The National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) organized a consultation on ‘Increasing Women’s Representation in the Justice Sector’, in collaboration with 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 Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women, Ms. 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 such as: mandatory representation of women in bar associations elections, at least one seat for women in Islamabad High Court bar association elections, selection of candidates should be merit-based and confidential, creation of anti-harassment committees in the bar councils, women lawyers should be encouraged to practice areas other than family law, create awareness among young lawyers (especially women for candidacy requirements to stand in bar elections), actively include women panelists 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, during her address with the audience, emphasized on the need to have more affirmative actions for ensuring fair representation in the justice sector.
Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan, Mr 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”.
Concluding the dialogue, the women lawyers and Chairperson, Ms. Nilofar Bakhtiar presented the charter of demands collectively developed during the consultation to the Honorable Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan, Mr Qasim Suri, for taking up the recommendations to increase women’s representation in the justice sector with the legislators & parliamentarians for ensuring meaningful policy reforms.