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The interplay of gender across the Pakistan’s judiciary

There are currently only six women serving as judges in Pakistan's constitutional courts. Despite decades of struggle, Justice Ayesha Malik is the first and only woman to be appointed as the Supreme Court Judge in Pakistan's male-dominated history. This would demonstrate to anyone the male predominance of the upper courts in the country. The Judicial Commission of Pakistan is tasked with appointing judges to higher courts under Article 175A of the constitution. The Parliamentary Committee is the other organization that participates in appointment processes. However, the commission's function trumps that of the parliamentary committee. And what’s more is that the commission is headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan who throughout history has been a male. The committee has virtually always given a male candidate a seat on the committee, paying no heed to the representation of women in the judiciary. In terms of gender representation, the legislative committee's makeup has been comparatively better than the commissions.

Female judges have received a lot of criticism in addition to these low representation numbers. There have been instances where female judges' authority and competence have been outright rejected and contested on the grounds of their gender. “Ansar Burney v. Federation of Pakistan” is one landmark case that serves as the ideal illustration for the debate. Female judges' appointment and performance have been criticized for a number of reasons. Majority of these objections stemmed from religious beliefs. It was also claimed that since women must always wear a pardah, they cannot be nominated as judges. Similarly, it was asserted that women are ineligible for judicial appointments since they have half the share of males and their testimony is seen as being half that of men under inheritance law and evidence law, respectively. All these claims of incompetence were rejected by the Federal Shariat Court, which had a completely different perspective. It was also made clear that nothing in Islam forbids women from serving as judges.

Islam has protected women's rights and gender equality in all aspects of life. Islam guarantees that men and women have equal rights and that there is no gender discrimination. But in our society, women are constrained by social and cultural conventions and practices that were created exclusively by men. We will never grow in developing the human capital required to flourish nationally and internationally if women continue to be hampered by patriarchy and regressive interpretation of Islam.

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