UN chief cites Afghanistan as ‘egregious’ example of women’s rights violations

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres labeled Afghanistan as the most “egregious” instance of assaults on women’s rights and defenders of these rights.

During a sideline meeting of the 68th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Guterres highlighted the severe restrictions on the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, calling the situation “appalling.”

“Women’s rights are under siege globally, with even the safest spaces being compromised. Those who stand up for justice face violence and threats,” Guterres said. “Afghanistan stands out as the most flagrant case, where women and girls are virtually excluded from education beyond sixth grade, employment outside their homes, and any role in public life.”

The Taliban’s policies, which prohibit girls over sixth grade from attending school and women from working in NGOs, have drawn widespread criticism both domestically and internationally.

A Kabul resident lamented the marginalization of women and girls under Taliban rule, urging the UN not to abandon them during these challenging times. “This is a significant injustice to Afghan women and girls. We urge the UN to stand with us and help us escape this plight,” the resident said.

Additionally, the Taliban has detained numerous women’s rights activists who have demanded their right to education and work. Manizha Sediqi, a prominent activist, has been in custody for over five months. Women’s rights groups are calling for urgent international intervention to improve the conditions of women and girls in Afghanistan.

“We urge the UN and the Human Rights Council to find immediate solutions and take decisive action to halt the oppression of women and girls in Afghanistan,” stated Taranom Saeedi, a women’s rights advocate.

Despite these allegations, the Taliban asserts that it upholds the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. The UN’s special rapporteur on Afghan human rights recently reported a continuous decline in the country’s human rights situation.

Meanwhile, Joseph Borrell, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, labeled the Taliban’s stringent restrictions on women as “gender apartheid” at a press conference on Tuesday.