Pakistan’s highest judicial commission has appointed a female judge to the Supreme Court for the first time in the country’s history.
The decision to clear the way for Judge Ayesha Malik to join the court has been widely hailed by lawyers and civil society activists as a watershed moment in the struggle for gender equality in Pakistan.
Parliamentary Secretary for Law and Justice Maleeka Bokhari called it a “breaking the glass ceiling”.
“An important and defining moment in our country as a brilliant lawyer and decorated judge became Pakistan’s first female SC. [supreme court] judge, ”wrote Bokhari, a young minister of the ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf party, on Twitter.
The 55-year-old’s nomination was backed by Pakistan’s Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and is now before a parliamentary panel for confirmation.
The decision was not without opposition, with a group of lawyers threatening to strike if Malik joined the Supreme Court bench. The nine-member commission refused his nomination to the court last year, but this time the judge panel’s decision was five to four in its favor.
A number of lawyers and judges said her selection was in violation of seniority rules, claiming that she was not among the top three senior judges in the court from which she had been appointed – the high court of Lahore, where Malik has been based since 2012.
Islamabad lawyer Imaan Mazari-Hazir said: “In the past women were prevented from becoming chief justices of their respective high courts and the fact that we did not have a single woman on the Supreme Court until now illustrates that there is indeed a deeply rooted misogyny in legal brotherhood.
Malik has delivered landmark verdicts in his career, last year banning virginity testing for women who have been raped. “It is a humiliating practice, which is used to cast suspicion on the victim, instead of focusing on the accused and the incident of sexual violence,” she said in her verdict, which did not ‘applies only in the state of Punjab.
Nighat Dad, a digital rights lawyer and human rights activist, said Malik had proven “his competence in the courtroom.”
“The appointment of Judge Ayesha Malik is a historic milestone for our justice system as it is not only the first time that a woman has served on the Supreme Court since Pakistan’s creation, but it opens up endless possibilities for other women in the legal field, ”she said. noted.
“In a country where gender-based violence crimes are a constant reality, more women on the Supreme Court can hopefully have a domino effect on the wider justice system to be more inclusive,” Dad said, adding that the law had “immense barriers for women and marginalized communities.”