Women’s and Girls’ Rights in Afghanistan

– in the Scottish Parliament at 4:46 pm on 30 May 2024.

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Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat 4:46, 30 May 2024

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-12801, in the name of Michelle Thomson, on the Taliban’s suppression of women’s and girls’ rights in Afghanistan. The debate will be concluded without any question being put. I invite members who wish to participate to press their request-to-speak button.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament condemns what it sees as the continued suppression of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, following the takeover by the Taliban authorities; appreciates that, since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021, the United Nations has continued to condemn the actions being enforced and highlight the Taliban’s reported behaviour in breaking international law; considers that the requirement to be accompanied by a Mahram, a male chaperone, at all times beyond the home severely inhibits female participation in society; notes the reported restrictions on daily life for women and girls, including access to education, the use of gyms and parks, access to beauty services, bans on women working in various sectors of society, the compulsory wearing of hijabs and the reduction in available aid to women unless being delivered by women workers; notes what it sees as the detrimental impact that restrictions to all educational levels will have on women and girls, including on their acquisition of skills, knowledge and professional development opportunities; further notes what it sees as the detrimental impact that the ban on women and girls accessing outdoor social areas and beauty services will have, including the loss of jobs and the loss of women-only spaces; is appalled by the recently reported intention of the Taliban to re-impose the stoning to death of women; notes reports that the United Nations has declared that the Taliban has restricted the rights of women so gravely that it has made Afghanistan the “most repressive country” in the world; further notes that the overall societal impacts caused by the Taliban restrictions reportedly include increasing food scarcity and reliance on humanitarian aid; understands that population displacement caused by the restrictions has wider impacts, with countries including Scotland welcoming refugees through both humanitarian routes and informal routes; notes the role of the Scottish Government in providing £1 million per annum through the Humanitarian Emergency Fund to international humanitarian crises, including in Afghanistan; recognises the contributions of local groups across Scotland, including those in the Falkirk district, in supporting refugees who have resettled in Scotland to realise their potential, and further condemns the acts of the Taliban authorities in Afghanistan.

Photo of Michelle Thomson Michelle Thomson Scottish National Party 4:51, 30 May 2024

I thank colleagues who have stayed for the debate, which is at an atypical time after decision time on a Thursday.

On to the serious matters. Let me start by saying that, if you are raped in Afghanistan, do not report it. You will be accused of adultery, and you will face public flogging or even stoning to death. If you are a woman or young girl and need the protection of international human rights, do not live in Afghanistan, where every right has been trashed. If you are a girl over the age of 13 in Afghanistan, you are now denied the right to a school or university education. If you are a women’s rights activist, you face the wrath of the Taliban.

According to Genocide Watch, in a publication from December 2023,

The Taliban have arrested many women’s rights activists such as Julia Parsi. These women were on the front lines, fighting against inequalities. Today they are tortured and raped by the Taliban.”

They are tortured and raped for daring to promote the rights of women. Therefore, it is to the Julia Parsis and the oppressed women of Afghanistan that I dedicate this speech.

Members will know that I frequently raise concerns about the rights and needs of women in Scotland, but we cannot just believe in the rights of women at home. International human rights cannot just be for the affluent west. I cannot claim first-hand knowledge of what life is like for the women of Afghanistan, but I know that they need their voice to be heard and acted on, and I know that the international community has not stood with the women of Afghanistan as it should.

I will remind members of the context. I give thanks to David Lloyd Webber, the United Kingdom managing director of the human emergency response non-governmental organisation, Emergency, for much of the following detail.

Afghanistan has been affected by violent conflict for more than 40 years. Since the 2021 Taliban takeover, the humanitarian crisis has deepened, an inheritance of the long war, poverty and corruption. The already weak institutions have faced the impact of natural disasters, resulting in a fragile social fabric. International sanctions and the freezing of Afghanistan’s international assets abroad have put extreme strain on a country that relied on international aid for 75 per cent of public finance prior to the latest Taliban takeover.

It is the work of NGOs such as Emergency that is critical in the provision of health services for women and children. Despite the heroic efforts of many, by 2022, 10.8 million Afghans lacked access to basic primary healthcare services. As of October 2022, 4.7 million children and pregnant and lactating women were estimated to be at risk of acute malnutrition. For women, being separated, widowed or divorced is linked to a decreasing ability to access care because of Taliban rule.

Amidst that situation, imagine that you are a young girl or woman. You are now denied the right to attend school or university. You are also denied the right to work in most sectors of the economy and society. However, in those few areas that you are allowed to work in, such as healthcare, you can no longer be given the educational opportunities that enable you to realistically aspire to become a nurse, a doctor or any profession allied to the health sector. Since more recent decrees, you are not allowed to work in the wider non-governmental organisation sector, which provides critical support for women and children. If you need to travel any distance from home, you are expected to be accompanied by a mahram—a male chaperone. If you venture from your home alone and unaccompanied, you run the risk of being harassed or beaten by the Taliban’s so-called morality police.

Since the takeover, the Taliban has introduced not one but 50 decrees that directly curtail the rights and dignity of women. We are talking about a systematic attack on the rights of every girl and woman.

As a United Nations report from earlier this year pointed out,

“the Taliban’s vision for Afghanistan is founded on the structural denial of women’s rights, well-being and personhood.”

According to Samira Hamidi, an Afghan activist at Amnesty International,

“In the past two and half years, the Taliban has dismantled institutions that were providing services to Afghan women.”

Last year, the deputy of the Taliban Supreme Court said that the court had issued 37 sentences of stoning and that four people had been buried alive in a wall.

The situation is getting worse—there has been further growth in violence against women. In setting out the ways in which women can be punished, the Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, stated in an audio message that was broadcast on 24 March this year:

“We will flog the women ... we will stone them to death in public”.

What a flagrant violation of international human rights laws, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

As Safia Arefi, who is the head of the Afghan human rights organisation Women’s Window of Hope, said:

“With this announcement by the Taliban leader, a new chapter of private punishments has begun”.

She went on to say:

“Now, no one is standing beside them to save them from Taliban punishments. The international community has chosen to remain silent in the face of these violations of women’s rights.”

I will not remain silent, and I ask this Parliament not to do so either.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

Thank you, Ms Thomson. We now move to the open debate. I call Kenneth Gibson.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party 4:58, 30 May 2024

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I shall read from my iPhone on the grounds that I am incredibly short-sighted and am unable to read the notes that I normally bring to such debates because I left them in my office. I apologise for that.

I thank my colleague Michelle Thomson for securing crucial debating time on this very important subject. Since the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan in August 2021, the regime has enforced stringent gender policies, citing Sharia law and traditional Afghan customs as its justification for the appalling measures that it has imposed on Afghan women and girls. I will give a short list of those draconian measures, which include a decree forbidding women to work outside the home; a decree requiring them to wear head-to-toe coverings when they leave; a decree preventing them from leaving home without a male relative; and a decree allowing women captured in Afghanistan’s internal wars to be used as slaves and concubines.

The gravity of the situation has been underscored by the United Nations Security Council, which has stressed that the Taliban’s actions amount to gender persecution and may indeed represent a crime against humanity under the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court, to which Afghanistan has been a party since 2003.

The ramifications of those policies are far-reaching and devastating. Afghan women experience the lowest life expectancy and literacy rates, and the highest infant mortality rates, in Asia, and there have been vast increases in prostitution and begging. Those and many other challenges now face the women and girls of Afghanistan.

Stereotypical and two-dimensional depictions of Afghanistan often obscure the fact that the lives of Afghan women were once very different. Women received the right to vote in 1919—a year after the United Kingdom and a year before the United States. As early as the 1960s, the Afghan constitution enshrined women’s rights under the law.

Despite various setbacks, there was a mood of tolerance and openness in the country as it moved towards democracy in the late 20th century. In 1977, women comprised more than 15 per cent of Afghanistan’s highest legislative body. By the 1990s, 70 per cent of educators, half of Government workers and 40 per cent of doctors in Kabul were women. One woman is quoted as saying that, way back in the 1960s,

“As a girl, I remember my mother wearing miniskirts and taking us to the cinema. My aunt went to university”.

As I briefly touched on, the experience of women under the Taliban represents one of the most egregious human rights abuses in recent memory. It also shows that progress in a society is not always linear. There is no doubt that the Scottish Government and the international community must continue to assist Afghan women in their battle for liberation and equality.

However, it is important to note that Afghan women are not inert and helpless victims. Despite facing immense challenges, they continue to demonstrate a bravery and resilience that would intimidate even the most formidable foe. As renowned women’s rights activists were exiled in the wake of the Taliban’s ascent, a new generation of women—younger and from poorer backgrounds—rose to form the “bread, work, freedom” movement. In the face of tear gas, electric shocks, sexual assault, bullets and arrest, they most recently took to the streets on 19 July last year to protest the outlawing of beauty salons.

Meanwhile, from exile, Afghan educator Pashtana Durrani has created a web of underground schools that are aimed at educating girls beyond the age of 11. LEARN Afghanistan offers courses that are conducted online, many taking place in rooms with computers that are hooked up to generators, all in secret locations, to defy the Taliban and avoid detection.

Moreover, prominent Afghan women who are now in exile, such as Friba Rezayee, who is Afghanistan’s first female Olympian, and Shukria Barakzai, who is a former politician and ambassador, use their platforms to raise awareness and garner international support for Afghan women’s rights.

Furthermore, the work of Dr Fariyal Ross-Sheriff emphasises the ways in which ordinary women resist the Taliban in everyday life. Women not only have to fend for themselves; often, they have to fear for their husbands and sons, who are under constant risk of imprisonment and execution. Research indicates that women play an important role in hiding their male relatives from Taliban soldiers and that, to support extended families, they work all kinds of jobs in places of exile and in Afghanistan itself. When fleeing persecution, women contribute to decision making and maintain contact with other family members to optimise survival efforts.

The plight of Afghan women under Taliban rule demands urgent attention and action. While facing grave challenges, they exhibit remarkable resilience and courage. It is essential that we all stand in solidarity, amplify their voices and provide, wherever possible, tangible support. By working together, we can strive towards a future in which Afghan women are empowered, respected and free from oppression.

Photo of Pam Gosal Pam Gosal Conservative 5:03, 30 May 2024

I thank Michelle Thomson for bringing this crucial issue to the chamber, and I extend my heartfelt thanks to the NGOs and other organisations in the United Kingdom and around the world that work to raise awareness and to press Governments to take meaningful action for the women and girls of Afghanistan.

Although I am honoured to speak on the motion, I cannot help but feel a sense of sadness. In one of my first speeches in the chamber on this topic, in September 2021, I said:

“Let us not forget that this is not the end; it is the beginning. The question that we must attend to is what comes next.”—[Official Report, 2 September 2021; c 72.]

Unfortunately, what has come next has been much worse, as the Taliban has turned the country back into the dark ages.

Here in the United Kingdom, we are so fortunate. Most of the time, we take our freedoms for granted. However, that is not the case for the women and girls of Afghanistan.

Imagine this. You cannot go to school. You cannot work. You cannot leave your house on your own. You are forced into a marriage that you do not want. Basically, you are a prisoner in your own country.

In Afghanistan, most girls are now barred from attending secondary school and women are forbidden to work. When accessing public spaces, they must be accompanied by a male relative. Survivors of sexual violence can find no solace, as the support systems that were built up over the past 20 years have crumbled into dust. The number of young girls being forced into unwanted marriages has skyrocketed, as families marry them off to avoid starvation or even to secure protection from Taliban fighters.

In the past month, Afghanistan has been affected by catastrophic flooding. According to Glasgow Afghan United, the incident led to at least 70 women being denied their rights and dignity even in death, because the Taliban had got rid of all the female workers who would have cared for women’s bodies and prepared them for burial. We live in the 21st century. That should not be happening.

In my maiden speech in the Parliament, I highlighted that, as a woman of colour, I had to earn respect in a male-dominated world, especially in my teenage years, when my father passed away. I was always told that, in that so-called man’s world that observed backward traditions, a woman could do only certain things. I was lucky that I lived in Britain, a democratic free-speech society, where I had the chance to challenge those misogynistic views. Today, I am in a position where I can openly speak about being a strong advocate for women and girls. As we all know, sadly, that is not the case for women and girls in Afghanistan.

We all have a duty to do much more. Bringing the discussion to Parliament shows that we have not forgotten. Since April 2021, the United Kingdom Government has allocated more than £600 million in aid. Although it has also established two key resettlement schemes, which have led to nearly 26,000 Afghans finding refuge here, more needs to be done. That can only happen if we all work together.

I stand in unwavering solidarity with all women and girls in Afghanistan who are suffering, particularly those whose lives have been shattered. I hope that, one day, we will all see an Afghanistan that is free, and in which women are no longer treated as second-class citizens but are empowered to pursue their dreams and live in dignity.

Photo of Ruth Maguire Ruth Maguire Scottish National Party 5:07, 30 May 2024

At present, we do not have to look too hard to see documentation of egregious human rights abuses being perpetrated against women and girls and, in the case of Gaza, even babies. I hope that I never become inured to those stark, shocking and heart-breaking images. Although it might be less present in the media, the context of Afghanistan continues to be categorised by constant prohibitions and restrictions on the rights of women and girls.

I am grateful to Michelle Thomson for securing cross-party support in bringing this important debate to the Parliament. I thank her for her long-standing and continuing commitment to women and girls, which she demonstrates weekly in the Parliament and beyond and which was well reflected in her excellent speech.

I am a parliamentary member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. I agree with it as it urges all states to take concrete action to hold the Taliban accountable for systematic gender-based violations and to condemn it for what those clearly represent: gender apartheid. The WILPF’s recent statement on Afghanistan provides chilling reading. Women are

“arbitrarily arrested on the streets for allegedly not dressing appropriately, and being illegally detained, often without information on their whereabouts provided to their families. There are reports of financial extortion of families in exchange for information on their female relatives’ whereabouts”.

Detained women are subjected to sexual violence by the Taliban. There were a

“few pockets of life that Afghan women and girls had found to resist, including through remote schooling and operating businesses from home”.

Those, too,

“are being violently cracked down upon by the Taliban. Women leaders of civil society organisations including in the humanitarian sector continue to be harassed, arrested, listed by the Taliban intelligence services, and forced to resign ... the rule of law and the justice system have been obliterated by the Taliban”,

leaving women and girls

“nowhere to turn”

in the face of myriad violations and living

“in constant fear of punishment due to unpredictable enforcement of Taliban rules.”

The UN special rapporteur on Afghanistan noted that

“the institutionalized, systematic and widespread nature”

of the discrimination

“justifies it being framed as ‘gender apartheid’.”

The situation in Afghanistan is setting a very dangerous precedent for women’s and girls’ rights globally. The Taliban regime must not be legitimised or normalised, and any engagement with it and the de facto authorities must put human rights front and centre and be fully informed by the recommendations of Afghan female activists.

As Kenneth Gibson set out in his speech on the historical context of women’s place in Afghan society, rights, once won, are not guaranteed for ever. The UN special rapporteur has stated:

“the weight of history ... offers little indication that the Taliban leadership is willing to embrace human rights.”

I join the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in calling on all states that genuinely stand for the rights of women and girls and gender justice to

“Take concrete actions to hold the Taliban accountable for these systematic gender-based violations.”

That includes

“supporting efforts by the International Criminal Court in prosecuting the crime of gender persecution; exercising universal jurisdiction regarding gender-based crimes; and issuing arrest warrants and travel bans against Taliban leadership”.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour 5:12, 30 May 2024

I extend my thanks to Michelle Thomson for securing this particularly important debate. It is a privilege, as a man, to contribute to the debate and to hear the stories, the explanations and the information about the reach-out work that charities and the third sector are doing with regard to what is happening under the Taliban.

I also thank Michelle Thomson for the wording of her motion, because it is an incredibly powerful statement on what is happening in a country that is not so far away. I was very much taken by the phrase that she has lifted from the United Nations, which has declared gravely that the Taliban’s restrictions on women’s rights mean that Afghanistan is the “most repressive country” in the world. It is for the rest of the world to look to that and do something about it. It is for the rest of the world—and the men of the rest of the world—to look around and say that what is happening in Afghanistan is wrong.

Kenneth Gibson made a very powerful speech on the history of the situation going back to 1919, when women in Afghanistan gained the vote. Pam Gosal made a very strong contribution about taking freedom for granted, which I will come back to at the end. We have also heard from Ruth Maguire, who it is always a pleasure to follow in debates because of her powerful and thoughtful contributions.

In my short speech, I will concentrate on just one element. This is not to take away from any of the powerful stories that we have heard, but the element that I will comment on is the loss of education for girls in Afghanistan and the role that the BBC World Service is playing. That institution, which goes back to 1932, has launched, in essence, an education service for the secret classrooms—the secret groupings of women and girls who have come together given their desire to learn. No matter how horrendous or horrible people are towards girls in particular, they want to learn. The history of the world tells us that girls will go to extraordinary lengths to learn, and it is good to see that a series that is operated by female BBC journalists who themselves fled Kabul over two years ago now is allowing a touch of education.

I was incredibly taken by the contribution of a 16-year-old, Amina, who said that she has not set foot in a classroom for two years and that she misses the simple routine of being in a school. She misses the routine of classes in which she could learn. She now spends her days learning to cook traditional Afghan dishes with her mother. A friend told her about “Dars” learning, and she now watches that programme. It gives her a small amount of control over her life.

Maybe that is the most powerful thing about education: it returns control. No matter what other people think, that 16-year-old feels a small amount of control. That itself is an incredibly powerful light that we should look to, work to, support and elevate.

I go back to Pam Gosal’s contribution. She talked about taking freedom for granted. Would it not be lovely if, in the very near future in this Parliament, we could say that taking freedom for granted was a pleasure that the girls and women of Afghanistan could feel again, or at least that they could see the hope that it will come again?

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party 5:16, 30 May 2024

As colleagues have done, I pay tribute to Michelle Thomson for bringing to Parliament a motion on a very important issue and for her words, and I pay tribute to all colleagues for their words.

For us to discuss the issue in our Parliament is symbolic of the context, which others have referred to, that we are able to speak in this democratic place about the fragility of democracy, the importance of international human rights, and how they can be so vulnerable.

As Amnesty International has stated, just a few years ago in Afghanistan,

“There were around two million girls in the secondary schools and thousands of female students were pursuing higher education in different fields. Women were working as doctors, teachers, pilots, athletes, actresses, politicians, diplomats, ministers, deputy ministers, directors, provincial governors, defence lawyers, judges, businesswomen, CEOs, and employees of NGOs. The Constitution of Afghanistan was one of the most progressive constitutions in the South Asia region and Afghanistan was showing progress when reporting on human rights treaties implementation before the UN treaty bodies. The government institutions such as the Ministry of Women Affairs, Upper House and Lower House of the Parliament, Independent Human Rights Commission; as well as the Prosecution Office for Elimination of Violence against Women and the Special Courts for Elimination of Violence against Women were successful in addressing the challenges women faced in Afghanistan, to some extent.”

However, just a few years ago, on 15 August 2021, the return of the Taliban took all of that away from Afghan women and girls. It was taken away by men.

When the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan at that time, its intent to suffocate the rights of women and girls became immediately apparent. Others have spoken about the restrictions on freedom, Afghanistan becoming—tragically—one of the most repressive countries in the world, and the imposition of horrendous repression to the extent of the reimposition of stoning to death. It is hard to imagine just how horrific the situation is.

As Human Rights Watch has reported, just as the suppression was swiftly implemented by the Taliban in 2021,

“Protests by women began just as quickly: they took to the streets with placards and chants. The chants coalesced into a clear demand: ‘Bread, work, freedom.’”

It is inspirational that small groups of Afghan women have continued to do that to this day. Indeed, this spring, women gathered in private spaces to demand that harsh restrictions on their freedoms be lifted, despite Taliban crackdowns on protests that have seen activists detained. Their courage is remarkable and inspiring, and the least that we can do is show our solidarity, as we are doing today. The least that we can do is our bit.

In conclusion, I will speak about two friends of mine who have done their bit and have made a difference for the women of Afghanistan.

My former English teacher Sam Mort was head of communications for the United Nations Children’s Fund in Afghanistan in 2021. You may have seen her on the BBC World Service. Her courage in reporting from that place and telling all of us about what was happening was inspirational. Her use of her skills as a diplomat to protect women and girls in Afghanistan during her time there is something that I find inspirational, as I know others do too.

My friend Lucy Blake is a lawyer who worked pro bono to fight for a female Afghan judge, whose name cannot be disclosed because of security concerns, to be able to come to the UK. Last summer, she won that battle for the judge she represented.

Those are two examples of women from our part of the world who are doing their bit as women supporting women. We also remember Linda Norgrove and her foundation, which is still doing great work today.

In the face of Taliban brutality and of such egregious violations of international human rights, we may feel that we can have very little influence, but we must all do our bit, whether that is speaking in Parliament or the sort of significant examples that I have highlighted of people from our country who are making an impact. If we all do our bit, perhaps there can be a brighter future for the women and girls of Afghanistan. We must believe that and work towards it.

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Scottish National Party 5:21, 30 May 2024

I thank members for their passionate words and I especially thank Michelle Thomson for bringing this debate to the chamber.

The Scottish Government is committed to promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law, both at home and abroad, recognising Scotland’s role as a good global citizen. Through dialogue, we seek to promote international human rights standards; debates such as this one are vital to that aim. We have shown that this Parliament speaks with one voice in recognising the truly horrific situation faced by women in Afghanistan. I acknowledge the powerful contributions made today by speakers from all sides of Scotland’s Parliament: Michelle Thomson, Kenneth Gibson, Pam Gosal, Ruth Maguire, Martin Whitfield and Ben Macpherson.

Since retaking control of Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban has created the world’s most serious crisis in women’s rights. The Scottish Government condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the Taliban’s systematic violation of the rights of women and girls, particularly of rights relating to education, employment, freedom of speech and movement and of the rights to liberty, life and political participation.

Where we can, the Scottish Government has sought to help people in Afghanistan. In 2021, the country experienced unprecedented levels of hunger and malnutrition due to the combined effects of economic collapse, continuing conflict, the worst drought in living memory and Covid-19. The Scottish Government provided £600,000 of support, including targeted mental health and psychosocial support, for mothers and children, as well as food packages for pregnant and breastfeeding women and for malnourished children. In November 2023, we also provided £250,000 to support those left without shelter and other essentials following several large earthquakes.

UN Security Council resolution 1325 recognises

“the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts ... and stresses the importance of their equal participation ... in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.”

Since 2016, the Scottish Government has funded the women in conflict fellowship to support the implementation of that resolution. To date, we have supported 378 fellows from more than 30 countries, including eight outstanding female activists from Afghanistan.

The Scottish Government also funds the Scottish human rights defender fellowship programme, which offers respite to human rights defenders working in difficult conditions and offers them opportunities to undertake research, develop skills and build networks during a three to six-month visit to Scotland.

Scotland remains committed to playing our part in welcoming and supporting people who are fleeing Afghanistan. Officials continue to work with partners to provide people with the safety and security that they need to rebuild their lives. In line with the key principle of the new Scots refugee integration strategy, local authorities are working to support integration from day 1 of arrival here in Scotland.

We are committed to delivering a feminist approach in all our international work by putting the rights of women, girls and marginalised groups at the heart of our international activities. One way that we deliver on that is through our international development work.

While also implementing equality-focused programmes, we are working to ensure that equality is embedded across all of our international development work, including our inclusive education programme, which promotes fairness and human rights for all, prioritising access to education for women and girls. It was inspired by Malala Yousafzai, the courageous campaigner for better education for girls, who was shot for opposing Taliban restrictions. We set up a scholarship scheme for women in Pakistan and we have continued to invest in that important programme.

Unfortunately, women and children continue to suffer disproportionately in conflicts. The majority of the 35,000 reported deaths in Gaza are known to be women and children. The situation for women in Afghanistan is truly dire, and I urge the United Kingdom Government to do more to work with international partners to address the dreadful humanitarian and human rights situation that we have been considering today.

We know that women and girls are disproportionately affected by crises around the world, whether it be climate change, war or pandemics. Amid concerning global trends of the rolling back of the rights of women and girls, we must remain committed to achieving gender equality at home in Scotland as well as engaging internationally as a good global citizen to advocate for the advancement of rights for all women and all girls.

Nowhere is advocacy, global co-operation and co-ordinated action to protect women more necessary than in Afghanistan today, and we pledge to continue our work on that. I am pleased to note that that pledge has support from all corners of the chamber, and it will continue to do so.

Meeting closed at 17:27.