UN Security Council urges Taliban to reverse restrictions on women

High Commissioner for Human Rights warns recent policies risk destabilising Afghan society

The Taliban last week barred women from universities 'until further notice'. AFP
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The UN Security Council on Tuesday called for the Taliban to reverse the restrictions it has imposed on women in the country, including barring them from higher education and working for NGOs.

“The Security Council is deeply alarmed by reports that the Taliban have suspended access to universities for women and girls, and reiterated its deep concern of the suspension of schools beyond the sixth grade,” the body said in a statement

The Taliban last week barred women from universities “until further notice”, dealing another blow to women's rights following the group's takeover of Afghanistan last year.

The group also announced that women would be barred from working for NGOs and international organisations, a move that caused widespread outrage amid concerns that a staff shortage would mean Afghans will not be able to receive the care that they need.

Aid agencies Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Care International have said the decision will force them to suspend operations in the country.

The US condemned the Taliban's actions, arguing the group would be “further alienated from the international community”.

“We will continue to take steps to advance our shared efforts to support Afghan women and girls and provide robust humanitarian support to the people of Afghanistan,” National Security Adviser Adrienne Watson said.

When it took control of Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban initially promised they would not reimpose restrictions on women.

But since last year, women and girls have been virtually excluded from public life, forced to cover their faces and travel long distances with a male relative. They have even been barred from amusement parks.

“No country can develop — indeed, survive — socially and economically with half its population excluded,” said Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“These unfathomable restrictions placed on women and girls will not only increase the suffering of all Afghans but, I fear, pose a risk beyond Afghanistan’s borders.”

Aid organisations help to provide basic life necessities to many people in Afghanistan and most of the services are provided by women, Mr Turk said.

“The ban will significantly impair, if not destroy, the capacity of these NGOs to deliver the essential services on which so many vulnerable Afghans depend,” he added.

“It is all the more distressing with Afghanistan in the grip of winter, when we know humanitarian needs are at their greatest and the work these NGOs do is all the more critical.”

Updated: December 27, 2022, 10:31 PM