With profound shock, the EU learned on 4 April that the Taliban had decided to ban Afghan women from working for the UN and its agencies, funds and programmes. This decision follows several previous bans and edicts that have targeted Afghan women and girls, reinforcing and tightening the consistent denial by the Taliban leadership of women’s rights, including their right to secondary and higher education, work, and freedom of movement.
This new discriminatory Taliban decision further aggravates the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan and constitutes a violation of international Human Rights Law (including Treaties to which Afghanistan is a party), international Humanitarian Law and humanitarian principles. This decision places women in an increasingly vulnerable position and have direct and life-threatening repercussions, as banning women from work disrupts the delivery of humanitarian aid, basic needs and services to large parts of the entire Afghan population, including women, children and men. This is happening while Afghanistan continues to face one of the worst economic and humanitarian crises in the world, with more than 28 million or two thirds of the population in need of humanitarian assistance and millions of Afghans already on the verge of famine.
The EU joins the UN, and strongly supports its efforts, together with other international partners and the many Afghans who condemn these decisions, call on the Taliban to reverse these bans immediately and to ensure women and girls’ equal access to education and to all social, economic and public spheres of life.
The EU reaffirms its commitment to staying engaged and delivering assistance for the benefit of the Afghan population, within a principled approach. We urge the Taliban to allow women to equally and meaningfully participate in aid and services delivery, so that women can engage fully and actively in the society, as well as remain beneficiaries of aid. Female staff must not be replaced. As the EU stated in the Council Conclusions of 20 March 2023, where activities cannot be continued in line with the EU’s principled approach, i.e. providing aid in a non-discriminatory way, regardless of gender, support to those activities will be reconsidered.
The EU calls upon the Taliban to deliver on their promises and prove their ability to respect and protect the human rights and provide basic services for the entire population of Afghanistan, in line with their earlier statements and promises.