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Afghanistan and Iran Gender Apartheid

Afghanistan and Iran Gender Apartheid


IBAHRI launches inquiry into women's systematic oppression in Afghanistan and Iran

In a ground breaking move, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has initiated the Gender Apartheid Inquiry, a special ad-hoc investigation by the British Parliament. This inquiry seeks to examine whether the systematic oppression faced by women and girls in Afghanistan and Iran can be classified as gender apartheid, a term historically associated with racial segregation.

While apartheid is a crime under international law traditionally linked to racial discrimination, the inquiry addresses the parallels observed in the segregation and removal of women in Afghanistan and Iran from mainstream society. Activists, scholars, lawyers, and human rights defenders, both domestically and internationally, advocate for the recognition of the dire situation of women and girls in these countries as a form of gender apartheid, drawing parallels with the historical injustices witnessed during South Africa's apartheid era.

Richard Goldstone, a retired Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, emphasized the need for international recognition of the crime of gender apartheid, drawing parallels between the systematic discrimination faced by women in Afghanistan and Iran with the racial discrimination in South Africa during apartheid.

The inquiry sheds light on the severe restrictions faced by women in both nations. In Iran, women are denied access to certain fields of study, attending sporting events, obtaining passports, and traveling outside the country without their husband's permission. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, women face barriers to public life, including restrictions on travel without a male escort, limited access to education, employment, public spaces like baths, parks, and gyms.

United Nations experts, including Richard Bennett and Javaid Rehman, have expressed concern about the systematic discrimination and segregation of women and girls, using the term "gender apartheid" to describe the situation.

Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, IBAHRI Director, expressed deep concern about the extreme gender-based discrimination faced by women in both Iran and Afghanistan. The inquiry aims to evaluate how the actions of these regimes align with the concept of gender apartheid and where such practices fit within existing legal frameworks.

The Gender Apartheid Inquiry follows a structured five-stage process, including a mapping exercise, an open call for submissions, oral hearings with experts and witnesses, the publication of a comprehensive report with findings and recommendations, and active engagement with domestic and international bodies to address the urgent concerns regarding women's rights in Afghanistan and Iran.

The primary objective of this inquiry is to identify practical and meaningful steps that can be taken to alleviate the plight of women and girls in these countries, considering it a matter of urgent international concern and framing it within the context of gender apartheid. As the inquiry progresses, it seeks to contribute to the ongoing global dialogue on human rights and gender equality.