Statement from Foreign Ministers on Taliban Decision to Ban Women from Universities (21 Dec. 2022)

The Foreign Ministers of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States and the High Representative for the European Union strongly condemn the Taliban’s recent decisions to ban women from universities, to continue to bar girls from secondary schools, and to impose other harsh restrictions on the ability of women and girls in Afghanistan to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Taliban’s oppressive measures against Afghan girls and women have been relentless and systemic. Over the last 16 months, the Taliban have issued no fewer than 16 decrees and edicts that, among other things, constrain women’s mobility, remove women from places of work, require head-to-toe coverings for women, ban women from using public spaces such as parks and gyms and leave widows and women-headed households in dire circumstances by the requirement of male guardianship. These policies make clear the Taliban’s disregard for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Afghanistan.

Afghan women’s ingenuity and dynamism are needed urgently to help relieve profound and staggering economic and humanitarian needs. A stable, economically viable, and peaceful Afghanistan is only attainable and sustainable if all Afghans, including women and girls, can fully, equally, and meaningfully participate in and contribute to the country’s future and development.

We stand with all Afghans in their demand to exercise their human rights consistent with Afghanistan’s obligations under international law. With these moves, the Taliban are further isolating themselves from the Afghan population and the international community. We urge the Taliban to immediately abandon the new oppressive measures with respect to university education for women and girls and to, without delay, reverse the existing decision to prohibit girls’ access to secondary school.

Taliban policies designed to erase women from public life will have consequences for how our countries engage with the Taliban. Our foremost concern will continue to be the welfare, rights, and freedoms of the people of Afghanistan.

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