Pakistan Gets First Woman Supreme Court Judge Despite Top Judges' Opposition

Judge Ayesha Malik has been confirmed as Pakistan's first woman Supreme Court judge in the face of strong opposition by the majority of sitting judges of the top court and Pakistan Bar Council. It was two  affirmative votes by the PTI government representatives that helped her win 5-4 confirmation in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). Only two of the five sitting Supreme Court judges who are members of the SJC supported her confirmation. 

Justice Ayesha Malik

The historic nomination of Justice Ayesha Malik was supported by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed,  Justice Umar Ata Bandial, ex-judge Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem and Attorney General (AG) Khalid Jawed Khan. It was opposed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) representative Akhtar Hussain opposed the selection.    

Justice Ayesha Malik is a Harvard Law School graduate. She started her legal career working with Mr. Fakhurddin G. Ebrahim at Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim & Co. in Karachi in 1997. Then in 2001 she joined the law practice of Rizvi, Isa, Afridi and Agnell as the head of the firm's Corporate & Litigation Department in Lahore. Justice Ayesha Malik was appointed to the Lahore High Court in 2012 where she made a historic ruling banning the "two-finger test" in rape cases.  Justice Malik said the test was "humiliating" and had "no forensic value".     

Justice Malik's appointment to the nation's highest court is part of a silent social revolution in Pakistan with a rising number of women joining the workforce and moving up in public and private institutions. However, the status of women in Pakistan continues to vary considerably across different classes, regions, and the rural/urban divide due to uneven socioeconomic development and the impact of tribal, feudal, and urban social customs on women's lives. While some women are soaring in the skies as pilots of passenger jets and supersonic fighter planes, others are being murdered for defying tribal traditions.  

Female Labor Participation Rates in South Asia

Pakistan's female labor force participation rate (22%) has recently surpassed the rate in India (21%) but still remains very low relative to the global average of 47%. Women's education and literacy levels remain low in Pakistan but the gender gap is declining in terms of literacy rates and mean years of schooling, according to Pakistan Labor Force Survey 2017-18.  There is about a one year gap between men and women in terms of education attained. On average, a Pakistani male born after 1995 will leave school in 8th grade. A female born at the same time will leave in 7th grade.

A 2020 global survey conducted by Payoneer, a global payments platform company based in Silicon Valley, showed that Pakistani women freelancers are earning $22 an hour, 10% more than the $20 an hour earned by men. While Pakistani male freelancers earnings are at par with global average, Pakistani female earnings are higher than the global average for freelancers. Digital gig economy is not only helping women earn more than men but it is also reducing barriers to women's labor force participation in the country. The survey also concludes that having a university degree does not help you earn more in the growing gig economy. The survey was conducted in 2015.

Freelancers Hourly Rate by Gender. Source: Payoneer

An average Pakistani freelancer working 34 hours a week at $20 an hour earns $34,000 a year, or Rs. 5.7 million a year, a small fortune for a young Pakistani. This is one of the upsides of the online global labor market for skilled young men and women in developing nations like Pakistan. Sometimes freelancing experience leads to tech startups in Pakistan.


Riaz Haq said…
‘For the first time, I felt free’: #Pakistan’s #women-led #livestock market in #Sindh. Rural women have always reared animals but excluded from selling them. A new market is changing attitudes. Hundreds of women to trade animals at Marui livestock market

It is hoped that the market, organised by Tando Allahyar district government and local NGO the Research and Development Foundation (RDF), will encourage more women into the livestock sector. It is part of a six-year Growth for Rural Advancement and Sustainable Progress project to strengthen small-scale agribusinesses and reduce poverty in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, run in partnership with the International Trade Centre and the World Trade Organization.


In rural provinces, women have always reared animals but are excluded from selling them. A new market is changing attitudes

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Zofeen Ebrahim in Tando Allahyar
Thu 20 Jan 2022 02.00 EST

On Saturday, Rozina Ghulam Mustafa arrived at the market in Tando Allahyar city, Pakistan’s Sindh province, to sell the goats she had raised, milked and fed.

Usually her brother sells the animals, but he sold them too cheaply because he didn’t know their true value. “He has always sold our goats at a much lower price,” she says, standing inside an enclosure with 15 of them.

For Mustafa, joining hundreds of women to trade animals at Marui livestock market – believed to be Pakistan’s first women-led livestock market – was a big moment.

By the afternoon, she had yet to sell any animals, but was unperturbed. “That’s OK; it’s my first time and I will learn how to trade,” she says. “For the first time I felt free, I could make the decision of buying and selling myself.”

Women in rural Pakistan have always reared animals, taking care of nutrition, milking and vaccinations and keeping their barns and sheds clean. But when the time comes for them to be sold, women are excluded. Taking the animals to market is considered a man’s job.

Mustafa’s 65-year-old mother, Rehmat, who accompanied her to the market with Mustafa’s brother, says that when she was younger “it was unthinkable for a woman to come to the market and sell; it was a man’s job”.

“I think this change is in the right direction. If women can rear, women can buy and sell, like men. What is so complicated about it?”

The market is busy. Children run between the animal enclosures and stalls selling homemade ghee (clarified butter), eggs, chickens, animal fodder and ornaments. Other stalls sell food, tea and hand-embroidered women’s clothing. The local government has a stall showcasing veterinary medicines.

Perween Panhwar has just bought her first goat for 19,000 PKR (£80) to start her livestock farm. “When I heard there was a women-led livestock market, I wanted the first animal I buy for the farm to be from this market,” she says.

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan’s first #woman #SupremeCourt #judge #AyeshaMalik sworn in. Harvard-educated Malik, 55, now sits on the bench alongside 16 male colleagues at the country’s highest court. #gender #equality #female via @AJEnglish

Pakistan has sworn in Ayesha Malik as its first female Supreme Court judge, a landmark occasion in a nation where activists say the law is often wielded against women.

Malik, 55, 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 the AFP news agency. “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 virginity test used on women who reported being raped or sexually assaulted.

Women in Pakistan struggle for justice in rape and sexual assault cases and the test was seen as a way for investigating authorities to discredit 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 historically conservative and male-dominated judiciary of the Muslim-majority republic.

“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.

“I hope this will lead to more women-centric decisions by the judiciary in the future.”

But her appointment has been mired in controversy for the past four months, with claims she jumped a queue of more senior male candidates qualified for the post.

Earlier this month, the Pakistan Bar Council staged a strike to protest against Malik’s nomination.
Riaz Haq said…
Victory for #Women’s Rights in #Pakistan. New law against #sexualharassment that increases protections for women at #work has passed parliament. It expands on existing legislation from 2010, which had been criticized for being too narrow in scope. #metoo

Pakistan’s Parliament Approves New Workplace Harassment Bill

A new bill that increases protections for women at work has passed Pakistan’s parliament. The bill expands on existing legislation from 2010, which had been criticized for being too narrow in scope. The new law, which was enacted earlier this month, specifically confers protection to students, domestic workers, and employees in informal workplaces. Women’s rights activists have welcomed the amended legislation for addressing multiple forms of harassment and for including language about protecting employees from retaliation. Some actvists have called on Pakistan to ratify the International Labor Organization’s Violence and Harassment Convention (No. 190) as a next step in eliminating gender-based harassment in the workplace.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan’s Bismah Maroof radiates the power to inspire change in #cricket. Pakistan’s captain is back playing in the #Women’s World Cup, having brought her 6-month-old daughter Fatima with her. #ICCWomensWorldCup2022 #NewZealand #InternationalWomensDay

It is more than 33 years ago since Neneh Cherry swaggered around the Top of the Pops stage in big white trainers performing Buffalo Stance with the fierce energy of a woman who was having a fine old time and wanted everyone to know about it. Around her neck hung a huge medallion and she wore a golden bustier and matching jacket. But it wasn’t her outfit that was the talking point at secondary school the next day – but the seven-month pregnancy bump that stuck proudly out of her Lycra miniskirt as she lip-synched along.

It was the first time many of us had seen a pregnant woman being, well, visible and certainly the only time we’d seen one looking so sensationally cool. Allegedly, a journalist was daft enough to check with Cherry that it was safe for her to go on stage in her state of pregnancy, to which she sighed: “It’s not an illness.”

It was footage of the Pakistan captain, Bismah Maroof, holding her six-month-old daughter Fatima at the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand that instantly brought back memories of that Thursday night watching Cherry. Although Maroof was dressed in her pine-green Pakistan tracksuit and had her hair pulled back in a sportswoman’s ponytail, she radiated the same power to inspire change.

Seeing female cricketers with their children is not unknown, and there are eight mothers playing in the current World Cup – Maroof, the New Zealand captain, Amy Satterthwaite, and her wife, Lea Tahuhu, West Indies’ Afy Fletcher, Australia’s Megan Schutt and Rachael Haynes, and Lizelle Lee and Masabata Klaas of South Africa – but it is practically unheard of on the subcontinent, where marriage and/or childbirth is usually the end for a cricketing career.

A fantastic article by Annesha Ghosh in The Cricket Monthly, looking at motherhood and cricket, summarises that only three of the 81 female cricketers contracted by India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are married. Maroof, then, is an outlier, not only leading her country but showing that motherhood does not have to spell the end to sporting ambition.

Maroof tells Ghosh that even during her own career, some of her teammates have had to give up the game: “Batool [Fatima], Nain [Abidi], Asmavia [Iqbal], Qanita [Jalil] and several others – they were all Pakistan teammates of mine who either couldn’t resume cricket for a long time after marriage or had to leave it altogether for good.”

However, the increased professionalism of the game over the past few years, and Maroof’s own pregnancy, nudged the Pakistan Cricket Board, during Wasim Khan’s spell as chief executive, into a maternity leave policy. This gives women a year’s paid leave (and men a month) plus shared costs of a support person to help with childcare – in this case Maroof’s mother, who has been seen cuddling Fatima in the stands.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan’s women continue international return

Hopeful return of Pakistan
The women's game has a relatively short history in the South Asian country with their national team formed in 2010. After years of rapid development, an eight-year hiatus saw progress stall.

Since June 2022, however, the women’s game has been re-ignited across the country. The PFF wasted no time in re-organising their national team, sending them to last September's SAFF Women's Championship before they traveled to Saudi Arabia at the start of this year. For Head Coach Adeel Rizki, their impressive showings upon a return to international football came as a timely boost.

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