Thursday, Apr. 21, 2011

Maria Bashir

Being prosecutor general can be a thankless task in any country. In Afghanistan, where the rule of law has yet to take root, it can be downright demoralizing. Evidence collection is weak, police are corrupt, and witnesses are easily intimidated. Yet Maria Bashir, 40, Afghanistan's only female prosecutor general, defies the odds — and the death threats — to battle corruption, crime and domestic abuse.

On paper, Afghanistan's laws protecting the rights of women are robust. In reality they are ignored. Bashir's campaign to enforce the laws — in 2010 she handled 87 cases on behalf of victims of domestic abuse, including forced child marriage — may appear Sisyphean, but she 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.