Finding Women At The Apex Court

Representation of women in the judicial system is imperative not only for the sake of projecting equality but also because women bring their lived experiences of being a woman to the courts.

Finding Women At The Apex Court

The details published by the Supreme Court of Pakistan as a consequence of the petition filed seeking information about the Court staff at the Supreme Court invoking the Right to information and Article 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan portrayed a dismal performance and the poor state of the inclusion of women in our society and the judicial system. 

However, it is not very surprising to see such figures citing the reality of our society and the patriarchal dominance. The reality is even worse in the provincial High Courts and other Sub-Ordinate Courts of the country.

According to the data published by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, out of the total 687 members working at the Supreme Court, only 45 are women, a number as thin as a rake. This makes a meagre 6.5% women out of the total staff working at the Court. It categorically reflects the profound gender inequality persistent in our society, generally, and at the workplace, mainly. 

The underrepresentation at the top court is a testament to the systemic gender inequality persisting in Pakistan's judicial system. Although the publication of the data and information of the staff of Supreme Court is an act deserving of appreciation, but, the statistics do not show a positive picture and does not give a very good message.

Gender inclusivity and equality, especially in the power-making corridors, is highly significant, not only for keeping the work environment balanced, making it comfortable for women, negating discrimination and upholding equality, but also for bringing a diverse and gender inclusive perspective and not to overlook the important considerations and to reflect the same in the policies made and the decisions rendered, one such example is the virginity test verdict, amongst many. The implications of this disparity are very far-reaching. 

A gender-inclusive Court instills confidence in people that a diverse group is addressing their issues with different perspectives. Moreover, a balanced gender ratio at the top Court would serve as an inspiration for young women to pursue careers in law and for young women lawyers to dream of working at the top Court of the country. 

A gender-inclusive Court would not only help the women judges, litigants, or the staff, but it will foremost be a help for the women who are the parties to the cases and have to maneuver around the confusing and intimidating corridors of the Courts. 

Representation of women in the judicial system is imperative not only for the sake of projecting equality but also because women bring their lived experiences of being a woman to the courts, therefore, bringing a first-hand experience and a gendered perspective. Integration and visibility in the Court and the addition of women's perspectives would help build a diverse court culture, ethics, and decision-making. 

It is highly important not to restrict the idea of gender inclusivity to the Benches only, but to extend it to the other offices and departments within the Court, to make a more inclusive Court environment overall.

We have seen a positive trend in the recent past, with the elevation of two women Judges to the Supreme Court and the appointment of a woman Registrar. 

However, this is not even equal to a drop in the ocean. The Apex Court being the Apex needs to lead from the front in this regard, and it must portray itself as the absolute upholder of the constitution, not only for the glorious constitutional and political matters, but also when it comes to the dissemination of justice and fundamental rights. With the recent positive developments, a tone has been set, and it should be carried for further improvements and betterment.

Since we have broken the 74-year-old shackles by elevating women to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the subsequent positive developments made, and having the fine men in charge of the Apex Court with a positive approach, this is the time to make it better. The Apex Court needs to address the issue in hand and should take the lead by including more women and should make a framework for the High Courts and the Sub-ordinate Courts to follow. This would also impact the other governmental bodies and the society at large. 

The writer is an Associate at a Karachi based law firm and has co-founded a legal awareness platform named Jaano Pakistan