Reflecting on my time at the International Women Judges (IWAJ) Biennial Conference, I can’t help but feel so deeply grateful that I had the opportunity to go as a student delegate. A session that stood out to me the most was held on Saturday 10th May, with panellists Hon. Anisa Rasooli and Hon. Nafisa Kabuli from Afghanistan.
In her capacity as one of the sessions’ moderators, Hon. Patricia Whalen (USA) remarked that there were numerous similarities between the American and Afghan judiciaries, as “both of our systems need reform” when addressing violence against women and protecting human rights. However, a fundamental difference between the two jurisdictions is that the USA includes a stable workforce and system based on the rule of law. This is something that is lacking in Afghanistan, and Hon. Patricia Whalen noted that “if women are not a respected an integral part of the government, then there is no hope for peace”.
The session that followed illustrated the fractures that appear in a society where women are not given opportunities to feel safe at work. We heard both Hon. Anisa Rasooli and Hon. Nafisa Kabuli recount the recent tragic assassinations of their female colleagues. They noted that still, female judges get up every day and courageously go to work- “out of the love for their country and the law”. Almost 300 female judges in Afghanistan face constant fears of going to work due to the combined threat of the pandemic, gender violence, lack of economic safety, war, terrorist attacks and mental and emotional problems. What struck me is that despite these horrific ordeals, these female judges are absolute heroes for going to work every day, because it means that female victims can have a figure to identify with on the bench, especially in a country where “being a woman is a crime”.
The exemplary example of strength and bravery demonstrated by Hon. Anisa Rasooli and Hon. Nafisa Kabuli and their fellow women judge colleagues is one that I will carry with me for my entire career. I will also carry with me the memory of their fallen colleagues. Being, in that session, I realised that feminist legal theory is more relevant than ever. In what seems like worlds away, I have sat in law lectures having to defend feminist ideas because of arguments that perpetuate myths of gender equality- something that (as this session shows) is still not a global reality. For as long as any woman is fearful to go to work and feel safe at their workplace, those that hold more power and privileged have a duty to amplify their voices and ensure they are heard and helped.
I am deeply grateful to the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation for giving me the opportunity witness the pinnacle of female achievement in the legal profession. I am also grateful to them for giving me the chance to develop a global mindset when it comes to the feminist movement in the legal industry.