KABUL: The recent earthquake in Afghanistan has aggravated the already desperate situation facing the Afghan population, especially women and girls, says the United Nations human rights chief.
Addressing a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet said hunger and food insecurity were affecting over 90 percent of women-headed households in Afghanistan.
The Chilean politician noted growing domestic violence and harassment; attacks on women human rights defenders, journalists, judges, lawyers and prosecutors.
She also referred to the massive unemployment of women; restrictions on movement and dress and its impact on access to basic services and increasing depression.
Secondary schooling for 1.2 million girls had been discontinued in Taliban-governed Afghanistan¸ regretted the UN high commissioner for human rights.
Recalling her meetings during her visit to Afghanistan in March, she said they had promised honouring their human rights obligations, as far as consistent with the Sharia law.
“Yet, despite these assurances, the international community was witnessing the progressive exclusion of women and girls from the public sphere and their institutionalized, systematic oppression,” she alleged.
Bachelet asked the new Afghan rulers to set a firm date for the reopening of secondary schools for girls, and ensure quality education, without discrimination.
She went on to call for re-establishing independent mechanisms to receive complaints from the public and protect victims of gender-based violence in the war-torn country.
“All acts of gender-based violence must be independently investigated and those responsible held to account,” the high commissioner stressed.
Richard Bennett, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, expressed sympathy for the communities hit by last week’s earthquake.
He had raised concerns about the abuses of women’s rights in each meeting, including the restrictions on women’s secondary education. He recalled Afghan officials had promised respect for the Kabul-ratified international human rights treaties, if they did not conflict with Sharia law.
The Taliban were trying to make women invisible to society and create a culture of impunity for domestic violence, child marriage and trafficking of girls, he claimed.