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The UN, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, called on the Taliban to “immediately end the ‘draconian restrictions'” they impose on women in Afghanistan, “the most oppressive country” in the world when it comes to women’s rights.

“Afghanistan under the Taliban is the most oppressive country in the world in terms of women’s rights,” Roza Otunbayeva, head of the UN Assistance Committee in Afghanistan (Manua), complained in a statement.

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“It was heartbreaking to see their methodical, deliberate and systematic efforts to remove Afghan women and girls from the public sphere,” she continued.

Since seizing power in Afghanistan in August 2022, the Taliban have increased restrictions against women: among others, they are banned from attending secondary schools, university, working and walking in public unless they are fully covered. Besides, they cannot travel unless accompanied by a male relative. In November, the Taliban banned women from entering parks, gardens, public baths and sports centers.

“The fact that half of the country’s population is confined to their homes while (Afghanistan is facing) one of the most serious humanitarian and economic crises in the world is a colossal act of national self-mutilation,” the UN complained.

About 22.8 million Afghans – more than half the country’s population – are facing acute food insecurity and three million children are at risk of malnutrition.

The effects of the measures taken by the Taliban “are not limited to women and girls. They affect all Afghans, with their consequences visible for many generations,” said Alison Davidian, UN Special Representative for Women in Afghanistan.

About 20 women protested in Kabul today, according to AFP reporters. “The time has come for the UN to take decisive and serious measures for the fate of the people,” said one of the protesters in a message she read.

The UN estimates that in 2023 “11.6 million women and girls in Afghanistan will be in need of humanitarian assistance”.