Lesser half

Published April 3, 2024

IN a nation where women form nearly half the population, they are conspicuously absent from positions of judicial authority. Recent data from the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan highlights that out of the 126 judges in the upper tier of the judiciary, only seven are women. It is particularly alarming that out of the 12 Supreme Court judges, only two are women, highlighting a significant gender disparity at the highest level of the judiciary. This underrepresentation extends to the district judiciary, where women make up only 19pc of the total judicial officers. The journey to gender parity in the judiciary has been fraught with obstacles. It took 70 years for Pakistan to witness its first female high court chief justice, a milestone that casts a spotlight on the systemic barriers faced by women in ascending to leadership positions. The case of justice Fakhar-un-Nissa Khokar is a reminder of this reality; despite her seniority, she was never elevated to become chief justice of the Lahore High Court.

The absence of women in the judiciary perpetuates a skewed perspective within the halls of justice. Women bring unique insights to the bench, essential for addressing gender-specific issues and ensuring a more equitable dispensation of justice. Their presence is not only a matter of representation; it is a prerequisite for fostering a judiciary that reflects the values of fairness and equality. Addressing this disparity requires concerted efforts from all quarters. Reforms in the appointment process are essential to ensure that deserving female candidates are not overlooked, while proactive measures to support women in the legal profession are crucial for nurturing talented female jurists. Most importantly, the path to gender equality demands proactive engagement from women themselves, so that they can assert their rights and claim positions of influence on their own terms. It is time to pave the way for a judiciary that truly represents the aspirations of all Pakistanis.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

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