ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan swore in Ayesha Malik as its first female Supreme Court judge yesterday, a landmark occasion in a nation where activists say the law is often wielded against women.
Malik attended a ceremony in the capital Islamabad where she now sits on the bench alongside 16 male colleagues at Pakistan’s highest court.
“It’s a huge step forward,” lawyer and women’s rights activist Nighat Dad told AFP.
“It is history in the making for Pakistan’s judiciary.”
Malik was educated at Harvard University and served as a high court judge in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore for the past two decades.
She has been credited with rolling back patriarchal legal mores in her Punjab province jurisdiction.
Last year she outlawed a deeply invasive and medically discredited examination used to determine a woman’s level of sexual experience.
Women in Pakistan often struggle to gain justice in rape and sexual assault cases, and the test was deployed as a means of discrediting victims by casting aspersion on their character.
Malik’s elevation to the apex court of Pakistan may clear the way for more women to enter the country’s historically conservative and male-dominated judiciary.
“She has broken all barriers in the judicial system and it will allow other women in the system to move forward,” said lawyer and women’s rights activist Khadija Siddiqi.