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Taliban omits Ministry for Women, UN body says it’s a violation of international treaty

Pramila Patten, the acting head of UN Women.

UN Women, the United Nations entity for gender equality, has criticised the Taliban’s decision to drop the Ministry for Women from among the institutions of government in Afghanistan. 

“I am disappointed by the apparent decision to no longer include a Ministry for Women among the institutions of government. Such ministries are found around the world and reflect governments’ commitment to ensure respect for women’s human rights. To no longer have such a ministry in Afghanistan is a further step backwards,” Pramila Patten, the acting head of UN Women, said in a statement.

“I reaffirm my call on the Taliban leadership to fully comply with its legally binding obligations under international treaties to which Afghanistan is party as well as with relevant constitutional provisions,” Patten said.

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These demand unambiguously the guarantee of equality for all citizens, including the full participation of women in political and decision-making processes. The international community has been clear and will continue to be so: women’s rights, including the right to full and meaningful participation in public and political life, are non-optional, non-negotiable human rights, the statement adds.

“The world’s gaze rests firmly upon Afghanistan. The course currently set by the Taliban authorities for women’s human rights must change immediately if the growing fears of the international community are to be addressed and the future of women and girls assured,” Patten said.

Taliban leaders have stated that women will play a prominent role in society in Afghanistan and have access to education. But they have not been involved in talks over forming a government. In recent weeks, the Taliban has signaled women should stay at home, and, in some instances, militants have ordered women to leave their workplaces.

There was no mention of a ministry for women in Tuesday's announcement, and the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Muhajid merely said that the Taliban would be dealing with that issue.

Patten also expressed “serious concern” over the use of force by authorities in Kabul against peaceful protestors, mostly women, who were demanding the equal enjoyment of their rights.

In response to questions about the Taliban's crackdown on protesters, Zabihullah said that illegal demonstrations would not be allowed.