‘If we had women in the Supreme Court, they would be able to interpret laws, so men would not tell them how to be good Muslims’

Farkhunda Naderi is a member of Afghanistan's parliament from Kabul, representing the National Unity Party of Afghanistan. Afghan women's rights is critical to her agenda. Elected in 2010, Naderi has served as a member of the Commission on Women's Affairs, Human Rights and Civil Society, and has been the only female participant in the Chantilly conferences on peace. She recently visited India at the invitation of the Asia Society and spoke to Gayatri Rangachari Shah. Excerpts:

How do Afghans feel about the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) this year?

It's a mixed feeling of excitement about gaining self-sufficiency combined with an anxiousness of how we will cope. We would like to think of it as gaining responsibility, in moving towards sovereignty for ourselves. We would not like to think of it as the ISAF or Nato totally cutting off relations and forgetting Afghanistan when they leave. We continue to need training and security. We need to make our security organs more professional. Moving along these lines means we are celebrating the transfer of responsibility.

People do fear for 2014 because there is not one form of transition. There is the political transition, the security transition and also an economic transition, because the jobs created by the presence of the international community are going to go away. So we have to find alternatives. There is fear and anxiousness. One way to combat them is through elections. For the first time in our history, the elections will demonstrate peaceful transfer of power.

Although challenges remain, there have been significant gains for women's rights in Afghanistan in the past decade. Next year's election is vital to solidify these gains. How will the outcome of the 2014 elections affect women?

Women face many challenges. We do not want to lose what we have gained, and we are not satisfied with what we have so far. For politicians it is an especially big challenge, because we are at the front line of bargaining for more rights. We have to maintain the rights we have won over the past 12 years but also ensure that these rights are not just for a small group in our community and extend to all women across the country.

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