Afghan, Iranian Women Want Gender Apartheid To Be Crime Under International Law

The crime of 'apartheid' currently "only applies to racial hierarchies, not hierarchies based on gender."

2 min read
Hindi Female

A group of women activists from Iran and Afghanistan launched a campaign on Women's Day, 8 March, seeking to recognise 'gender apartheid' as a crime under international law.

Why a campaign? The crime of 'apartheid' under international law currently "only applies to racial hierarchies, not hierarchies based on gender," prominent activists who are part of the campaign were quoted as saying by The Guardian.

The campaign also aims to highlight the systemic failure of the current system of law in tackling discrimination against women.


Who launched the campaign? An open letter that called for 'gender apartheid' to be recognised as a crime was signed by Iranian Nobel peace prize laureate Shirin Ebadi; the first female deputy speaker of the Afghan parliament, Fawzia Koofi; and a commissioner of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Benafsha Yaqoobi.

Several human rights activists from the two countries, including prominent Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, also signed the letter.

What did they say? The authors of the letter argued that the legal definition of apartheid as "a crime against humanity," adopted by the United Nations in 1973 and supported by the 1998 Rome Statute, does not take into consideration what is happening in Afghanistan and Iran.

"It is paramount to understand that gender apartheid currently only has power as a descriptive term," Gissou Nia, a human rights lawyer who supports the campaign was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

"Under international law, the crime of apartheid only applies to racial hierarchies, not hierarchies based on gender. This campaign will seek to expand the set of moral, political, and legal tools available to mobilise international action against and ultimately end systems of gender apartheid."
Gissou Nia, human rights lawyer

What is gender apartheid? The word 'apartheid' originates from the Afrikaans word for 'apart'. It was first used to describe how Black people were discriminated against in South Africa by white rulers from 1948 to the early 1990s.

Gender apartheid can be described as the economic and social sexual discrimination of individuals based on their gender or sex.

Afghanistan and Iran are two examples of countries where the rights of women and gender minorities are severely curtailed.

The authors of the letter contended that they were not singling out Muslim societies or seeking to impose western cultural values, but were instead calling out systematic efforts by governments to oppress women, irrespective of religion.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban has banned women from educational institutions, employment, and most public spaces like gyms and parks. In Iran, on the other hand, women have been protesting for their basic rights since September 2022, after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, allegedly at the hands of the morality police.

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Topics:  Taliban    Afghanistan   Women's Rights 

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