Earlier this year, the entirety of Pakistan witnessed an event that would go down in history books, when Ayesha Malik, became the very first woman ever to serve as a judge in the Supreme Court in Pakistan.
Malik graduated from Harvard Law School, practicing corporate law at two firms whilst teaching mercantile law and banking at the University of Punjab and the College of Accounting & Management Sciences in Karachi. She then went on to serve on the board of the Punjab Judicial Academy and as a chair of a federal review committee that overlooked concerns with regards to females in the judiciary.
Malik was then appointed as a judge at the Lahore High Court which is located in Pakistan’s Punjab region. As a High Court Judge, she sat on the Green Bench, thus dealing with cases related to the environment. During her time, she ruled against virginity tests being carried on female rapw victims. She wrote that the practice “offends the dignity of the female victim” and discriminates on the basis of gender. According to her statement, the Punjab authorities stopped the practice, and this was soon made to be a binding precedent in all of Pakistan.
According to global news media, her appointment was met with a lot of controversy as Pakistan’s judicial committee initially voted against her due to her lack of seniority. “No one was questioning her competence, her legal acumen, her integrity, or her discipline,” observes Ahmed, a lecturer at the Law Faculty of Lahore University of Management Sciences. The debate was about her seniority, which has been followed as a ritual when appointing judges for the Supreme Court. However, it was soon deemed as a baseless argument on grounds of gender biases and political discourse.
Malik’s appointment as Supreme Court Judge shattered glass ceilings obstructing women who wished to pave their own way towards their success. It set a new beginning for aspiring female lawyers who could observe growth in their careers, and brought forward a new conversation of inclusivity within this male dominated industry.