Taliban rule made girlhood illegal, says Malala

By AFP
December 06, 2023

JOHANNESBURG: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai said Tuesday that Taliban rule in Afghanistan had made “girlhood illegal”, as she called for gender apartheid to be made a crime against humanity.

In a speech marking the 10th anniversary of the death of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, the Pakistani activist said: “The Taliban have made girlhood illegal, and it is taking a toll.”

Girls walk to their school along a road in Gardez, Paktia porvince, on September 8, 2022. — AFP/File

She highlighted how Afghan girls frozen out of school are “experiencing depression”, “turning to narcotics” and “attempting suicide”.

Malala was the keynote speaker at an annual event held by the Mandela Foundation to commemorate the anti-apartheid icon and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner.

After slamming what she called the “unjust bombardment of Gaza” by Israel since the unprecedented October 7 attacks by Hamas, she said crises in Gaza, Ukraine and Sudan had diverted attention from the treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan.

“Our first imperative is to call the regime in Afghanistan what it really is. It is a gender apartheid,” said Malala who was 15 when a Pakistani group shot her in the head over her campaign for girls’ education.

Access to education and work for girls and women has been severely restricted since the Taliban leaders took back power in August 2021.

Teenage girls and women are barred from schools and universities. Thousands of women have lost their government jobs -- or are being paid to stay home. Girls and women are also prohibited from entering parks, funfairs or gyms.

“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,” Malala told a packed Johannesburg theatre.

“But gender apartheid has not been explicitly codified yet,” she said. “We have an opportunity to do that right now,” she added, calling for the definition to be inserted in a new UN treaty that is currently being debated. Malala, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and other leading activists are campaigning for UN member states to amend a draft ‘crimes against humanity treaty’ to include gender apartheid.