Saturday, 4 January 2014

Afghan MP Leads by Example for Women's Rights


MUMBAI & NEW DELHI, December 17-20, 2013- The position of women in Afghanistan needs much attention as the country finds itself at a crucial crossroads on many fronts in 2014. To better understand nuances of gender issues in Afghanistan in the context of broader current affairs of the region, Asia Society India Centre hosted a series of programmes under its Women Parliamentarians of Afghanistan series- in partnership with the Canadian Consulate General in Mumbai and the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi- with Farkhunda Naderi, Member of the Afghanistan National Assembly.
The series began in Mumbai with a public address at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, followed by a public dialogue during which Naderi was joined in conversation with journalist Gayatri Rangachari Shah. After this, a private roundtable was convened with women leaders across disciplines. We then moved to New Delhi, where a student address was held at the Sanskriti School and a public dialogue was led by Member of the Rajya Sabha Smriti Irani. We concluded with private roundtable with policy practitioners.
Through these dialogues convened with multiple stakeholders, and at many levels, Naderi shed light on critical issues in Afghanistan, including the lack of female representation in the Supreme Court, which she called the real seat of power since laws are interpreted through it. Earlier this year the Afghan government reduced its quota to reserve 25 percent of elected seats for women in provincial legislatures to 20 percent, and Naderi lamented the use of deceptive tactics and sophisticated electoral procedures to prevent women from obtaining such positions. She noted that historically Afghanistan had a much freer society, and that conservative views towards women have sometimes been brought from urban areas to villages. She spoke against the civil law that regarded men to reach maturity at age 16, and women to reach maturity only at age 18.

She also acknowledged democracy as a force that tempers extreme views, and looked forward to the opportunity that the 2014 elections presented, to have the first peaceful transfer of power in Afghanistan from a serving President to a new one. She also noted that the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US was critical for Afghanistan, and that many Afghans across the country support it, as engagement from much of the rest of the world will depend on how the BSA pans out.

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