NAWJ Holds Meeting, Baha Says More Female Judges Needed

News - Afghanistan

At a three-day conference held at the Afghan Supreme Court in Kabul, over 180 female judges gathered for the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) to discuss strategies for getting more female judges appointed and improving women's stake in the Afghan legal system. Bahauddin Baha, the acting head of the Supreme Court, said that the introduction of more female judges to the Afghan judiciary would lead to an improvement in the treatment of women's rights.

Judge Baha said he believed the majority of Afghan women were not able to enjoy their Constitutional rights, particularly in remote areas, and were not served well by the shortage of female judges. The NAWJ conference concluded that more female judges would lead to a legal system that better served the rights of women.

The treatment of women in Afghan society has been a major political and social issue for decades. First, with the crack down on women's rights under the Taliban, and more recently, with the slow but steady empowerment of Afghan women under the new foreign-backed government. However, many Afghans as well as groups like Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) continue to make calls for greater reform and initiative. In a legal system that continues to treat violence against women lightly and permits their incarceration for acts such as choosing to leave home, many still consider there to be injustices in the way women's rights are handled under law, let alone in everyday society.

Judge Baha and the many female judges gathered at the NAWJ meeting were convinced that more women on the bench would mean greater justice for Afghan women. Although, it was recognized that security issues would make the service of females in the judiciary in certain remote areas of the country extremely difficult.

"The creation of the Association of Women Judges is a great achievement, and the Association should try to attract more women judges," said Baha. "The only challenge for women judges is security, they would not be able to serve in major areas of some provinces.

Female officials in government and law enforcement have routinely been targeted by insurgent attacks. In early August, Kandahar MP Friba Ahmadi Kakar was abducted by the Taliban and Senator Rogul Khairzad barely survived an assassination attempt perpetrated by insurgents that resulted in the death of her daughter. In July, high-profile police Lieutenant Islam Bibi was assasinated by gunmen in Helmand province.

Judge Baha explicitly advocated for female judges managing cases involving women, presumably because he believed they would be more inclined to protect women's rights.

"The female judges are capable enough to handle all women's related cases," Baha said. However, he did not say how or when exactly such an arrangement could be legally established and implemented.

Meanwhile, Anisa Rassoli, the head of the NAWJ, urged the government to continue and expand educational and vocational programmes that have been developed to attract and train female judges.

"The Association of Women Judges aims to create an environment where all Afghan women have access to the judiciary," said Judge Rassoli. "The motive behind creating this Association is to help women enjoy their Constitutional rights."

Hosn Bano Ghazanfar, Minister of Women Affairs, who attended the meeting, took the occasion to highlight the progress that had been over the past 11 years in women's empowerment.

"Women have made a lot of progress over the past 11 years. It is an honor for female judges to be getting a chance to work for the betterment of their sisters," said Ms. Ghazanfar. "They should be supported to do their job well."

The NAWJ was formed in August, 2012, and currently as has 186 members. 

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