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  • Apr 15, 2024

FCDO is evaluating the legal and political implications of Gender Apartheid

Lord Ahmad, representing the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, says FCDO is evaluating the complex legal and political implications of the proposed concept of gender apartheid.

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On April 12, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, representing the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, (FCDO) responded to a Parliamentary question regarding the Gender Apartheid Inquiry report titled ‘Shattering Women's Rights, Shattering Lives: Parliamentary Ad-Hoc Inquiry Into The Situation Of Women And Girls In Afghanistan And Iran’, published by the International Bar Association. The question put to the FCDO was regarding its assessment of the report, particularly concerning the forthcoming 79th meeting of the UN General Assembly Sixth Committee. 

In response, Lord Ahmad of the FCDO acknowledged the report, recognising that the FCDO is evaluating the complex legal and political implications of the proposed concept of gender apartheid. He mentioned ongoing consultations with legal experts and consideration of the distinct situations of women and girls in Afghanistan and Iran before assessing the recommendations of the inquiry. 

In addition, Lord Ahmad emphasised the UK's condemnation of policies and actions in both countries that restrict women's and girls' rights. He said:

“Officials from the UK Mission to Afghanistan regularly press Taliban acting ministers to reverse their harmful policies on women and girls. Since Iran's mass protests of 2022-23, we have sanctioned 94 individuals or entities for human rights abuses, including senior decision makers responsible for Iran's oppressive hijab law.” 

Azadi Network has participated in the report and firmly believes that the recognition of gender apartheid as a crime against humanity at the upcoming UN General Assembly Sixth Committee 79th meeting in April and the UK’s role in condemning restrictive policies and taking concrete actions against human rights violators, will be an important step if the UK aims to contribute to the promotion of gender equality and the protection of women's and girls' rights in these countries.

Context: Earlier this year, Baroness Helena Kennedy, KC, led an Independent Parliamentary Inquiry resulting in a report on Gender Apartheid, underscoring its absence in current international legal frameworks. The report emphasises the failure of the Apartheid Convention and Rome Statute to explicitly address gender-based oppression, proposing 'gender' substitution for 'race' in the Rome Statute's apartheid definition. The concept of apartheid, depriving a segment of the community of full societal participation, is evident in restricted freedoms, educational limitations, and exclusion from legal and decision-making processes. While the Rome Statute includes gender persecution as a crime against humanity, the report argues its inadequacy in addressing the institutionalised oppression faced by women in specific regions. 

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