Taliban's treatment of women under scrutiny at UN rights meeting

Taliban rulers won't attend UNHRC meeting, representation falls to previous government's ambassador

Reuters April 29, 2024
Displaced Afghan women stand waiting to receive cash aid for displaced people in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS


Afghanistan's Taliban face criticism over their human rights record at a UN meeting on Monday, with Washington accusing them of systematically depriving women and girls of their human rights.

However, in an awkward first for the UN Human Rights Council, the concerned country's current rulers will not be present because they are not recognised by the global body.

Afghanistan will instead be represented by an ambassador appointed by the previous US-backed government, which the Taliban ousted in 2021.

In a series of questions compiled in a UN document ahead of the review, the United States asked how authorities would hold perpetrators to account for abuses against civilians, "particularly women and girls who are being systematically deprived of their human rights"?

It also called for the promotion of the rights of LGBTQ persons, noting an "escalation of threats and abuse" since the Taliban takeover.

Read also: UN contact group on Afghanistan stalled

Britain and Belgium also raised questions about the Taliban's treatment of women. In total, 76 countries have asked to take the floor at the meeting.

The Taliban say they respect rights in line with their interpretation of Islamic law.

Since they swept back into power, most girls have been barred from high school and women from universities. The Taliban have also stopped most Afghan female staff from working at aid agencies, closed beauty salons, barred women from parks and curtailed travel for women in the absence of a male guardian.

Under the UN system, states' human rights records are subject to peer review in public meetings of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, resulting in a series of recommendations.

While non-binding, these can draw scrutiny of policies and add to pressure for reform. The UN Human Rights Council, the only intergovernmental global body designed to protect human rights worldwide, can also mandate investigations whose evidence is sometimes used before national and international courts.


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