Afghanistan may have one of the worst reputations in the world for women’s rights in the world but its leader joked in New York on Thursday that Afghans may elect a female president before the United States.
President Ashraf Ghani could not resist the throwaway quip, just weeks before Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her bid for the White House in 2016, while addressing a think tank.
Referring to efforts to crack down on corruption, Ghani said he wanted to be a bridge to a new generation of well-educated leaders, including “the first woman president of Afghanistan.”
“Leaving aside questions of first women presidents,” interjected host Robert Rubin, co-chair of the Council on Foreign Relations, to which Ghani quipped: “We may accomplish it before you!”
The Afghan leader then broke into a chuckle, met with laughter and applause from the audience, at his latest appearance as part of a maiden visit as president to the United States.
Due to quotas introduced after the 2001 US-led invasion reserving 28 percent of seats for women, Afghanistan ranks 39 out of 139 countries on a world index of women in parliament.
The United States ranks 72 on the list compiled by the IPU, an international organization of parliaments. Women’s rights have made great strides in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime was defeated, but the country remains strictly patriarchal and women endure routine discrimination and violence.
Last Thursday, a 27-year-old woman was lynched by an angry crowd in Kabul, beaten to death and her body burnt for allegedly burning a copy of the Koran.