Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has made an impassioned plea for what she calls “gender apartheid” to be made a crime under international law. Speaking at an event in South Africa, Yousafzai called on the world to pay attention to what’s happening to girls and women under Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist who survived being shot in the head when she was 15 years old by Taliban gunmen for daring to pursue an education, delivered the annual Nelson Mandela Foundation lecture in South Africa Tuesday, which this year marked a decade since the death of South Africa’s first democratically elected president.
The twenty-six-year-old drew parallels between Mandela’s long struggle against white minority rule and racial segregation under the apartheid regime in South Africa and the situation facing women in Afghanistan in the two years since the Taliban returned to power.
“With Mandela’s legacy in mind, I asked myself: What injustice is the world overlooking? Where are we allowing inhumanity to become the status quo? The answer for me was very clear, and very personal: the oppression of girls and women in Afghanistan,” she said.
Yousafzai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize aged just 17, decried the fact that other crises have drawn the world’s attention away from the situation in Afghanistan, where girls are not allowed to attend secondary school and women are banned from working or even leaving the house on their own.
“South Africans fought for racial apartheid to be recognized and criminalized at the international level… But gender apartheid has not been explicitly codified yet. That is why I call on every government, in every country, to make gender apartheid a crime against humanity,” she said.
Mandela’s widow, and women’s rights advocate, Graca Machel, also spoke at the event.
“Let’s be very precise, this thing of men thinking that they have a right over the lives of women, this thing of them believing that they have a right over the bodies of women, it has to stop now!” said Machel.
Yousafzai said the United Nations should adopt language on gender apartheid in a new Crimes Against Humanity Treaty it is drafting.