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Afghan girls at risk of early marriage and gender apartheid, warns SIGAR

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KABUL – Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) in its latest report has against exposed the grave dangers confronting Afghan girls and women, warning that they are at an increasing risk of early marriages, domestic abuse, and sexual exploitation under the Taliban regime.

According to SIGAR, under the Taliban regime, Afghanistan has become a harrowing landscape where systematic violations of women’s rights unfold with unprecedented severity, unmatched anywhere else in the world. Citing data from UN Women’s section, SIGAR underscores the alarming statistic that 28.7% of girls are forced into marriage before they turn 18, with an appalling 9% wed before the age of 15.

The report further underscores the compounding effects of Afghanistan’s deteriorating economic conditions, with UN agencies sounding the alarm on the escalating rates of forced and early marriages. These organizations warn that such practices represent a clear and present danger to the fabric of Afghan society, placing the futures of countless girls in jeopardy.

Since the Taliban’s resurgence in August 2021, the issuance of approximately 100 decrees targeting women’s rights has sent shockwaves through the international community. These decrees, which include draconian measures such as banning women from education and employment, serve as grim reminders of the oppressive regime’s iron grip on Afghan society.

In a damning assessment, UNAMA’s latest report for the year 2023 reveals a glaring absence of accountability for gender-based violence within government institutions. Shockingly, the report highlights that 80% of girls are denied access to secondary education, while a staggering number of approximately one hundred thousand girls have been forced to abandon their pursuit of higher education.

Amidst these staggering revelations, the concept of “gender apartheid” in Afghanistan has emerged as a rallying cry for human rights organizations worldwide, drawing urgent attention to the plight of Afghan women and girls. As the international community grapples with the urgent need for action, the fate of Afghanistan’s most vulnerable hangs in the balance, underscoring the critical importance of concerted efforts to safeguard their rights and freedoms.

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