The International Criminal Court (ICC) should recognize gender discrimination in Afghanistan as a crime against humanity and investigate it with the aim of prosecuting those responsible, UN global education envoy Gordon Brown said on Tuesday.
On the second anniversary of the Taliban's return to power, as US-led forces withdrew after 20 years of war, Brown said he had written to ICC prosecutor Karim Khan to argue his point.
"This is the worst example of the abuse of human rights against girls and women around the world and if we allow this to happen and continue with impunity then others may try to do exactly the same," Brown told reporters.
Girls over the age of 12 have been mostly excluded from school classes since the Taliban returned to power. The Taliban have also stopped most Afghan female staff from working at aid agencies, closed beauty salons, barred women from parks, and curtailed travel for women in the absence of a male guardian.
"The International Criminal Court should recognize this gender discrimination as a crime against humanity and investigate it with a view to the arraignment and prosecution of those responsible," said Brown, a former British prime minister.
Taliban defends their treatment of women
Khan's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Khan is investigating suspected war crimes committed in Afghanistan over the past 20 years.
The Taliban say they respect rights in line with their interpretation of Islamic law.
Brown said he believed there was a split in the Taliban with some officials in Kabul in favor of allowing girls to return to school, while leaders in Kandahar - the birthplace of the Taliban and home to the supreme spiritual leader - remain opposed.
"We've got to persuade these clerics that it's a false interpretation of Islam to suggest that girls and women should not be able to have the basic rights enjoyed by men," Brown said.
He urged Muslim-majority countries to send a delegation to Kandahar to seek to persuade Taliban leaders "to remove their ban on girls' education and women's employment, which has no basis in the Koran or the Islamic religion."