At a four-day conference at the Afghan Supreme Court in Kabul last week, over 180 female judges affiliated with the Afghan Women Judges Association (AWJA) and other leaders discussed strategies for improving the number of Afghanistan’s female judges and ensuring justice to those who come to the courts. Women now make up 10 percent of the total number of Afghan judges, which is an impressive increase from 3 percent five years ago.

Female judges currently face many obstacles to doing their work, including threats to their security and social stigma. A senior United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan judicial officer, Damian Klauss, said recruiting female judges should be a priority, despite the challenges. He said, “It is important that courts are seen to be fair and impartial if they are to be considered legitimate, and a judiciary that accurately reflects the population they serve plays a vital role in that regard. Afghanistan does not lack for talented women lawyers, and the country would benefit immensely by their service in the judiciary.”

The AWJA, which was formed in August 2012 and currently has 186 members, has called for at least one seat in the High Council of the Supreme Court to be reserved for a woman, and the association has sent several judges to receive training on gender issues, violence against women, and legal interpretation.

Judge Anisa Rassoli, head of the AWJA, said having more female judges is essential because “if a woman judge is present in a province, a woman complainant can share her problems with full confidence. She may not feel easy to share them with a man judge.”

This push to get women more involved in the legal system comes at a time when the country and the global community are also working hard to involve more women in the political system before the presidential and provincial elections taking place next year.

Media Resources: Tolo News 9/1/2013; United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan News 9/4/2013; Feminist Newswire 9/6/2013