Taliban’s treatment of women could be crimes against humanity: UN expert

The Taliban’s restrictions on the freedoms of women and girls could amount to a crime against humanity, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan said on Friday.

Richard Bennett and other UN legal experts said that the Taliban’s attacks on women and girls “deep blatant violations of their human rights and freedoms, which are already the most draconian in the world and could amount to gender-based persecution – a crime against humanity”.

Most women working for the government have lost their jobs – or are being paid starvation wages to stay at home – since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021.

Afghan women have also been banned from traveling without a male relative and are required to cover themselves with a burqa or headscarf when outside the home.

This month, the Taliban banned women from parks, amusement parks, gyms and public baths.

Schools for teenage girls have also been closed across most of the country.

“In recent months, violations of the fundamental rights and freedoms of women and girls in Afghanistan, which are already the most serious and unacceptable in the world, have escalated,” the UN experts said in a statement.

“Locking women in their homes amounts to incarceration and is likely to lead to increased levels of domestic violence and mental health problems.”

– ‘Appalled’ at flogging –

Human rights defenders who have been peacefully protesting the restrictions have been increasingly targeted, beaten and arrested for months, they added.

According to the experts, discriminatory Taliban measures “should be examined with a view to prosecution under international law as gender-specific persecution”.

UN experts do not speak for the United Nations, but are mandated to report their findings to the global body.

They called on the Taliban to respect women’s fundamental rights and on the international community to demand the restoration of women’s freedoms and rights.

The UN human rights office separately said it was “appalled” by the flogging of 11 men and three women in Afghanistan on Wednesday and called for “an immediate end to this heinous form of punishment.”

They were flogged after being found guilty of theft and “moral crimes,” an official in Logar province said.

The lashes were the first to be confirmed since the Taliban supreme leader this month ordered judges to fully enforce Sharia law.

“Corporal punishment is a violation of human rights under international law,” said UN justice spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani.

“We are also concerned that arrests, trials, convictions and punishments are often all carried out on the same day. All people have the right to be treated with dignity and equality.”