More than 80,000 global supporters and activists have signed a petition calling on the international community to urgently stand up for women’s rights in Afghanistan and hold the Taliban accountable for their unrelenting suppression of women and girls’ rights, Amnesty International said today on International Women’s Day.
The petition, which calls for states to prioritize, monitor and support women’s and girl’s rights in Afghanistan, has been delivered to governments across the globe.
Over the last six months, the Taliban have systematically discriminated against women and girls by introducing policies that have severely restricted women’s freedom of movement and expression and undermined girls’ access to education and employment. In the space of just half a year, they have eroded two decades of women’s contributions to the country,Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director
“The speed at which the Taliban are dismantling the hard-fought human rights gains of Afghan women should send a chilling reminder to the international community of their responsibility to safeguard the women and girls of Afghanistan, many of whom are being silenced through reprisal attacks, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and torture. As this petition makes clear, the Taliban must be held accountable for their actions.”
The fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 led to significant improvements in women’s rights. Over the last two decades, around 3.3 million girls have gained access to education while women have been able to actively participate in the political, economic, and social life of the country. Afghan women have found work as lawyers, doctors, judges, teachers, engineers, athletes, activists, politicians, journalists, bureaucrats, business owners, police officers, and members of the military.
But now, as the world celebrates International Women’s Day, Afghan women and girls are unable to fully exercise their human rights. Instead, they are facing unfettered oppression by the Taliban. Recently, they have suffered an unprecedented number of reprisal attacks, with the Taliban evading any form of accountability. Seven months after the Taliban takeover, the fears that Afghan women harboured for decades have turned into a grim daily reality.
Since taking power, the Taliban have dismantled the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA) and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). They have also blocked female employees of government institutions and NGOs from returning to work, prevented three million girls from accessing education and imposed severe restrictions on women’s and girls’ rights. These repressive actions break international human rights law.
“There is a need for multi-level interventions, including local, regional and international efforts to ensure women and girls’ rights are protected. A UN-led monitoring mechanism, for instance, should be established to oversee women’s situation and hold the Taliban accountable,” said Shabnam Salehi, former Women’s Rights Commissioner at AIHRC.
Mahbouba Seraj, Executive Director of Afghan Women Skills Development Center, said: “Do not forget the Afghan women. Be our voice and raise your voice with your own governments. The rest of the struggle is on us, and we will continue”.
On 25 November 2021, which marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, Amnesty International launched a campaign to advocate for the rights of Afghan women.