Gender Resources

Afghanistan’ Women Judges Honoured Amid Taliban Threat

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Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law’s Center for International Human Rights has selected all women judges in Afghanistan as recipients of its annual Global Jurist of the Year Award.

Judge Anisa Rasooli will accept the award in February on behalf of the group; the school said this week. Rasooli has been called the “RBG of Afghanistan” because of career parallels with late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The award recognizes the courage and dedication Afghan women judges have shown in entering the legal profession and advocating for the rule of law in a male-dominated society, says Juliet Sorensen, a professor at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law who works with the school’s human rights centre.

Unidentified gunmen killed two women judges on Afghanistan’s highest court in January, and danger has only worsened since the Taliban took control of the country in August, Sorensen said, calling women judges and lawyers “high-value targets.”

She said the award sends “a signal of solidarity to members of the legal profession on the other side of the world who are encountering these challenging circumstances.”

There are about 270 women judges in Afghanistan, according to the International Association of Women Judges. The Taliban has stopped short of explicitly barring women from the legal profession. Still, women have largely been prohibited from working in any industry since the fall of the prior Afghan government.

Women were prohibited from becoming lawyers or getting a legal education during the Taliban’s previous regime, Sorensen noted, and international groups worked hard in the ensuing years to train and support women in the legal profession.

Many of the women judges who remain in Afghanistan are seeking to leave. Rasooli is currently in Poland, waiting to come to the United States.

Rasooli was nominated to Afghanistan’s high court by two different presidents. She was narrowly rejected by parliament the first time, and her second nomination was pending when the Taliban resumed control this year. Several other Afghan women judges are scheduled to join Rasooli at the Feb. 9 awards ceremony in Chicago.

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