Media Statement

24 December 2022

South African Statement on the Taliban’s ban on women from attending universities

South Africa is gravely concerned by the recent decision by the cabinet of Afghanistan announced on Tuesday 20 December 2022, to suspend education for female students at all public and private universities in Afghanistan.

South Africa notes the statement of United Nations Human Rights Experts who reflected on the announcement of the Afghanistan cabinet decision number 28 to immediately suspend until further notice, women and girls from universities across the country, which the UN experts stated that: “is a flagrant violation of their human rights enshrined in multiple international treaties, to which Afghanistan is a signatory and will lead to disastrous consequences for Afghans”.

The Afghan Ministry of Higher Education reportedly justified the ban on grounds, inter alia, that women students were not dressing properly and that the universities taught subjects to women students that were inconsistent with Islamic law and Afghan culture.

This latest decision by the Taliban Government to ban women from attending universities, is a regrettable step backwards for Afghan women and girls in their legitimate quest for their human rights in general and their rights to education in particular. For the Taliban Government to exclude half of its population from accessing education, can only spell a bleak future, not only for women and girls in Afghanistan but will hamstring the ability of the country to rely on all its resources and talents, both human and natural, to define its prosperous future.

The South African Government believes that a system of government based on values such as human dignity, the rule of law (not rule by law), and respect for the fundamental human rights of all, including women and girls creates an environment conducive to development and peace. Afghanistan can play an important role and make a positive contribution to the creation of a community of nations, united in its diversity, that will place human rights and empowerment of women at the core of interstate relations and global cooperation.

The South African Government calls on the Taliban leadership to rethink its decision and reverse the ban it imposed on 20 December 2022 and immediately open the doors of learning for women and girls at all universities in Afghanistan.

As the year 2022 draws to a close, South Africa strongly condemns the targeting of women and their human rights globally, that has been witnessed over the course of this year. The attacks of women journalists; the use of force by authorities to impose laws on what women should wear; and the curbing of women’s rights to education represent a worrisome trend of attacks on women’s rights. The global community has an obligation to consistently uphold all human rights including that of women.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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