Thursday, October 12, 2017
Livia Holden, Women Judges and Women's Rights in Pakistan, 7 Onati Socio-Legal Series (2017).
Although the first appointment of women judges in Pakistan dates back to 1974, the significant appointment of “lady judges” in the past decade has caused a jump in female representation in the judiciary to more than one third in family courts – a quiet move that sends a message of adherence to the principle of gender equality as per the international treaties to which Pakistan is signatory. By investigating the everyday interactions and preoccupations of women judges in their daily management of justice, this paper explores the socio-legal reception of the human rights discourse from the perspective of the female judges. The challenge in this scenario is whether this change will only be formal or whether it will also lead to substantial and accountable justice. The findings here additionally elucidate how the global agenda impacts local expectations and conceptualizations of rights within and beyond the state.
According to statistics from Pakistan’s Law and Justice Commission (2009-2013), women now represent at least 1/3 of the judiciary in family courts in Pakistan. This figure makes Pakistan the country with the greatest number of women-appointed judicial officers among common law legal systems in Muslim majority states.1 Given the overall scarcity of information—not only in Pakistan but throughout the world—regarding modalities of judicial appointments (especially as concerning social diversity), this figure should be taken with a certain degree of caution. Nevertheless, it seems to be a significant indicator of an increasing awareness regarding gender representation in the judiciary, which is not, however, the primary focus of this paper.2 On the basis of qualitative data positioned on a national level by including state law and relevant legal precedents, this paper addresses the main concerns of women judges in Pakistan in their daily professional lives. This data assists in understanding how the global agenda of women’s rights is received and implemented in Pakistan. * * *
In June 2011, the Thomas Reuters Foundation’s poll of experts declared Pakistan among the three most dangerous countries for women “due to a barrage of threats ranging from violence and rape to dismal healthcare and ‘honor’ killings”. The same report also signaled that 90% of women in Pakistan are exposed to some form of domestic violence. Even though our fieldwork experiences suggest that such quantitative data require scrutiny, these should nevertheless be considered as components of the social framework in which female judges work in Pakistan.