Fear and panic have gripped Afghanistan’s population as the Taliban have assumed power, capturing the countries’ cities over the past few weeks. The government has fallen and the president has fled the country.
For many, there has been no manner of escape from the impending future under a notoriously draconian and violent armed group, bent on operating outside of judicial processes and killing those who defy their rule.
Women’s rights to education, employment, political participation, and a base level of freedom to exist in society without fearing punishment, servitude and death, are under immediate threat.
For women and girls, a future under Taliban rule is terrifying. It has been 20 years since the Taliban were last in power, in which time women have fought hard to enjoy certain rights, all while risking their lives.
Now, hard-won rights are on the brink of disappearing altogether.
A humanitarian disaster is unfolding as many have fled their homes, driven by the fear of being forced into marriage or being subjected to servitude. 900,000 people in the country have been displaced in the last three months alone.
The Conversation reports:
Offering “wives” is a strategy aimed at luring militants to join the Taliban. This is sexual enslavement, not marriage, and forcing women into sexual slavery under the guise of marriage is both a war crime and a crime against humanity. Article 27 of the Geneva Convention states:
“Women must be especially protected against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any other form of indecent assault.”
In 2008, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1820 declaring that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity.” It recognizes sexual violence as a tactic of war intent on humiliating, dominating and instilling fear in civilian members of the community.
The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, urged the Taliban on Sunday to refrain from abusing the rights of the country’s citizens and prevent the slaughter of civilians.
Founder of the Asia Pacific Network of Refugees and former Afghan refugee, Najeeba Wazefadost, told ABC News, “A lot [of] women are telling us a lot of their daughters have been pushed to become sexual slaves, this is a mass rape that we’re seeing today in Afghanistan.”
On Monday, UN experts including the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons especially women and girls, submitted an urgent statement calling on UN member states to intervene in the escalating conflict to protect the rights of civilians, and “keep their borders open to receive asylum seekers from Afghanistan while ensuring adequate protection and humanitarian assistance of Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons.”
It is crucial that the international community remains vigilant on the unfolding conflict and takes immediate and urgent action to aid civilians’ pursuit of safety and protection.
Over 95,000 global supporters are calling for an end to forced marriage. Join the campaign to stand in solidarity with women and girls in Afghanistan, and around the world.