In this conservative country, the appointment of this magistrate could improve the real rights of women. Ayesha Malik notably distinguished herself by deciding to ban virginity tests on women victims of rape in 2021.
“This is a historic day for the emancipation of women in Pakistan” tweeted Zartaj Gul-Wazir, the Minister of the Environment. Justice Ayesha Malik, 55, was appointed on January 6 to sit on the Supreme Court of Pakistan. This appointment must be confirmed by a parliamentary group indicates the English daily The Guardian.
Ayesha Malik is the first and only woman to join the highest judicial body in this country, which has only 15% of female judges in the courts, and only 5% in the high courts.
His appointment was not unanimous: refused last year, it narrowly passed in 2022, with five votes to four. Several lawyers and judges have said they want to go on strike if Ayesha Malik comes to sit.
But on the side of defenders of women’s rights, enthusiasm is in order. Maleeka Bokhari, the Parliamentary Secretary for Law and Justice congratulated the judge, pointing out that it was a “an important and defining moment for our country… The glass ceiling is breaking”.
A graduate of Pakistan College of Law in Lahore, the country’s second largest city, Ayesha Malik continued her studies at Harvard Law School in the United States. After working for law firms on banking and environmental issues in particular, she became a judge at the High Court of Lahore in 2012. She was then the only female judge of this Court. She is a member of the Council of the Judicial Academy of Punjab.
The judge has campaigned for many years for women’s rights. In an interview with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, she says: “I decided to carry the voice of women. I am here to denounce discrimination, stereotypes and raise awareness of gender issues.”
In Pakistan, a conservative Muslim country, women officially have the right to vote, but sometimes they are deprived of this right in the name of certain traditions. Ayesha Malik has rendered notable judgments to guarantee this right to vote.
And she made headlines last year when she decided to ban virginity tests for women who had been raped.. “This 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 then declared on November 13, 2021 during a verdict. This examination, called the “two finger test”, is supposed to tell if the victim is sexually active. The presupposition being that, if so, she must assume the risk of rape…
According to The Guardian, the appointment of Ayesha Malik could shake up the Pakistani judicial system by opening doors for future judges and lawyers. For lawyer Nighat Dad interviewed by the British daily, “This appointment could have a domino effect and establish a more inclusive law, putting an end to the barriers that stand up for women and marginalized communities, in a country where the crimes of Gender-based violence is a daily reality.”
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