Restrictions on Afghan Women Continue Unabated: UN report

    CountriesAfghanistanRestrictions on Afghan Women Continue Unabated: UN report
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    Restrictions on Afghan Women Continue Unabated: UN report

    Hundreds of Afghan women were forced to quit their jobs or have been arrested and denied access to essential services in the last quarter of 2023, a UN report revealed on Monday, as Taliban officials continue undermining their basic human rights.

    Among those whose working lives have been upended, the ruling Taliban authorities “banned” approximately 400 women workers at a pine nut processing from the workplace and dismissed another 200 at a power plant, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a report on the human rights situation.

    UNAMA’s report, Human rights situation in Afghanistan (October – December 2023 update), also noted that women were arrested for purchasing contraceptives and that unmarried female staff at a healthcare facility were “advised” to get married by officials from the Department for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, or risk losing their jobs.

    The officials reportedly stated that “it was inappropriate for an unmarried woman to work.”

    Many women were also not allowed to board buses or go to work because they were unmarried or because they did not have a mahram – a male chaperone – to accompany them in public.

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    Enforcement of ‘hijab’ decree

    The report also noted that several women were arbitrarily arrested in Kabul and other locations for “not wearing proper hijab”.

    Most were released after their mahrams signed a guarantee that they will adhere to the hijab decree in the future.

    “The measures taken by the de facto (ruling Taliban) authorities contradicts the hijab decree itself,” UNAMA said.

    “For a first violation of the decree, a warning is to be issued to individual’s mahram (at the place of residence), for a second violation, the individual’s mahram is to be summoned, for a third violation, the individual’s mahram may be imprisoned for up to three days and for a fourth violation, the individual’s mahram is to be brought before the de facto court for further action.”

    Freedom of expression

    UNAMA further noted that the ruling Taliban authorities continued to infringe the right to freedom of expression by limiting the opportunity to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

    On 14 December, the Taliban Ministry of Higher Education issued a letter instructing all universities and private education institutions to remove books which are considered against the laws of Hanafi jurisprudence.

    This includes books relating to Shi’a belief, political parties and materials authored by individuals associated with the elected Government the Taliban deposed, the report stated.

    In further examples, four women’s rights activists and three staff of a radio station were arrested between September and December simply for doing their jobs.

    On 7 October, in Daikundi province, ruling Taliban General Directorate of Intelligence arrested three media workers of Radio Nasim accused of producing a report concerning the Taliban Provincial Governor of Daikundi’s involvement in the diversion humanitarian aid. On 17 October, two of the three detained were released without charge. On 11 December, the Taliban Primary Court in Daikundi sentenced the radio station’s Director to one years’ imprisonment on charges of engaging in activities against the ruling Taliban authorities.

    Image: Oxfam

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