Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai stated on Tuesday that Taliban rule in Afghanistan has rendered “girlhood illegal,” and she called for gender apartheid to be recognized as a crime against humanity. In a speech marking the 10th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s death, she said, “The Taliban have made girlhood illegal, and it is taking a toll.” Malala emphasized the impact on Afghan girls who are denied education, noting that they are experiencing depression, turning to narcotics, and attempting suicide.
Malala served as the keynote speaker at an annual event held by the Mandela Foundation to commemorate Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon, and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner. She criticized the “unjust bombardment of Gaza” by Israel after the October 7 attacks by Hamas. Malala highlighted that crises in Gaza, Ukraine, and Sudan have diverted attention from the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan. She concluded by labeling the regime in Afghanistan as a “gender apartheid.” Malala, who was 15 when shot in the head for her campaign for girls’ education, delivered this powerful message.
Access to education and work for girls and women has been severely restricted since the Taliban leaders took back power in August 2021. Teenage girls and women are barred from schools and universities. Thousands of women have lost their government jobs or are being paid to stay home.
Girls and women are also prohibited from entering parks, funfairs, or gyms.
“South Africans fought for racial apartheid to be recognized and criminalized at the international level. In the process, they drew more of the world’s attention to the horrors of apartheid,” Malala told a packed Johannesburg theatre.
“But gender apartheid has not been explicitly codified yet,” she said.
“We have an opportunity to do that right now,” she added, calling for the definition to be inserted in a new UN treaty that is currently being debated.
Malala, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other leading activists are campaigning for UN member states to amend a draft crimes against humanity treaty to include gender apartheid.