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UN condemns Taliban decision to ban women from universities

In December 2022 the Taliban de facto authorities banned women from accessing universities. This follows the continuous restrictions on women’s rights that took place since August 2021, when the Taliban took power.

UN Human Rights High Commissioner Volker Türk described the ban as “another appalling and cruel blow to the rights of Afghan women and girls and a deeply regrettable setback for the entire country”. This decision provokes a loss for the development of the country; just think of all the female doctors, lawyers and teachers which can no longer work. Excluding half of the population from contributing meaningfully to society and the economy will have a devastating impact on the whole country. According to the senior UN official, suspending women from tertiary and higher education is in “clear violation” of Afghanistan’s obligations under international law.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan pointed out that these practices would expose Afghanistan to further international isolation, economic hardship, and suffering, “impacting millions for years to come”. It is not only a loss of rights for women, it also means for them to run into the risks of forced and underage marriage, violence and abuse.

UN Women chief Sima Bahous stated that “the comprehensive onslaught on women’s rights in Afghanistan...is as short-sighted as it is appalling”. According to Sima “Women have always played a key role in shaping Afghanistan’s development, and in supporting its peace, security and resilience”. What happens to women and girls in Afghanistan is a global responsibility, so we must continue to amplify their voices and resist their erasure.