UN Security Council denounces Taliban bans on women in Afghanistan

The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday called for the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls in Afghanistan, denouncing a ban by the Taliban-led administration on women attending universities or working for humanitarian aid groups.

In a statement agreed by consensus, the 15-member council said the ban on women and girls attending high school and universities in Afghanistan "represents an increasing erosion for the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Twitter on Tuesday that the restrictions were "unjustifiable human rights violations and must be revoked." He added: "Actions to exclude and silence women and girls continue to cause immense suffering and major setbacks to the potential of the Afghan people."

The university ban on women was announced as the Security Council in New York met on Afghanistan last week. Girls have been banned from high school since March.

The council said a ban on female humanitarian workers announced on Saturday "would have a significant and immediate impact for humanitarian operations in the country, including those of the United Nations."

"These restrictions contradict the commitments made by the Taliban to the Afghan people as well as the expectations of the international community," said the Security Council, which also expressed its full support for the UN political mission in Afghanistan, known as UNAMA.

Four major global aid groups, whose humanitarian efforts have reached millions of Afghans, said on Sunday that they were suspending operations because they were unable to run their programs without female staff.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told the Security Council last week that 97 percent of Afghans live in poverty, two-thirds of the population need aid to survive, 20 million people face acute hunger and 1.1 million teenage girls were banned from school.

The Taliban said the ban on women's education would be in place until further notice, and that female employees of non-governmental organizations were not allowed to work because some had not adhered to the administration's interpretation of Islamic dress code for women.

(With input from Reuters)

(Cover: An Afghan burqa-clad woman walks through a street in Kandahar on December 25, 2022. /CFP)

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