UK diplomat blasts Taliban for putting 'medieval misogyny' above humanitarian needs

Ban on Afghan female aid workers comes less than a month after Security Council extended UN mission's mandate in the country for another year

Afghan burqa-clad women climb a stony path in Kabul. AFP
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Britain’s top diplomat at the UN on Thursday blasted the ban on Afghan female humanitarian personnel as “medieval misogyny”.

“Two out of three Afghans depend on humanitarian aid,” Britain's Ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward told reporters ahead of a Security Council briefing on Afghanistan.

“The UN could not, and should not have to, depend on being able to deliver aid effectively without women.

“Taliban authorities are placing medieval misogyny above humanitarian need by banning women from participating in UN humanitarian delivery.”

The closed meeting was requested by Japan and the UAE after the Taliban decided to prohibit Afghan women from working for the UN throughout Afghanistan.

The UN Secretary General's special representative, Roza Otunbayeva, met Taliban officials on Wednesday and was told the decision was an extension of the December 24 edict directing NGOs working in Afghanistan to suspend all female employees.

The ban is the latest in a series of measures enacted by the Taliban that have imposed increasingly severe restrictions on the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls.

The Taliban’s decision comes less than a month after the council extended the UN mission's mandate in Afghanistan for another year and requested that Secretary General Antonio Guterres provide the council with an independent assessment of the international community’s approach to the country.

Robert Wood, the US Deputy Ambassador to the UN, told reporters the Security Council is “obviously troubled” by the latest Taliban directive and sees this as another effort by the group to “erase Afghan women and girls from society”.

Mr Wood expressed hope that, at some point, a “united council” would speak on the issue, as “we think that's something that the times call for”.

Russia’s ambassador Vasily Nebenzya told reporters the whole council was appalled by the Taliban's decision.

“We agreed to work on a product by the council … and to come up with something that would be useful and balanced,” he said when asked why the Security Council had failed to issue a formal statement on the ban.

The UN has told about 3,300 Afghan staff — of which about 400 are women — not to report to their offices until further notice due to security reasons. The 600 international staff in the country are not affected by the ban.

Updated: April 06, 2023, 7:34 PM