Justice Ayesha Malik has been sworn in as Pakistan’s first female Supreme Court judge in an historic moment for the nation’s highest court.
Malik was sworn in during a ceremony in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, and will now sit on the supreme court bench with 16 male colleagues. Historically, Pakistan’s judiciary system has been highly male dominated and conservative.
The 55-year-old judge rose to international attention in 2021, when she delivered a 30-page judgment on virginity tests and invasive examinations of sexual assault survivors, declaring them “illegal and against the constitution”. She noted that they “offend the dignity of the female victim” and meet “no scientific or medical requirement”.
She also directed government officials to come up with new procedures that aligned with international practices and managed “sensitivity in the care of victims of sexual violence.” She also pushed for training and awareness programs.
Malik attended Harvard University in the United States and served as a high court judge in Lahore for two decades. During her time in the role, she’s challenged some of the patriarchal norms in Pakistan’s justice system.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan congratulated Justice Malik on her elevation to the Supreme Court, tweeting: “I want to congratulate Justice Ayesha Malik on becoming the first woman judge of the Supreme Court. I wish her all the best.”
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said it was “a great day for Pakistan”.
Pakistan’s Parliamentary Secretary for Law Maleeka Bokhari said it was a defining moment for our country and for all girls watching.
However Justice Malik’s elevation to the Supreme Court has been met with some resistance. Earlier in the month, the Pakistan Bar Council held a strike in protest against her nomination and last year, her elevation to the court was voted down. This time, her appointment passed a nine-member commission by five votes to four.