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Statements and speeches Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the phenomenon of an institutionalized system of discrimination, segregation, disrespect for human dignity and exclusion of women and girls

18 June 2024

Delivered by

Nada Al-Nashif United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights


Geneva, Palais des Nations, Room XX

Distinguished President,
Colleagues and friends,

I am pleased to represent the High Commissioner at this enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

Let me start by extending a particular welcome of solidarity to the courageous Afghan women participating in today’s dialogue and to those joining us from Afghanistan and from around the world. It is critical to ensure that your voices remain at the centre of this Council’s discussions and across all other international fora.

The grave scale of abuses in Afghanistan requires sustained international attention to the plight of Afghan women and real support for their cause.

Our Office has sought to enable this Council to hear directly a diversity of voices of Afghan women, from inside and outside Afghanistan - their views, their lived experiences, the concerns they have and difficulties they face and their determination to face the future.

This dialogue will focus on the phenomenon of an institutionalized system of discrimination, segregation, disrespect for human dignity and the exclusion of women and girls in Afghanistan. In particular, it will address the ongoing impact of Taliban policies on women’s and girls’ enjoyment of fundamental freedoms and rights. This assault on women continues to affect and limit all their rights, including the right to education, the right to work and to access effective remedies for injustice, violence and discrimination.

This enhanced dialogue builds upon the dialogue that we held a year ago with the Special Rapporteur and with the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls. Since then, regrettably, the situation has worsened. Restrictions on all rights have tightened. Women are now essentially confined to their homes.

Although the de facto authorities continue to claim that women’s rights will be protected within the framework of Shari’a law, over the past year further and more intrusive restrictions have indeed been applied to women’s and girls’ lives. The cumulative effect of these various edicts has removed women and girls from public life, confining them to their homes and denying their fundamental rights and freedoms, their individual autonomy and the most basic opportunities of life.

Afghanistan remains the only country in the world – the only country - where girls are denied education beyond primary level. A few days ago, we hit the grim milestone of 1000 days of Afghan girls being denied this fundamental enabling right. Through this ban, the Taliban continue to restrict girls’ development opportunities and their ability to live independently in the future, further corroding and undermining the rich and diverse fabric of Afghan society.

The Taliban also continue to apply their ban on women from working for international organisations, including the United Nations, as well as outside the home in many sectors. Its manifest illegality under international law aside, this measure significantly impacts the ability of the United Nations and other organisations to provide critical services to the population experiencing chronic poverty and humanitarian need.  Just last week, the de facto authorities cut female civil servants’ pay compared to male employees. The removal of women from public service further impacts their ability to be seen, to be heard and to participate in the decision-making processes that directly affects their lives.

Ongoing restrictions on movement, including the requirement of a “mahram” or male chaperone to travel further than a small radius from their homes, leave them with limited, and at times no, ability to undertake social, cultural or economic activities outside of their homes. Restrictions on places where they may socialise have also been imposed.

Our Office welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, which highlights the systematic and all-encompassing set of restrictions women and girls continue to face. It focuses on intersectional forms of repression and oppression, and the realities of what Afghan women of all ages, face, as well as, for example, women living with disabilities, and minorities.

We remain deeply concerned at this ongoing discriminatory and restrictive environment and its consequences. This has had enormous impact on women and girls’ mental health, reflected in the shocking increase in suicides over the past year.  There remains little accountability for violence against women and girls, or for other violations of their rights, as the de facto justice system continues to be neither gender-responsive nor accessible to women.

Such systematic, extreme discrimination and violence must not be normalised, nor tolerated by the international community.

I hope that today’s dialogue will lead to a consolidation of our agreement on the need for concerted action by this Council, and the wider international community. The brave women activists present today should see, should feel that the international community stands with them and is committed to find ways to influence the de facto authorities to reverse their regressive and repressive edicts. The future potential of Afghanistan can only be realized through upholding the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by all women and girls. 

Thank you. Mr President.