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Taliban Setting Out To Exclude Women, Girls From Public Life, UN Experts Warn

Afghan women protest on January 11 against the Taliban's decree of mandatory hijab.

Taliban leaders are attempting to institutionalize large-scale and systematic gender-based discrimination and violence against Afghan women and girls, a group of 36 UN human rights experts warned in a statement on January 17.

The experts said an array of restrictive steps that have been introduced since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August, particularly those concerning women and girls, have caused alarm.

"We are concerned about the continuous and systematic efforts to exclude women from the social, economic, and political spheres across the country," the experts said.

"These concerns are exacerbated in the cases of women from ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities such as the Hazara, Tajik, Hindu, and other communities whose differences or visibility make them even more vulnerable in Afghanistan."

Many women have been banned from returning to their jobs. Bus drivers and taxi drivers were ordered not to carry women in their vehicles unless they are wearing an Islamic veil. According to the same order, drivers also are not allowed to transport unmarried women in their vehicles more than 70 kilometers.

“Taken together, these policies constitute a collective punishment of women and girls, grounded on gender-based bias and harmful practices,” the experts said.

"These policies have also affected the ability of women to work and to make a living, pushing them further into poverty," the experts said. "Women heads of households are especially hard hit, with their suffering compounded by the devastating consequences of the humanitarian crisis in the country."

Of "particular and grave concern" is the continued denial of the fundamental right of women and girls to secondary and tertiary education, the statement said.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week also sounded the alarm about the abrupt deterioration of women and girls' rights since the Taliban takeover.

"In the weeks after the Taliban takeover, authorities announced a steady stream of policies and regulations rolling back women’s and girls’ rights," HRW said in its annual report on January 13, mentioning severe restrictions in access to employment and education and restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly.

The Taliban has repeatedly responded with beatings, threats, or detentions to protests staged by Afghan women demanding their rights to education, work, and freedom.

With reporting by dpa
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