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Afghan women sew clothes at a tailor shop in the Fayzabad district of Badakhshan province on Dec. 13.OMER ABRAR/Getty Images

Taliban officials are sending Afghan women to prison to protect them from gender-based violence, according to a U.N. report published Thursday.

Before the Taliban seized power in 2021, there were 23 state-sponsored women protection centers in Afghanistan where survivors of gender-based violence could seek refuge. Now there are none, the U.N. report said.

Officials from the Taliban-led administration told the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan that there was no need for such shelters or that they were a Western concept.

The Taliban sends women to prison if they have no male relatives to stay with or if the male relatives are considered unsafe, the report said. Authorities have also asked male relatives for commitments or sworn statements that they will not harm a female relative, inviting local elders to witness the guarantee, it added.

Women are sent to prison for their protection “akin to how prisons have been used to accommodate drug addicts and homeless people in Kabul,” the report said.

The Associated Press contacted Taliban-led ministries about where survivors of gender-based violence can seek help, what protection measures are in place, and the conviction rates for offenders, but nobody was available for comment.

Women and girls have been increasingly confined to their homes since the Taliban takeover in 2021. They are barred from education beyond sixth grade, including university, public spaces like parks, and most jobs. They are required to take a male chaperone with them on journeys of more than 72 km (45 miles) and follow a dress code.

A Taliban decree in July ordered the closure of all beauty salons, one of the few remaining places that women could go to outside the home or family environment.

But Afghanistan has, for years, ranked among the worst places in the world to be born female.

Millions of girls were out of school before the Taliban takeover for cultural and other reasons. Child marriage, violence and abuse were widespread.

Rights groups warned that Taliban rule would enable violence against women and girls and decimate any legal protections for them.

Women are no longer working in the judiciary or law enforcement, not allowed to deal with crimes of gender-based violence, and only permitted to attend work when called upon by their male supervisors, according to the U.N. report.

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