Seasoned activists Asma Jahangir and Hina Jilani see a positive change in society when it comes to attitudes towards women. Jahangir credited women for it.
They were speaking at an event, Protection of Women Rights through Process of Law, organised by the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) to mark International Women’s Day. Among other speakers were Justice Ayesha Ahad Malik, LHCBA president Abid Saqi, Press Council Chairman Raja Shafqat Abbasi and Barrister Bushra Saqi.
Jahangir said that the struggle initiated by women had brought about changes in controversial laws like the Hudood Ordinance and family laws. Women used to be painted as cruel and criminal when they were implicated in fake cases, noted Jahangir, but now things have changed. Now, she said, judges do not rely upon such stereotypes, “except a few narrow-minded” ones. The former Supreme Court Bar Association president was critical of the almost non-existent role played by women judges when women lawyers had contributed a lot to the women’s struggle. She regretted that women on the bench had not given any remarkable judgments. She hoped that Justice Malik would take the lead in this regard. Jahangir said she was in favour of women on the bench but “on merit”. Jahangir also commented on the law and order situation, saying that people should not be killed because of their religious beliefs.
Jilani said that it was a victory for women that all political parties were holding events to celebrate Women’s Day. Even Jamaat-i-Islami has made women part of its manifesto, she noted.
LHCBA President Abid Saqi announced that a legal committee will soon be formed to provide free-of-charge assistance to women who face sexual harassment at workplace.
Saqi also praised women for their struggle to get their voices heard. Their efforts are bearing fruit now, he said, because an increasing number of men now acknowledges their achievements.
Justice Ayesha A Malik said she would try to fulfil the expectations of the bar by dispensing justice. She noted that women had a long way to go despite what they had achieved. Justice Malik urged women to work hard so they could bring about a change in mindsets.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2013.