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Pakistan's first female Supreme Court judge sworn in

Image source, International Association of Women Judges

Pakistan’s first female Supreme Court judge has been sworn in in the capital Islamabad.

Ayesha Malik, 55, now sits on a bench with 16 other male colleagues in the Muslim-majority country’s top court.

Lawyers and activists said it was a rare victory after decades of struggle to get representation for women in Pakistan’s male-dominated society.

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Some lawyers and judges opposed Justice Malik’s appointment as she was seen to be less senior than other candidates.

Justice Malik, who was educated at the Pakistan College of Law and Harvard University, has served as a high court judge in the city of Lahore in eastern Pakistan for the last two decades.

She is seen to have played an important role in challenging patriarchal legal mores in the province.

Last year, she outlawed the use of so-called “virginity tests” during rape examinations of sexual assault victims.

The judiciary in Pakistan has been historically conservative and male-dominated.

Lawyers and activists have hailed her elevation as a historic appointment.

“It’s a huge step forward,” rights activist and lawyer Nighat Dad told AFP news agency. “It is history in the making for Pakistan’s judiciary.”

However, Justice Malik’s appointment has been criticised by some and last year, her elevation to the same post was voted down.

In the months running up to this year’s vote, many lawyers and judges accused Justice Malik of jumping in front of a queue of more senior male candidates who were seen to be more qualified for the post.

Justice Malik was the fourth most senior judge in the lower court from which she has now been elevated.

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