Afghan lawmakers on Wednesday rejected the first ever female nominee for the country's Supreme Court, a setback to the government's efforts to promote women to high-profile positions.
President Ashraf Ghani had nominated Anisa Rasouli, the head of the Afghan Woman Judges' Association and a juvenile court judge to join the Supreme Court's nine-member bench in a move that angered some Islamic conservatives.
Rasouli's nomination to the highest court was the first such appointment in the country's history but needed to be approved by the country's parliament.
“Unfortunately, Anisa Rasouli... could not get the vote of confidence to become a member of the Supreme Court. We ask the president to introduce another candidate,” Abdul Zahir Qadeer, deputy chairman of the parliament, told the session after a secrete vote.
Rasouli needed 97 votes out of 193 to win, but managed only 88 votes with the MPs approving another male member of the Supreme Court and the governor of the central bank.
“What happened today was a disaster, we hope the president introduces another woman candidate to compensate for this failure,” female MP Shukria Barakzai said.
Rasouli's nomination to the country's highest court was part of efforts by Ghani's unity government to promote more women to high-profile positions, since he and his Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah assumed office last September.
Under the constitution, Supreme Court judges have fixed 10-year terms.
In April lawmakers approved Ghani's nominees for a number of cabinet positions, including four women.
The former academic and World Bank economist has already appointed two female governors for the provinces of Ghor and Daikundi, moves hailed by rights campaigners.
He has also asked his cabinet ministers to appoint female deputy ministers.
But the moves have angered some influential Islamic scholars in the conservative country.
Last month a group of clerics gathered in Kabul to protest at the possible appointment of a female judge to the Supreme Court.
Under the 1996-2001 fundamentalist Taliban regime, women were banned from leaving their homes without a male chaperone and often denied basic rights such as an education.
Nearly 14 years after the Taliban were toppled by a US-led invasion, Afghan women have made giant strides -- with female lawmakers and security personnel now commonplace.
But activists say there is a long way to go.
In March an Afghan woman was lynched by a mob after being falsely accused of burning a Koran, triggering protests around the country and drawing global attention.