Afghanistan Leaders Discuss Need for More Women Judges
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."
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .