Islamabad : National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and women lawyers had demanded increased women’s representation in the justice sector in order to improving women’s access to justice.
The demand was made through a charter of demands presented at a consultation on ‘Increasing Women’s Representation in the Justice Sector’ organized by the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) with the support of the Group Development Pakistan (GDP). The event gathered women and men from the legal fraternity, bar associations, bar councils, academia, law and gender students, representatives of the civil society and media.
The charter was presented to the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Qasim Suri for taking up the recommendations to increase women’s representation in the justice sector with the legislators and parliamentarians for ensuring meaningful policy reforms.
In her remarks, the NCSW Chairperson Nilofar Bakhtiar underlined how increasing women’s representation was directly linked to improving women’s access to justice and achieving SDG 5 and 16.2. She said ‘We need women in strong positions in the higher judiciary of Pakistan. It is a key requirement for bringing change and end VAWG.”
The participants made recommendations to the members of the Islamabad Bar Council and to various Bar Associations representatives, to enhance women’s representation. The demands included mandatory representation of women in Bar Associations elections, at least one seat for women in Islamabad High Court Bar Association elections and selection of candidates on the basis of merit.
They also stressed for creation of anti-harassment committees in the bar councils, encouragement of women lawyers to practice areas other than family law and create awareness among young lawyers (especially women for candidacy requirements to stand in bar elections).
They recommended active participation of women panellists in all debates and efforts of bar for reform of judicial nominations process, bars to have a clear “0 tolerance” policy against harassment at workplace and the policy to be displayed in all its premises/offices, and finally, setting up inquiry committees with more women as members and chairpersons.
Moreover, participants thought that parliamentarians ought to be sensitized to support legal reforms to better prevent harassment at work and remove the age bar for women to take their LLB/LLM and join the legal profession, that law firms should take affirmative actions to establish more gender-sensitive chambers and that public-private partnership should be reinforced.
Nida Usman Chaudry, founder of the Women in Law Network Initiative Pakistan, in her address with the audience, emphasized on the need to have more affirmative actions for ensuring fair representation in the justice sector.
Secretary MOL&J informed the participants that a female judge had recently been nominated to be appointed in the Islamabad High Court, which he termed “an encouraging sign”.
Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan, Qasim Suri, in his special address, stated that “women have always played a major role in our society and are key assets of our country”.