UN accuses Taliban of imprisoning Afghan women with no male relatives

Since regaining power in 2021, the Taliban has sparked global anger at their treatment of women, including school-age girls who are excluded from education

Unesco says Afghanistan has ranked among the worst places in the world to be born female for years. EPA
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Taliban officials are sending Afghan women to prison, supposedly to "protect" them from gender-based violence, a UN report published on Thursday said.

The report says the Taliban are imprisoning women if they have no male relatives to live with or if male relatives are considered unsafe.

Before the Taliban seized power in 2021, there were 23 state-sponsored women protection centres in Afghanistan, where survivors of gender-based violence could seek refuge.

Now there are none, the UN report explained.

Officials from the Taliban-led administration told the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan there was no need for such shelters, which they described as a western concept.

These tactics are “akin to how prisons have been used to accommodate drug addicts and homeless people in Kabul”, said the UN.

Authorities have asked male relatives for commitments or sworn statements that they will not harm a female relative, inviting local elders to witness the guarantee, the report added.

In October, the UN Security Council requested an independent assessment from Secretary General Antonio Guterres on how the UN should address Afghanistan's challenges, which could prove crucial to creating an inclusive government with respect for women's rights.

Before that, Roza Otunbayeva, UN special envoy for Afghanistan, collaborated with UN Women and the International Office for Migration on a report based on more than 500 interviews with Afghan women.

Among the findings, she said, 46 per cent of women were found to oppose any form of international recognition for the Taliban government, while half emphasised that recognition should be contingent on measurable improvements in women's rights.

Women and girls have been barred from education beyond sixth grade since the Taliban takeover in 2021. Even home-based schooling programmes by international organisations are regularly shut down by the de facto authorities.

A report this year by UN education agency Unesco said 2.5 million Afghan girls and young women are not in the education system – 80 per cent of the age group.

Last week, the US imposed sanctions on two members of the Taliban accused of repressing women and girls in Afghanistan through prohibiting them from gaining access to secondary education.

They are required to take a male chaperone with them on journeys of more than 72 kilometres and follow a strict dress code.

A Taliban decree in July ordered the closure of all beauty salons, one of the few remaining places to where women could go outside the home or family environment.

Unesco has said Afghanistan has, for years, ranked among the worst places in the world to be born female and has one of the world's lowest literacy rates.

Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: December 14, 2023, 11:25 AM