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Blinken announces new visa restrictions for Taliban members

On the 10th anniversary of the first International Day of the Girl, the U.S. responds to the repression of women and girls in Afghanistan with visa restrictions

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Taliban fighters stand guard in front of an education center that was attacked by a suicide bomber, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.

Ebrahim Noroozi, Associated Press

On Dec. 19, 2011, the United Nations declared Oct. 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, “to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.”

Has there been any progress?

Ten years later, teenage girls are dying at the hands of Iranian security forces, and continued attacks on schools and education centers in Afghanistan have left many school-age girls dead or wounded.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said “Now more than ever, we must renew our commitment to work together so that girls enjoy and exercise their rights and can play a full and equal part in their communities and societies. Investing in girls is investing in our common future.”

Girls face a unique set of threats. The U.N. reported that “girls are primarily victims of sexual exploitation (72% of detected girl victims), while boys are mainly subjected to forced labor (66% of detected boy victims).”

Before COVID-19, 100 million girls were at risk of child marriage in the next decade, but that estimate has increased by 10 million. According to UNICEF, the pandemic has put the most vulnerable girls at increased risk of child marriage because of school closures, economic stressors and parental deaths.

Still, UNICEF reports the proportion of women married as children has decreased by 15% in the last 10 years.

U.S. response

Tuesday, in commemoration of the International Day of the Girl Child, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken released a statement announcing a new visa restriction policy “for current or former Taliban members, members of non-state security groups, and other individuals believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, repressing women and girls in Afghanistan through restrictive policies and violence.”

The State Department also announced the release of an “action-oriented update to the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally.”