Home Editorial Editorial: A Tribute to Pakistan’s Women Judges

Editorial: A Tribute to Pakistan’s Women Judges

Justice Aalia Neelum’s elevation as chief justice of the LHC evokes memories of Justice (retd.) Majida Rizvi’s history-setting appointment as a judge of the SHC

by Editorial

Photo courtesy LHC

Justice Aalia Neelum’s elevation as the chief justice of the Lahore High Court (LHC) has made history, as she becomes the first woman to head any high court of Pakistan. While a long overdue and appreciable step, it comes on the back of previous women judges, who all made their own history, paving the way for greater representation of women in the higher judiciary. Justice Ayesha A. Malik became the first woman judge elevated to the Supreme Court in 2022 and Justice Musarrat Hilali served as the first woman chief justice of the Peshawar High Court in 2023 prior to her elevation to the Supreme Court.

None of their accomplishments would be possible without the precedent set by Justice (retd.) Majida Rizvi, who was the first woman to be appointed a high court judge in Pakistan. A dedicated defender of human rights, particularly women’s rights, Justice (retd.) Majida faced years of conservative resistance, including from her own family when she entered the legal profession in the 1960s. She rose in prominence after the 1971 war, as she facilitated refugees fleeing then-East Pakistan, while also spearheading campaigns to educate women about their legal rights.

One of her most prominent cases was that of a PIA flight attendant who sued the airline over gender discrimination “because the retirement age for women employees was set much lower than that for men.” Her victory in that case enabled 12 more girls to file similar petitions. Another feather in her cap was her election as chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women, which allowed her to examine the Hudood Ordinances and their biases. Utilizing a 15-member committee comprising religious scholars from various Islamic sects; human rights activists; and lawyers, she studied the issue and found the laws incompatible with the functioning of a modern state. Here’s hoping Justice Neelum will make similar headway in transforming Pakistani society.

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