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Afghanistan: Women and Children in distress

“Women and children are in distress. Voices of Afghan women, aspirations of Afghan children, and the rights of minorities must be respected,” said India’s Permanent Ambassador to UN, T S Tirumurti.

Merely hours after Afghanistan’s debacle into the hands of the Taliban, words of concern echo from all quarters of the society over the human rights situation in Afghanistan especially for women and children.

Since the Taliban’s regaining of power in Afghanistan over twenty years after being removed, fear of mass human rights violations have been resurrected with people desperately trying to flee the country and voices have been raised from an international quarter in support of maintaining human rights for women, children, and minorities in Afghanistan.

Earlier, during the Security Council’s briefing on the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan on August 16, under India’s Presidency, India’s Permanent Representative to UN T S Tirumurti said that a grave humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Afghanistan. He further expressed concern about women’s and children’s rights in the ‘war-torn’ country.

Echoing his support on the same, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also expressed particular concern over mounting violations against women and girls under Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The Secretary-General further stressed that ‘voices of Afghan women, aspirations of Afghan children and the rights of minorities must be respected.

Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ireland’s Permanent Representative to UN too raised her voice in support of women’s rights in Afghanistan. Ireland’s envoy to the UN called Security Council to make the rights of women a priority in all future Afghanistan negotiations.

“Women of Afghanistan- we hear you and we hear your pleas to the international community at this dark time. The fear, indignation, and sense of betrayal you feel are understood. It is righteous. I call on this council to stand with the women of Afghanistan,” Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason said.

For years, Afghan women were subjected to persistent human rights violations and brutal discrimination. During the Taliban’s first regime, draconian rules were imposed on women and girls- women could not work and girls were barred from attending schools. Also, women were asked to cover their faces and must be accompanied by a male relative while going out and were denied basic healthcare. They (Women) were subjected to brutal punishment for breaking the rules set by the insurgent group.

However, the situation significantly improved for women and girls following the US-led military ousted Taliban. Resulting in a great number of Afghan women contributing to the development of Afghanistan. According to the USAID data, student enrollment in Afghanistan grew from 900,000 male students in 2001 to more than 9.5 million students, 39 percent of whom are girls, in 2020. Also according to reports, as of last year, at least a quarter of the members of the Afghan Parliament were women.

But as the Taliban tightened their grip around the country, Afghan women and girls fear the return of those dreadful days.

Earlier on August 18, the US, UK, New Zealand along with eighteen other countries issued a joint statement on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan.

“We are deeply worried about Afghan women and girls, their rights to education, work, and freedom of movement. We call on those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan to guarantee their protection. Afghan women and girls, as all Afghan people, deserve to live in safety, security, and dignity,” the statement reads.

However the Taliban this time around announced to respect women’s rights within the framework of Islamic law. But the ground reports reported by local media seem to stand in stark contrast with the situation in reality and statements made by the Taliban.

According to the local media reports, in some places, women were barred from getting into universities. Also, women in some places were asked not to leave the house without a male escort.

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