Kabul: Taliban authorities on Tuesday condemned U.N. allegations that they are violating women’s rights to work in Afghanistan, insisting that thousands of people are employed in the country’s public sector.
But Sharafuddin Sharaf, chief of staff at the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, said many women were paid despite not attending work, as the offices were not set up for proper segregation of the sexes.
“Working together in an office is not possible in our Islamic system,” she said, a day after a United Nations human rights expert said there had been a “staggering regression” in women’s rights since the Taliban’s return to power in August.
He could not offer any figures on the number of women working but insisted that “not a single employee has been fired” from the civil service.
However, there have been several protests by women for losing their jobs and demanding the right to work, some of which have been forcibly quelled by the Taliban.
Sharaf said some women only went to work “once a week to their relevant offices to sign their assistance, and their salaries are paid at home.”
This takes place in offices where “gender-based segregation has not yet been done,” she said, adding that women were working in the ministries of health, education, and interior where they were needed.
Sharaf said it was up to the Taliban’s male leadership to decide when women “can come to the rest of the offices where they don’t currently come.”
Her comments come after a UN human rights expert said women’s freedoms had deteriorated significantly since the Taliban returned.
“There is no country in the world where women and girls have been so quickly deprived of their fundamental human rights simply because of gender,” said Richard Bennett, special rapporteur on the situation of rights in Afghanistan in Geneva. Government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Bennett’s report was biased.
“There is no threat to women’s lives in Afghanistan now, or no one dishonors Afghan women,” she said in a statement late Monday, adding that they are still enrolled in public and private universities.
Still, most girls’ high schools across the country have been ordered closed, meaning this generation of female college students could be the last.
Several Taliban officials say the ban is only temporary, but they have also laid out a litany of excuses for the closure, from a lack of funds to the time needed to reshape the curriculum along Islamic lines.
On Monday, the education minister was quoted by local media as saying it was a cultural issue, as many rural people did not want their daughters to attend school.
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