“I am a prisoner of my gender,” said one Afghan woman in a statement read out to the Human Rights Council yesterday, at the presentation of a new UN report on the systemic discrimination of women and girls in Afghanistan. The report concludes that “nowhere else in the world” has there been such a “widespread, systematic and all-encompassing” attack on the rights of women and girls – which, the authors say, could constitute a crime against humanity of “gender persecution” in Afghanistan. They go further, saying the Taliban may be responsible for gender apartheid. Gender apartheid is not currently recognised as an international crime, but yesterday’s meeting was a call for member states to look into making it so. Most notable among the supporting nations from the council was South Africa’s representative Bronwen Levy, who called on the international community to take action on gender apartheid “much like it did” for her own country’s struggle against racial apartheid. Professor Karima Bennoune, a former UN Special Rapporteur, told Tortoise the report was a “promising step forward” for the UN’s approach to Afghanistan, but it must be acted on with “urgency” as the Taliban continues to demolish women and girls’ rights. Reminder: the UN recently cut its annual aid budget plan for Afghanistan by a third after the Taliban banned women working for them and other aid organisations.
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