A new law that could be adopted by Afghanistan's Parliament on the status of Shiites undermines the right to education and the principle of gender equality, according to a UN agency.
In a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura expressed concern that the draft legislation contravenes principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, urging him to prevent the law from entering into force.
The Constitution of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) promotes universal respect for rights and fundamental freedom "without distinction of race, sex, language or religion," and calls for education for all "without regard to race, sex or any distinctions, economic or social."
Further, the agency ensures that the rights and specific needs of women are taken into consideration in all of its programmes, stressing the importance of unrestricted access to education by girls and women as a precondition to social and economic development, Matsuura said.
In his letter, he welcomed the strides Afghanistan's Government has made in many areas, including education, which is recognised as a right in the country's Constitution.