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Women in power are good for women's rights, right?

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From the Times of London comes a reminder that the answer to issues of women's rights in places like Afghanistan doesn't necessarily come from appointing more women to positions of power.

Maria Bashir is the country's only female prosecutor. Last year, she was one of the recipients of the State Department's "International Women of Courage" award at a ceremony presided over by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. She's been hailed a pioneer by numerous foreign press outlets and governments.

Time Magazine wrote last year that Ms. Bashir "is establishing precedents that will become the foundations of a just and equal society. As with the clandestine school for girls that she ran while the country was under the Taliban's rule, Bashir's influence may not be immediately apparent. But in a generation it will bear fruit."

Perhaps. As an educated women who works outside the home, she's certainly a figure of hate for the Taliban. But that's a far cry from making her a feminist in the Western sense of the term. Just as women frequently carry out female genital mutilation in some societies, since they share the same cultural beliefs as men, so Afghan women frequently share the limiting views on women's rights of their male counterparts.

The Times, citing "leaked" (though this word is often used to dress up something more prosaic like "provided upon request") Afghan Interior Ministry documents, reports that 172 Afghan women are jailed across the country for "adultery." Of those, 101 are in jail in Herat Province (just one of Afghanistan's 34 provinces), where Bashir has been the chief prosecutor since 2006. That's 59 percent of all Afghan women jailed for adultery jailed on the watch of the country's only female prosecutor.


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