‘Taliban women staff ban violates world body’s charter’, warns UN.

A top UN official warned Wednesday that a Taliban government order banning Afghan women from working for its mission in the country “is going to violate” the world body’s charter, which rejects gender segregation.

The Taliban authorities have imposed a slew of restrictions on Afghan women since seizing power in 2021, including banning them from higher education and many government jobs.

The increasing curbs are reminiscent of the Taliban’s first government between 1996 and 2001, when the UN said they were responsible for repeated human rights violations — particularly against girls and women.

The UN said on Tuesday the Taliban government had extended a ban on women working for non-governmental organisations to the world body’s workforce of 400 Afghan women.

“UNAMA received word of an order by the de facto authorities that bans female national staff members of the United Nations from working,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the secretary-general, told reporters, adding that the UN had heard “from various conduits that this applies to the whole country”.

The UN had thus far been exempt from a December order for all foreign and domestic aid agencies to stop women from working across the crisis-stricken nation.

Dujarric said no written order had yet been received, but that the UN was to hold meetings with the Taliban on Wednesday in Kabul to “seek some clarity”.

UN humanitarian coordinator in Afghanistan Ramiz Alakbarov told AFP in an interview: “The charter of the United Nations is going to be violated.”

“It is absolutely clear that no authority can give instructions to the United Nations … on who should be employed,” he said. “We are not going to make an exception.”

While it is unclear what the effect of a charter violation would be in the long term, the UN ordered all its Afghan staff to stay home for 48 hours from Wednesday morning.

The UN airlifted $1.8 billion into Afghanistan between December 2021 and January 2023, funding an aid lifeline for the nation’s 38 million citizens and shoring up the domestic economy.

Alakbarov said the Taliban government order was a “huge violation” of women’s rights. “Women are absolutely essential to all aspects of our service delivery work in Afghanistan,” he said.

The UN’s 400 female Afghan employees are the bulk of its 600 female staff working in Afghanistan. In total, there are about 3,300 Afghans in the 3,900-strong UN workforce there.

The Taliban authorities ordered all NGOs in December to stop employing Afghan women after receiving “serious complaints” that women employees were not observing a proper Islamic dress code.

“These justifications have no basis considering what we know about Islam,” said Alakbarov. Several conservative countries in the region still allow women to study and work, he said.

Several NGOs suspended their entire operations in protest after the ban was announced, piling further misery on Afghanistan’s citizens, half of whom are facing hunger, according to aid agencies.

It was agreed after days of discussion that women working in the health aid sector would be exempt from the decree.

Aid workers say female employees are crucial in delivering help to women beneficiaries in a deeply conservative and patriarchal country such as Afghanistan.

The restriction will also hamper donation-raising efforts by the UN at a time when Afghanistan is enduring one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, Alakbarov said.

The Taliban government has imposed an austere interpretation of Islam since surging back to power.

Authorities have barred teenage girls from secondary school, women have been pushed out of many government jobs, prevented from travelling without a male relative and ordered to cover up outside the home, ideally with a burqa.

Women have also been banned from universities and are not allowed to enter parks or gardens.

Source- Hindustan Times.

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