Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Friday that Taliban authorities are perpetrating gender persecution against women and girls in Afghanistan. Following the conclusion of the report, international justice director at HRW Elizabeth Evenson called for coordinated support by from the international community to ensure that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has the resources and needed cooperation to investigate this crime and provide accountability for gender persecution.
HRW started researching Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021. The report found that gender persecution in Afghanistan takes the forms of:
- restrictions on freedom of movement, expression, and association;
- restrictions on employment;
- restrictions on dress;
- bans on education; and
- arbitrary arrests and violations of the right to liberty.
While men also suffer from certain kinds of restrictions and violations of human rights, HRW found that the all-encompassing restrictions against women show that women are suffering from significantly worse human rights violations. For instance, jobs available to women are steadily shrinking to some roles in health and education. An example of such restrictions can be found in the December 2022 Taliban order barring women from working with international and domestic non-governmental organization (NGO) jobs. Men, by comparison, face few restrictions on employment. The different extent of restrictions between men and women can also be found in dress codes, bans on education and access to transportation and public spaces.
It is the HRW’s opinion that the Taliban’s policies against women have committed crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute. To constitute a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute, the acts must be a widespread or a part of a systematic attack directed against a civilian population. The acts must also be with knowledge of the attack and are pursuant to or in furtherance of a state policy to commit such attack.
Afghanistan has been a party to the Rome Statute since February 2023 which grants the ICC jurisdiction over crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan. The ICC resumed its investigations into the situation in Afghanistan in October 2022. In addition, ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor also launched its Policy on Gender Persecution to pool its resources on investigating and prosecuting sexual and gender-based violence crimes, including gender persecution.
Different organizations have recently called for sanctions against Afghanistan for the Taliban’s human rights violation policies. In mid-August this year, UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown called for the prosecution of Taliban leaders through proceedings at the ICC for gender persecution. Just two weeks ago, Amnesty International also called for the application of universal jurisdiction against Taliban authorities accused of international law violations.