Taliban's treatment of women may be crime against humanity: UN experts

"Confining women to their homes is tantamount to imprisonment," said UN's human rights experts.

 Displaced Afghan women stand waiting to receive cash aid for displaced people in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2022. (photo credit:  REUTERS/ALI KHARA)
Displaced Afghan women stand waiting to receive cash aid for displaced people in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALI KHARA)

The Taliban's treatment of Afghan women and girls, including their exclusion from parks and gyms as well as schools and universities, may amount to a crime against humanity, a group of UN experts said on Friday.

The assessment by the UN Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan Richard Bennett and nine other UN experts says the treatment of women and girls may amount to 'gender persecution' under the Rome Statute to which Afghanistan is a party.

There was no immediate response from a Taliban spokesperson to a Reuters request for comment on the experts' assessment.

"Confining women to their homes is tantamount to imprisonment," the experts said in a statement, adding that it was likely to lead to increased levels of domestic violence and mental health problems. The experts also cited as an example the arrest earlier this month of female activist Zarifa Yaqobi and four male colleagues.

They remain in detention, the experts said.

 Afghan women's rights defenders and civil activists protest to call on the Taliban for the preservation of their achievements and education, in front of the presidential palace in Kabul (credit: REUTERS/STRINGER) Afghan women's rights defenders and civil activists protest to call on the Taliban for the preservation of their achievements and education, in front of the presidential palace in Kabul (credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)

The Taliban has returned to power last year

The Taliban took over from a Western-backed government in August 2021. They say they respect women's rights in accordance with their interpretation of Islamic law.

Western governments have said the Taliban needs to reverse its course on women's rights, including a U-turn on signals they would open girls' high schools, for any path towards formal recognition of the Taliban government.

Separately, a spokesperson for the UN human rights office called for the Taliban authorities to immediately halt the use of public floggings in Afghanistan.

Ravina Shamdasani said the office had documented numerous such incidents this month, including a woman and a man lashed 39 times each for spending time alone together outside of marriage.