End Gender Apartheid

title animation reading: GENDER APARTHEID, End the Silence, Violence, Indignity, Segregation, Assault, Imprisonment, Persecution, Oppression, Terror, Domination, Injustice
END GENDER APARTHEID (styled wordmark)


Join the Global action to end gender apartheid in Iran and Afghanistan today

Women and girls who live under the regimes of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Taliban in Afghanistan live in an extreme, systematic and structural war against them. This was designed to dehumanize and repress for purposes of entrenching power. Yet, they courageously maintain the fight against being treated as second‑class citizens under the law; laws which dictate their bodily autonomy, economic and educational access and other basic rights and dignity.

This treatment has a name:

This war on women must end now.


Apartheid standards in international law, developed primarily in the 20th century, were designed to address racial apartheid. The definition of apartheid under international law should be interpreted to include gender hierarchies, not just racial hierarchies. This campaign will seek to expand the set of moral, political and legal tools available to mobilize international action against and ultimately end systems of gender apartheid.


Open letter from Iranian and Afghan Women, International Lawyers and Global Women Leaders Urging Countries to Recognize the Crime of Gender Apartheid

As a diverse coalition of Iranian and Afghan women leaders, international legal practitioners, activists and other stakeholders, we are calling on states to recognize the crime of gender apartheid to counteract and eventually end the systems of gender apartheid currently in place in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan are often described as “gender apartheid” regimes for their treatment of women as second‑class citizens under law and policy. However, apartheid standards in international law, developed primarily in the 20th century, were designed to address racial apartheid.

Apartheid comes from the Afrikaans word for “apart.” The term was born out of apartheid South Africa, and its system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination, which sought to establish and maintain dominance by white South Africans over black South Africans. That system eventually came to an end, in part because of decades of pressure and isolation from international actors through shaming and severing diplomatic and economic relations.

While representing a distinct form of apartheid from that in South Africa, the components of systematic segregation and subjugation that make up apartheid are present in Afghanistan and Iran today. Under the Taliban, women in Afghanistan are banned from education, employment in NGOs and in government, and from traveling long distances without a male guardian, all while having to abide by a severe dress code. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, women are banned from many fields of study, sporting events, and from obtaining a passport and traveling outside the country without their husband’s permission. Women’s lives and their testimony are worth half a man under the law and they are forced to wear compulsory hijab. These bans, and the broader legal systems they belong to, seek to establish and maintain women’s subjugation to men, and the State. Violation of these laws can lead to violence, imprisonment, and death.

Looking to the example of the international community’s condemnation of apartheid South Africa, women living in Iran and Afghanistan are requesting similarly internationalized responses to end the gender apartheid regimes they are subject to. In order to fully realize the goals of the woman‑led revolution in Iran and to support the courageous defiance of Afghan women who have had their rights brutally stripped away, the international community must properly recognize the harms of a legally enshrined system in which women are treated as second‑class citizens and acknowledge this not only through condemnation but through effective, concerted action.

The situations in the Islamic Republic of Iran and under the Taliban in Afghanistan are not simply cases of gender discrimination. Rather, these systems are perpetuating a more extreme, systematic and structural war against women designed to dehumanize and repress them for purposes of entrenching power.

Our chief demands to governments

  1. Amplify and center the experiences of women in Iran and Afghanistan living under gender apartheid.
  2. Make statements, issue resolutions and shape other policy responses to condemn the gender apartheid regimes in Iran and Afghanistan.
  3. Interpret and/or expand the legal definition of apartheid under international and national laws to include severe forms of institutionalized gender‑based discrimination.

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Key Signatures

  • Shirin Ebadi
    Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
  • Najla Ayoubi
    Judge, Co‑founder Every Woman Treaty
  • Mehrangiz Kar
    Lawyer, Women's Rights Defender & Author
  • Fawzia Koofi
    First Woman Deputy Speaker, Afghan Parliament
  • Graça Machel
    Former Minister of Education & First Lady of Mozambique
  • Wahida Rahimi
    Former Judge, Afghanistan
  • Masih Alinejad
    Journalist, Human Rights Activist
  • Nazanin Boniadi
    Actress & Human Rights Activist
  • Wahida Amiri
    Women’s Rights Defender, Afghanistan
  • Atena Daemi
    Human Rights Activist
  • Karima Bennoune
    Law Professor & Former UN Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights
  • Golshifteh Farahani
    Actress & Activist
  • Roya Boroumand
    Executive Director, Abdorrahman Boroumand Center
  • Ladan Boroumand
    Historian & Human Rights Activist
  • Shadi Sadr
    Human Rights Lawyer
  • Azadeh Pourzand
    Co‑founder & Director, Siamak Pourzand Foundation
  • Asieh Amini
    Poet, Writer & Women's Rights Activist
  • Nazanin Afshin‑Jam Mackay
    Human Rights Activist
  • Pashtana Dorani
    Executive Director LEARN, Afghan Activist
  • Nayera Kohistani
    Afghan Civil Rights Activist
  • Gissou Nia
    Human Rights Lawyer
  • Nina Ansary
    Author & Human Rights Advocate
  • Azita Ghanizada
    Actress & Activist
  • Zahra Joya
    Journalist & Founder, Rukhshana Media
  • Azar Nafisi
    Writer & Activist 
  • Zehra Zaidi
    Co‑Founder, Action for Afghanistan
  • Kobra Moradi
    Human Rights Lawyer
  • Mina Sharif
    Paragon Institute
  • Julia Parsi
    Leader in Afghan Women's Protest Movement
  • Naeema Asadi
    Women’s Rights Defender, Afghanistan
  • Sodaba Bayani
    Women's Rights Activist, Afghanistan
  • Shirin Neshat
  • Nafisa Kabuli
    President, Afghan Women Judge’s Association
  • Lily Pourzand
    Gender Equality Expert
  • Sepideh Moafi
    Activist & Actor
  • Lida Kharooti Sayeed
    Judge & Founder & Vice President of the Afghan Women's Judges Association
  • Zahra Nader
    Editor‑in‑Chief of Zan Times
  • Zubaida Akbar
    Woman Human Rights Defender & Afghanistan Program Officer for Freedom Now
  • Metra Mehran
    Afghan Women's Rights Defender
  • Ratna Omidvar
    Senator of Canada
  • Sheeba Raufi
    Civil & Women’s Rights Activist
  • Natasha Latiff
    Human Rights Lawyer, Strategic Advocacy for Human Rights (SAHR)
  • Humaira Ameeri
    Afghan Human Rights Lawyer
  • Nazanin Nour
    Actor & Activist
  • Mozhan Marno
    Actress, Writer & Activist
  • Nasim Pedrad
    Actor & Activist
  • Akila Radhakrishnan
    President of the Global Justice Center
  • Maryam Namazie
    One Law for All
  • Soraya Fallah
    Researcher & Women's Rights Activist
  • Goli Ameri
    Former US representative UN General Assembly 
  • Mariam Khosravani
    Founder of Iranian American Women Foundation
  • Horia Mosadiq
    Director of Conflict Analysis Network (CAN)
  • Open Stadiums
    Movement to let Iranian women into stadiums
  • Mariam Safi
    Director, Organization for Policy Research and Development Studies (DROPS)
  • Neelam Raina
    Professor & Founder of Afghan Solidarity Coalition
  • Raakhi Shah
    Chief Executive, The Circle
  • Mahya Ostovar
    Human Rights Activist, Assistant Professor at University of Galway
  • Fardin Hashimi
    CEO & Founder, Afghanistan Development Studies Center
  • Roshan Mashal
    Women's Human Rights Activist, Afghanistan
  • Firuzeh Mahmoudi
    Founder & Director, United for Iran
  • Global Justice Center
    Lawyers advancing gender equality and human rights
  • Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network (GAIN)
    Protecting & empowering immigrant survivors of crime and persecution
  • Organization for Policy Research and Development Studies (DROPS)
    Afghan organization committed to strengthening democratic ideas and values
  • Malini Mehra
    Chief Executive, Globe Legislators
  • Magda Zenon
    Women, Peace and Security Expert
  • Nushin Sarkarati
    Human Rights Lawyer
  • Homa Sarshar
    Author, Activist
  • Zainab Salbi
    Author, Activist
  • V (formerly Eve Ensler)
    Author, Activist
  • Aliye Yilmaz
    Head of Afghanistan Education, Culture and Social Assistance Association in Ankara
  • Parwana Paikan
    Minister Counselor & Deputy, Afghanistan Embassy in France
  • Lailuma Sadid
    President, Network of Afghan Diaspora Organisations in Europe
  • Rada Akbar
    Afghan Artist & Activist
  • Humira Saqib
    Director, Afghan Women News Agency Organization
  • Afghan Women News Agency Organization
    Non profit media group raising the voices of women in the news
  • Visaka Dharmadasa
    Chairperson, Association of War Affected Women
  • Moj Mahdara
    Founder & Managing Director Kinship Ventures
  • Maryam Rayed
    Founder, Afghanistan Women's Think Tank
  • Angela Mehri
    Human Rights Activist
  • Fariza Akbari Ibrahimi
    Afghan Women's Rights Activist
  • Tamanna Rezaei
    Women's Rights Activist
  • Sabira Akbari
    Afghan Women's Rights Activist & Protestor
  • Lina Ahmadi
    Afghan Lawyer and Protestor
  • Sumaya Shirzad
    Afghan Women's Rights Activist & Protestor
  • Aliya Naibi
    Afghan Women's Rights Activist & Protestor
  • Fahranaz Haidari
    Afghan Women's Rights Activist & Protestor
  • Tara Grammy
    Actor & Activist
  • Niousha Noor
    Actor & Activist
  • Shella Kohestani
    Afghan Women's Rights Activist
  • Zahrah Mirzaei
    Afghan Women's Rights Activist & Protestor 
  • Zahra Mohammadi Haqparas
    Founder, Unity and Solidarity Team of Afghan Women 
  • Fatema Qurbani
    Afghan Human Rights Activist
  • Gulsom Zahra
    Afghan Human Rights Activist
  • Sima Noori
    Head of Women's Affairs Committee, Hazara World Council
  • Nilofar Ayoubi
    Afghan Women's Rights Activist & Protestor
  • Munisa Mobariz
    Founder, Afghanistan Powerful Women's movement
  • Fawzia Wahdat
    Journalist & Women's Rights Activist
  • Tahera Nasiri
    Afghan Women's Rights Activist & Protestor 
  • Atefa Tayeb
    Former Afghan Deputy Minister for Parliamentary Affairs
  • Task Force Nyx
    Women‑led NGO that fights for the futures and freedoms of Afghan women and girls
  • Yasmeen Ghyasi
    Afghan Women's Rights Activist & Protestor
  • Maliha Zafari
    Civil Society Activist
  • Maryam Shafipour
    Human Rights Activist
  • Azam Jangravi
    Women's Rights Activist
  • Benafsha Yaqoobi
    Former Commissioner on Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission
  • Shabana Basij‑Rasikh
    Afghan Educator & Activist
  • Azadah Raz Mohammad
    International Human Rights Lawyer
  • Rangita de Silva de Alwis
    Hillary Rodham Clinton Distinguished Fellow, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security
  • Yalda Royan
    Afghan Women's Rights Activist
  • Zarqa Yaftali
    Executive Director, Women and Children Legal Research Foundation
  • International Civil Society Action Network
  • Sara Wahedi
    Humanitarian & Founder, Ehtesab
  • Sharan Tabari
  • Nazenin Ansari
  • Ava Homa
  • Farangiss Bayat
    Political Researcher
  • Crystal Bayat
    Women's Rights Activist
  • Hedvig Alexander
    Former Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Afghanistan
  • Chris Alexander
    Former Ambassador of Canada to Afghanistan, Former Minister of Immigration and Citizenship
  • Ratna Omidvar
    Senator, Senate of Canada
  • Fatema Daryab Ahmadi
    Afghan Human Rights Defender & Freedom of Religion Advocate.
  • Maliha Shirzay
    President, International Afghan Enlightened Women
  • Mahsa Khanbabai
    AILA Board of Governors, Director
  • Yasmine Chubin
    Legal Advocacy Director, Clooney Foundation for Justice
  • Nadia Hashimi
    Author & Physician
  • Payam Akhavan
    Senior Fellow, Massey College, University of Toronto
  • Helena Kennedy
    Director of the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute, UK House of Lords peer
  • Ewelina Ochab
    IBA Human Rights Institute programme lawyer, co‑founder of Coalition for Genocide Response
  • Shabnam Nasimi
    Former UK Policy Advisor to Minister for Afghan Resettlement & Minister for Refugees
  • Every Woman Treaty
    Coalition of over 1,700 advocates 




Suggested Text

I stand by the women & girls of Afghanistan & Iran and demand that we expand the legal definition of apartheid under international laws. Join me: EndGenderApartheid.Today #EndGenderApartheid

This effort is being led by both Iranian and Afghan legal experts, activists, and women leaders across the world. 

Situations of gender apartheid could be prosecuted as the crime against humanity of gender persecution. However, recognizing gender apartheid as a crime in and of itself would strengthen tools available for ending apartheid regimes. When substituting gender language for racial language, apartheid definitions are factually accurate descriptions of particularly severe forms of gender‑based discrimination. This will help convey the gravity of the harms carried out in gender apartheid regimes and catalyze action to stop these harms.

This is a three part effort that will happen in tandem. First, we demand governments raise awareness about the experiences of women in Iran and Afghanistan living under gender apartheid. Second we ask that governments issue statements and resolutions acknowledging that Iran and Afghanistan are gender apartheid states, and finally, we will work with governments and leaders to interpret and/or expand the legal definition of apartheid under international and national laws to include severe forms of institutionalized gender‑based discrimination.

If Gender Apartheid becomes a legally recognizable term, we will have pathways of prosecution for the leaders who are enacting these atrocities. We will also set a new historic precedent that this behaviour is not tolerated by the international community. Apartheid is not only a crime, but it is also subject to universal jurisdiction, imposing an obligation on states to investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators of apartheid when they are present in the country.
Read fact sheet prepared by Karima Bennoune and Amulya Vadapalli

Awareness. Amplification. Action. We need you to help spread awareness of what gender apartheid is and then amplify stories from inside Iran and Afghanistan that support the necessity for this legal framework to be adopted. We will share information of what direct actions will be required, including contacting national and international representatives.

Yes, this is a non‑partisan effort and has no religious, ideological or political affiliation.

Discrimination against women globally is a reality. This campaign is a focused, shared effort led by Afghan and Iranian women, who are looking to challenge the apartheid systems that they live or were born under. We believe the states of Afghanistan and Iran are outliers on women's rights globally, because of gender apartheid; although we acknowledge acts of violence against women are widely perpetrated in some countries more than in others. We hope that this effort charts a path forward for all women to demand the equality they rightly deserve and for global leaders to take notice and set new standards. 

The 1973 Apartheid Convention defines apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” We believe that both racial and gender discrimination that are systematically adopted by state systems is an act of apartheid. Therefore we define gender apartheid as inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one gender identity group of persons over any other gender identity group of persons and systematically oppressing them.
Read fact sheet prepared by Karima Bennoune and Amulya Vadapalli

Targeting based on gender is not limited to women and can include victims who identify as women, girls, men, boys, nonbinary, and LGBTQI+ persons. Gender crimes target persons based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (e.g. woman/girl, man/boy, or nonbinary), or based on their sex. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court’s guidance on gender crimes defines gender as “sex characteristics and social constructs and criteria used to define maleness and femaleness, including roles, behaviours, activities and attributes.” These social constructs can vary between societies and can change over time.