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Published Date: Feb 25, 2019

Increased female representation in judiciary can help improve women’s access to justice, experts

Islamabad (Monday, February 25, 2019): In Pakistan, numbers of the courts as compared to the growing population are not sufficient to deal with mounting cases, which limit access to justice, especially of the women. Therefore there is dire need of setting up more courts, especially family courts throughout the country. Also, there is a need to increase female representations in the judiciary to enhancing women access to justice, where courts should have at least one forth female representation.

Experts panel express these views during a public seminar titled “Role of the Judiciary in Promoting Women’s Access to Justice in Pakistan”, organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in collaboration with UN-Women here on Monday at Islamabad.

Justice Retired Nasira Javed Iqbal said first, we need to restore our constitution into its original position by removing the dictators’ clauses and then do the requisite amendments. She said there are so many existing laws in our constitutions, if implemented effectively, can be proved instrumental in providing a remedy to the victims, especially women. In order to provide rescue and remedy to the oppressed women class, there is a need to prioritize the women victim cases over other criminal cases, she added. We all have the responsibility to strive for a society where one should have respect for humanity above all creed and class. For inclusion of women in the society and making her an effective part of it, we need to include women in our decision making, she remarked. Media role is very important and equal to the rest of the three pillars of the states in promoting women access to justice. Media should give ample time to discuss the issues of the women, which in turn would help in raising awareness among the public about women and human rights, she stressed.

Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson, National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) said there is no follow-up mechanism in place to ensure that the victim women are protected after the remedy. We need to think beyond the relief and monitor the victim’s safety and security. Also, there is a greater need to raise awareness among the public about their constitutional rights, she added.

Tahira Abdullah, Human Rights Activist said the role of the judiciary cannot be judged alone, as it has multiple nexus with our society and governance system. She said there is not only a need to increase female participation in the judiciary but also in every sector, especially in the police service. It is unfortunate our judicial system has severe issues of tampering with evidence, witnesses, and medico-legal reports etc., which led to the failure of the whole judicial system and require immediate intervention. She remarked that Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) should be abandoned, as evidence suggested that it provide no remedy or justice to the victim, especially the women victim.  She stressed the need for mainstreaming the issues of the women and the transgender community.

Benazir Jatoi, Barrister and Human Rights Campaigner said impartial justice, access to courts, honest legal procedure, effective legal process, effective execution and affordable justice are the major component of access to justice. She said human and women rights should come with such a mechanism of remedy which could address the violations of rights.  We have the framework that exists in our constitution which protects our rights but need effective implementation, she added. She said legal pluralism and informal judicial system could not work in Pakistan, where the apex court in 2006 has already declared the Jirga and Panchayat system as illegal.  To counter legal pluralism, the commissions, such as the National Commission on the Status of Women, should be given Suo-Motu power especially in women victim cases, she stressed. There is a need to realize women as a part of the society and not as a separate entity, she stressed.

Nayyab Ali Khan, Transgender Rights Activist said that there is no inclusion of the transgender community and they are excluded from the society. She urges the government to ensure the provision of their constitutional rights and provide safety in the country.

Dr. Shafqat Munir, Research Fellow, SDPI, while moderating the panel said there are multiple factors come at different levels of society that make women’s access to justice more difficult. There are structural, systemic, social and economic barriers that hamper women’s access to justice in Pakistan. These barriers include lack of access, lack of economic resources, lack of social and family support, stigmatization, lack of women representation in the judiciary, lack of law enforcement and the general inefficiency of the country’s judicial system, amongst others.