibullah Taib, appointed by the previous Afghan government, who said new curbs amounted to “gender apartheid”.

In rare cases, envoys of governments no longer in power can continue to address UN bodies until a credentials committee in New York decides otherwise.

The US ambassador to the council, Michèle Taylor, also voiced concern over recent measures, mentioning a new policy to punish male family members who are not enforcing restrictions that was creating an environment of “constant fear”.

The resolution foresees a debate in September or October at the next council session, in which Afghan women’s rights activists will have the chance to participate.

Marc Limon of the Universal Rights Group think-tank said the Taliban were unlikely to change course as a result of the condemnation but suggested the UN could have leverage if it tied women’s rights to international assistance in the future.



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