Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Taliban’s Crime Against Humanity on Women Is Devastating the Entire Society

By Nazila Jamshidi

The news of the Taliban suspending higher education for female students across the country left the entire world with great disappointment. Before and in the early weeks of seizing power in the country, the Taliban attempted to project a more moderate image, something the world called Taliban 2.0, for international support attraction. However, it did not take the Taliban long to prove the contrast and systematically and deliberately clamp down on the rights and freedoms of women. 

The ban raised ample criticism and condemnation from world leaders, international human rights organizations, Afghan citizens inside Afghanistan, and the diaspora worldwide. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a statement, said, “The Taliban cannot expect to be a legitimate member of the international community until they respect the rights of all in Afghanistan.” Human Rights Watch called the decree a “shameful decision that violates the right to education for women and girls in Afghanistan.” Most importantly, for the first time after the Taliban takeover, Afghan men reacted to the Taliban misogynistic decree by resigning from teaching in the classroom without female students and male students by refusing to take exams if female students were banned from taking them.

The Taliban’s daily suppression of women has devastating long-term consequences on women’s lives, survival, and dignity and should be defined as a crime against humanity. As set forth by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), crimes against humanity constitute grave breaches of core human rights protected by international instruments and other legal sources. Crimes against humanity are portrayed as highly pernicious attacks against fundamental rights, such as the rights to life, physical and bodily integrity, freedom from slavery, minimum fair trial guarantees, and so forth. 

Violating women’s fundamental human rights, such as education and employment, has a catastrophic impact on women’s survival, rights, and dignity and causes them serious injuries, like psychological injuries. Education is a fundamental human right and is necessary for exercising other rights and development. Lack of access to education will severely impact Afghan women’s prospects for empowerment and future societal roles. It will have a catastrophic impact on women’s daily lives and survival by trapping them in a patriarchal system that causes them great suffering. 

The Rise of Sexual Slavery

Similarly, the Taliban’s discriminatory and misogynist laws and regulations encourage the reemergence of forced marriage and sex slavery, which impose women’s prolonged physical and psychological suffering. Prohibiting girls’ access to education paves the way for the rise of modern sex slavery, including early marriage and forced marriage. During the previous Taliban regime in the 1990s, poverty, unemployment, and severe economic problems — the direct outcomes of lack of access to education and employment — led to an increasing number of child marriages and the trafficking of female minors to middle-aged men in exchange for money or livestock. Forced marriages can be classified as an ‘other inhumane act’ because it inflicts massive suffering or serious injury to women’s mental or physical health and is consistent with “other inhumane act” in Article 2 of the Crime Against Humanity Statute. Banning women from education and employment fosters the reemergence of sexual slavery against them. The more women are educated and economically independent, the less likely they experience forced marriage. In fact, poverty has been one of the key reasons why families move their daughters into a marriage or exchange them for money.

The Taliban’s maltreatment of women is a systematic violation of their fundamental rights and resembles gender apartheid. According to United Nations Economic and Social Commission, the term gender apartheid “refers to the economic and social sexual discrimination against individuals because of their gender or sex. It is a system enforced by using either physical or legal practices to relegate individuals to subordinate positions.” Creating gender apartheid, causing severe psychological and physical injuries to women, and promoting sex slavery or forced marriage are extreme injustices consistent with the definition of crimes against humanity. 

Women comprise more than half of Afghanistan’s population and currently suffer from the world’s worst forms of human rights abuses, both institutionally and tacitly, under the rule of the Taliban. The Taliban’s system of dehumanizing women and girls has already led to the displacement of thousands of women to neighboring countries. It has also turned educated women into beggars. With the humanitarian catastrophe approaching Afghans, such a dehumanization system will leave widows, mothers, and daughters suffering from additional illnesses and poverty. 

The condition of Afghan women is an absolute tragedy. Unless they are recognized as a massive violation of international human rights, the Taliban will justify its actions on cultural and religious grounds. Hesitating to characterize the Taliban’s treatment of women as a crime and holding them accountable, female subordination will continue to run into abysmal depths unless these challenges are brought forth by the international community writ large. 

Note:The contents of the article are of sole responsibility of the author. Afghan Diaspora Network will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the article.

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