Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its latest report welcomed the nomination of Justice Ayesha Malik to the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The appointment of a woman to the Supreme Court would be a significant step in reforming the gender inequity in Pakistan’s legal profession, says HRW.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed has nominated Justice Ayesha A. Malik for the elevation to the Supreme Court.
Pakistan is the only nation in South Asia to have never had a female Supreme Court judge.
As per the HRW report, “Only about four per cent of Pakistan’s High Court judges are women. Of the 3,005 Pakistani judges in the lower and higher courts, only 519 – or 17 per cent – are women.”
While some women head district courts, none have yet been appointed to the Supreme Court.
Pakistan has produced women lawyers of international renown such as Hina Jilani and the late Asma Jahangir, the Pakistan Bar Council – which regulates lawyers – has never had a woman member. Jahangir remains the only female lawyer to have been elected as president of the Supreme Court Bar Association.
Pakistan’s constitution, consistent with international law, provides that all citizens are equal under the law and prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
Women having less representation in the legal profession is due to harmful societal attitudes, harassment in the workplace, and structural barriers such as the opaque appointment process for judges.