World News: Pakistan Nominates First Female Judge to Serve in the Supreme Court

World News: Pakistan Nominates First Female Judge to Serve in the Supreme Court

Andrea Benito Chino

On Thursday, January 6th, Pakistan cleared the way for Ayesha A. Malik to become the first ever female Supreme Court Justice in the country’s history. 


The Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP), headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmend, approved Ayesha A. Malik’s elevation into Pakistan’s supreme court after being on the Lahore High Court (LHC) since 2012. Her name will now be sent to a parliamentary committee to finalize her elevation, which is expected to accept her appointment for a 10-year term.


However, this isn’t the first time that Malik’s name has appeared before the JCP. On September 9th of last year, Ayesha’s name was denied the approval for elevation through a 4-4 vote. The Supreme Court Bar of Association stated that there were other judges that held seniority over her, stating that she wasn’t even in the top three on the LHC judge seniority list. Nevertheless, her name appeared once again and was this time approved by a 5-4 vote in her favor. 


Although she was able to win the JCP’s majority approval, she has still been met with opposition. There were groups of lawyers that threatened to strike and boycott courts if Malik joined the JCP. They argued that her appointment would violate the rules in terms of seniority. Additionally, President Abdul Latif Afridi had called for a country-wide protest against her elevation for the same reasons. 


Thankfully there were also people who supported the decision. The move to add her to the Supreme Court was widely praised by many lawyers and civil rights activists, as it was a huge step in working to dissolve the gender equality issues that Pakistan has. A lawyer in Islamabad, Imaan Mazari-Hazir, claimed that, “Women have, in the past, been blocked from becoming chief justices of their respective high courts and the fact that we did not have a single woman in the supreme court until now illustrates that there is indeed deep-rooted misogyny in the legal fraternity.” 


A lot of people also grew a liking towards Malik, as she banned virginity tests for rape survivors. “It is a humiliating practice, which is used to cast suspicion on the victim, as opposed to focusing on the accused and the incident of sexual violence,” she said in a verdict, although this law sadly only applies in the state of Punjab. 


Many continued to praise Malik, stating that her appointment was a historic move for Pakistan’s judicial system as this change would hopefully inspire other powerful women to rise up, as well as open up other possibilities for them in the legal field. Nighat Dad, a digital rights lawyer and human activist, said that it was a victory after decades of struggle for women to gain representation and rights in Pakistan’s largely conservative and male-dominated society. 


Sadly, many observed that the country still has a long way to go, as sexual assault and discrimination remain largely unpunished in Pakistan. Zarmeeneh Rahim, an Islambad-based lawyer, claimed that if women continue to be restrained by the patriarchy and regressive interpretations of Islam, the country will not be able to succeed nationally and globally. Still, she pointed out, “To finally see a woman sit on the highest court in the land is a small step forward in that struggle.” Although this elevation has come many years too late, every little step is one step closer to a country where everyone is equal, regardless of gender. After all, the small victories count too. 


Photo: source)