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On June 18, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, will present his latest report to the UN Human Rights Council, urging that the Taliban be held accountable for their crimes against women and girls. The report, released today, examines the Taliban’s “institutionalized system of discrimination, segregation, disregard for human dignity and exclusion of women and girls.”

The situation in Afghanistan is the world’s worst women’s rights crisis, and it is getting worse. The Taliban continue to issue abusive orders and have stepped up enforcement of existing orders. In March, the Taliban issued an order stoning women to death for so-called “moral crimes,” including having sex outside of marriage and “running away” from home, often to escape domestic violence.

Afghan women and girls are barred from attending school beyond sixth grade, are banned from working, and are excluded from freedom of movement, protest, and public life. They often describe themselves as prisoners in their own homes. It is no surprise that suicide rates are rising.

The Special Rapporteur does not mince his words. Bennett describes the Taliban’s system of discrimination as a crime against humanity and says it “in and of itself constitutes a comprehensive and systematic attack on the entire civilian population of Afghanistan.”

In line with the demands of Afghan women’s rights activists, the Special Rapporteur calls for, among other things, the recognition and codification of gender apartheid as a crime under international law; the initiation of proceedings before the International Court of Justice for the Taliban’s violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; the support of the International Criminal Court in investigating the Taliban’s crimes, including the crime of gender-based persecution; and the refraining from “normalising or legitimising” the Taliban “as long as there are no demonstrable, measurable and independently verified improvements, including benchmarks on human rights, particularly for women and girls”.

Afghan women and girls feel forgotten by the world, and the Special Rapporteur’s report leaves no doubt about the gravity of the Taliban’s crimes against them. Holding the Taliban accountable should be a top priority for any government that claims to care about women’s rights.

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