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UN envoy urges ICC to prosecute Taliban's gender discrimination

The UN global education envoy highlighted the Taliban's widespread denial of basic rights to women and girls
Afghan women wait to receive food from foreign aid in Kandahar, on 10 August 2023 (AFP)

The United Nations global education envoy is calling on the International Criminal Court to prosecute gender discrimination in Afghanistan.

"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," UN global education envoy Gordon Brown told reporters on Tuesday.

On the two-year mark since the Taliban reclaimed control of Afghanistan amid the withdrawal of US troops after two decades of conflict, Brown stated he had penned a letter to ICC prosecutor Karim Khan to present his viewpoint.

Khan is examining alleged war crimes that occurred in Afghanistan during the last two decades.

"The International Criminal Court should recognise this gender discrimination as a crime against humanity and investigate it with a view to the arraignment and prosecution of those responsible," Brown said.

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"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.”

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".

UN: 'Unfathomable' Taliban restrictions on women must end
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Since the Taliban regained control, girls older than 12 have largely been kept out of schools. 

Additionally, the Taliban have prevented the majority of Afghan women from working in humanitarian organisations, shut down beauty salons, prohibited women from visiting parks, and restricted women's movement without a male escort.

In December, the UN urged the Taliban to immediately revoke policies targeting girls and women in Afghanistan.

Volker Turk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said: "No country can develop - indeed survive - socially and economically with half its population excluded."

"These unfathomable restrictions placed on women and girls will not only increase the suffering of all Afghans but, I fear, pose a risk beyond Afghanistan's borders."

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