Meet Pakistan’s first female Supreme Court justice

Gulzar Ahmad and Ayesha Malik in robes holding books (© Press Information Department/AP Images)
Pakistan's Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmad, left, administers the oath of office to Ayesha Malik, the first female justice on the Supreme Court of Pakistan, on January 24 in Islamabad, Pakistan. (© Press Information Department/AP Images)

Ayesha A. Malik is the first female Supreme Court justice of Pakistan, marking a milestone in the country’s 74-year history. She was sworn in January 24.

She joins 16 male colleagues on Pakistan’s highest court. Only 17% of judges in Pakistan — and 4% in the high courts — are women.

Educated in Paris, New York, Karachi and London, she received law degrees from the Pakistan College of Law and Harvard Law School in the United States.

“A more gender-diverse judiciary will have far-reaching effects on people’s access to justice and the quality of justice,” said the independent nongovernmental organization Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on January 7.

Justice Malik is known for advocating for women’s rights in Pakistan. Over the course of her career, she has counseled and worked for nongovernmental organizations in poverty-alleviation, microfinance and skills-training programs.

She also has championed equal rights for women around the world. She has served as an expert witness in England and Australia for cases involving child custody, women’s rights and constitutional protections.

In 2012, she became a judge on the high court in Lahore, the second-highest court in the country.

She helped outlaw “virginity tests” for sexual assault survivors, saying such a test “offends the dignity of the female victim.”

Malik has participated in several events funded by the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Section and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training. She most recently attended the 2021 International Association of Women Judges Annual Conference and the U.S. National Association of Women Judges Annual Conference in 2017. Malik also participated in the Women Judges Summit in Islamabad and served as a judge for the Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition in Islamabad and Lahore from 2018 to 2020.

“Her career and tenacity are models for women in Pakistan and beyond,” the U.S. Department of State said in a tweet. “Her appointment marks an important and historic moment for Pakistan.”