Malala decries discrimination against women in Afghanistan

Nobel laureate says Afghan Taliban regime has made girlhood "illegal" in war-torn country

December 05, 2023
Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai delivers the 21st Nelson Mandela Annual Peace Lecture on the tenth anniversary of his death, in Johannesburg, South Africa on December 5, 2023. — X/MalalaFund

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai on Tuesday called out the Afghan Taliban regime in Afghanistan for its discriminatory policies against women and girls in the war-torn country.

In a scathing criticism of gender-based inequity, while delivering her keynote address at the event organised by the Mandela Foundation marking the 10th anniversary of the death of Nelson Mandela, Malala said: "Our first imperative is to call the regime in Afghanistan what it really is. It is a gender apartheid".

Highlighting that teenage girls and women are barred from schools and universities and are also not allowed to enter public places such as parks, gyms, and funfairs, the girls' education activist called for gender-based discriminatory and apartheid policies to be declared a "crime against humanity".

"The Taliban have made girlhood illegal, and it is taking a toll," she said while speaking to the audience in Johannesburg, South Africa.

She also underscored that thousands of women have lost their government jobs — or are being paid to stay home.

Stressing the inclusion of gender apartheid as a crime against humanity, Malala said: "South Africans fought for racial apartheid to be recognised and criminalised at the international level. In the process, they drew more of the world’s attention to the horrors of apartheid [...] But gender apartheid has not been explicitly codified yet."

"We have an opportunity to do that right now," she also said while calling for the definition of gender apartheid to be included in a new UN treaty that is currently under work with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other leading activists campaigning for the cause as well.

The Nobel laureate also condemned the "unjust bombardment" of the beleaguered Gaza Strip by the Israeli forces noting that the Middle East crisis — along with the situation in Ukraine and Sudan — has diverted the world's attention from the maltreatment of women and girls in Afghanistan.