Expanding the Women Peace and Security Agenda to Protect Women's Education in Afghanistan and Other Geographies of Conflict
While acknowledging the importance of the new Security Council Resolution 2601 adopted in October 2021, the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education reinforces the urgency for the adoption of a standalone Women Peace and Security (WPS) resolution that recognizes the disproportionate impact of conflict on girls’ education in places such as Afghanistan. This new WPS resolution must address girls’ and women’s education as key to sustaining peace and security. The WPS agenda is critical to a peace and security agenda and recognizes and advances women’s participation in peace and security. I argue that as they stand, the ten WPS Security Council Resolutions with their emphasis on conflict related sexual abuse are more focused on protecting women’s bodies than on advancing women’s minds as important tools of strengthening peace and security and empowering women and girls in communities such as Afghanistan. More must be done to redefine the WPS agenda and to develop a new standalone resolution that reframes bans on education as a threat to global and national security. The Taliban’s limits on education for girls provides a warning cry for a WPS resolution that looks specifically at women’s education as a casualty of conflict and violent extremism. Thus, denial of girls’ and women’s education must be seen as a form of conflict-related intellectual violence that is interconnected with conflict-related sexual and other forms of physical violence. Despite profound threats, girls’ education is a powerful vaccine to stem the tide of fundamentalism. A new Security Council Resolution that acknowledges the primacy of educating girls, not only as a fundamental human right, but also as a security imperative to prevent conflict and sustain peace is critical. As devastating attacks on schools and schoolgirls have escalated in Afghanistan and other communities, the Security Council should adopt a WPS resolution protecting women’s education during and after conflict. In a roll back of prior pledges to reopen all schools in the spring of 2022, the Taliban directive of March 3, 2022, declared girls’ high schools would be closed, denying girls in sixth grade and above formal educational instruction.
Following on the heels of Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s supreme leader’s decree calling upon Afghan women to cover their faces in public, in early May, the Taliban Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Vice decreed that “women, unless they are very young or very old, must cover their faces except for their eyes” when meeting a non-male relative. The declaration moreover announced that women “should wear a chadori [head-to-toe burqa], as it is traditional and respectful.” A particularly patriarchal form of male involvement in this decree was reinforced by proclaiming that male relatives would be punished in cases of non-compliance with these orders. Furthermore, the decree advised women that “the best way to observe hijab is to not go out unless it’s necessary.” These orders expand on directives issued on 26 December 2021 disallowing women from travelling beyond 72 kilometers from their homes without being chaperoned by a “Mahram” or a close male relative.
Immediately following the March 23 decree on school closures for Middle and High School girls, on 27 March, the UN Security Council in a press statement called on the Taliban to “respect the right to education and adhere to their commitments to reopen schools for all female students without further delay.” Girls’ and women’s education has risen to the level of Security Council debates and discourse and this Article examines new and nuanced expansions for women and security that expand more orthodox normative frameworks.
Women's & girls' education, United Nations Security Council, conflict zones, gender-based violence, Women Peace & Security, WPS, women's rights, equality, religious extremism
University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law
de Silva de Alwis, Rangita, "Expanding the Women Peace and Security Agenda to Protect Women's Education in Afghanistan and Other Geographies of Conflict" (2022). Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law. 2866.
43 U. Pa. J. Int'l L. 991 (2022)