Shattering Women’s Rights, Shattering Women’s Lives – Justice, Accountability, and Global Engagement For A Lasting Change

On the Sidelines of the 56th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council

June, 27 2024

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm  CEST

Room XXV, Palais des Nations

Recent years have seen several initiatives raising the need to recognize the crime of gender apartheid, as a response to the deteriorating situation of women in Afghanistan and Iran.  Afghan and Iranian women launched a campaign ‘End Gender Apartheid Today’ – supported by international experts and organizations – to shine a light on the situation of women and girls in both countries and engage the international community to address it by codifying gender apartheid in international law. Similarly, several UN experts, including Richard Bennett, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, Chair of the UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, and Javaid Rehman, UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, referred to the treatment of women in these countries as ‘gender apartheid.’ 

In response to these calls, in early 2024, a group of British parliamentarians established an ad-hoc inquiry into the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan and Iran. The objectives of the Inquiry were to hear from women from these countries and provide recommendations to the UK Government on how to respond. Their report entitled ‘Shattering Women’s Rights, Shattering Women’s Lives’ was launched in the UK Parliament in March 2024 and presented at the CSW in NY a week later. The inquiry was the first such a Parliamentary inquiry into the issue of gender apartheid in the world. The Inquiry heard from over 30 witnesses, including lived experience witnesses from Afghanistan and Iran, and international experts. The Inquiry identified justice and accountability as paramount to ensure lasting change, among others, and recommendations that are yet to be implemented.  

During the session, the speakers will focus on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan and Iran, and discuss the different approaches that can and must be taken to help women and girls in these countries, including through the recommendations of the Inquiry. Among others, the speakers will discuss the legal avenues for justice and accountability – including through Article 15 submission to the International Criminal Court and universal jurisdiction but also issues that require further attention, including intersectionality of gender and ethnicity and religion or belief and the multifaceted vulnerability faced as a result. Furthermore, the session will explore other options for ensuring greater engagement on the issue, including by way of engaging parliamentarians globally. 


Baroness Helena Kennedy LT KC, Peer at the UK House of Lords, Director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) 

Fawzia Koofi, politician, human rights advocate

Metra Mehran, human rights advocate

Tamana Zaryab Paryani, human rights advocate

Dr. Sima Samar (online), medical professional and educator

Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, Chair of the UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls

Lina Tori Jan, Policy Officer, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security 

The session will be moderated by Dr. Ewelina Ochab, IBAHRI senior programme lawyer 


Co-hosted by The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, the World Organisation Against Torture, the International Service for Human Rights, the Afghanistan Democracy and Development Organisation, the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, Human Rights Defenders Plus, and Shahmama.