Afghan women, girls feel forgotten by world, HRW official says

Women activists during an indoor protest. File photo.

KABUL — The women and girls of Afghanistan feel abandoned by the international community, according to Heather Barr, Associate Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In an analysis, Barr highlights the worsening human rights situation under Taliban rule, emphasizing the need for global action.

Barr stressed that it should be a priority for every government that claims to care about women’s rights to hold the Taliban accountable.

She referenced the forthcoming presentation by Richard Bennett, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, to the U.N. Human Rights Council. Bennett’s report powerfully calls for accountability for the Taliban’s crimes against women and girls.

Barr describes the Taliban’s regime as an “institutionalized system of discrimination, segregation, disrespect for human dignity, and exclusion of women and girls.” It underscores that Afghan women and girls feel forgotten by the world, with Bennett’s report leaving no doubt about the gravity of the Taliban’s abuses.

The women’s rights crisis in Afghanistan is the most severe in the world and continues to deteriorate. The Taliban have issued numerous abusive orders and intensified the enforcement of existing ones. In March, they decreed that women could be stoned to death for so-called moral crimes, such as sex outside of marriage and fleeing their homes to escape domestic violence.

The HRW official warned of escalating suicide rates among women in Afghanistan, many of whom describe themselves as prisoners in their own homes.

Bennett calls the Taliban’s system of discrimination a crime against humanity, labeling it “a widespread and systematic attack on the entire civilian population of Afghanistan.”

Barr called for several measures, including the recognition and codification of gender apartheid as an international crime. It urges states to bring cases to the International Court of Justice regarding Taliban violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and to support the International Criminal Court’s investigation into Taliban crimes, including gender persecution. Furthermore, it advises against any normalization or legitimization of the Taliban until substantial, verifiable improvements in human rights, particularly for women and girls, are evident.

Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, they have issued over 50 decrees directly and indirectly affecting the women and girls of Afghanistan.