Gender apartheid must be recognised as a crime against humanity, UN experts say


Increasing global challenges demand that gender apartheid be recognised as a crime against humanity, UN experts said today, highlighting the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan.

“Gender apartheid is not merely a theoretical possibility or legal construct, but a real threat and lived reality for millions of women and girls around the world – a reality that is currently not explicitly codified in international law,” the UN experts said.

They stressed that the designation of gender apartheid as a crime against humanity would be a long overdue recognition by the international community.

“State laws, policies and practices that relegate women to conditions of extreme inequality and oppression, with the intent of effectively extinguishing their human rights, reflect the very core of apartheid systems,” the experts said.

They warned that in Afghanistan, Taliban edicts, policies and practices constitute an institutionalised system of discrimination, oppression and domination of women and girls, amounting to gender apartheid.

“The Taliban’s rule makes codifying gender apartheid in international law particularly urgent, as it would allow the international community to better identify and address the regime’s attacks on Afghan women and girls for what they are,” the experts said.

They noted that existing forms of gender-specific crimes, including gender persecution, while useful and relevant, do not fully capture the institutionalised and widespread nature of the deprivation of rights involved in systems of gender apartheid. “Only the apartheid framework can fully grasp the role of intent, ideology and institutionalisation in gender apartheid regimes as seen in Afghanistan,” they said.

The UN experts called for the inclusion of gender apartheid as a crime against humanity under Article 2 of the draft articles on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity currently under consideration by the UN General Assembly’s Sixth Committee.

“The articles currently under consideration provide a unique and crucial opportunity to galvanise international legal condemnation and action against gender apartheid,” they said.

The experts urged Member and Observer States of the General Assembly to ensure that the human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination, dignity, inclusive participation, accountability and humanity are upheld globally by recognising gender apartheid as a crime against humanity aimed at the systematic subjugation and oppression of women and girls.

“This recognition would not only honour the aim of the apartheid prohibitions in general, but would also be a crucial step towards respecting and asserting the centrality of gender equality,” they said.

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