Chief Justice (Retd) Sheikh Riaz Ahmed says time is changing the attitude towards women working in the legal profession
A few years back, females used to be a rare presence in the legal profession, but now one can see a large number of women presiding over courts and pleading cases. Their number is still very small compared to male lawyers and judges, but it is growing. Former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Justice (Retd) Sheikh Riaz Ahmed, is optimistic about the future prospects of women in the legal field because to him the situation is becoming more conducive for them with every passing day.
Following are excerpts:-
“Acceptability of females as lawyers and judges is there now as compared to previous years when people used to have not-so-pleasant attitude towards women in the legal profession. Remember! Ours is a male-dominated society where a mentality change about women working in different fields will take place through an evolutionary process. This is evident from the fact that presently, more educated women of well-known families are coming to this field, and they are taking up the profession very seriously. As far as the attitude of men of this field is concerned, it has definitely transformed over a period of 20-30 years. This has happened for sure. There is a room for change, which will take place in due course as this is a slow process.”
“The scope of the field is broader for them now. Presently, the perception about working women is changing; so is their position among the working class men and the society generally. Even in the low-lying districts, one can see females presiding over courts and working as lawyers, which is a good sign for females. While I was serving as the Advocate General, I encouraged female advocates to work as state counsels for very important and sensitive cases. Again in the capacity of the Chief Justice of Lahore High Court, I recommended females for the judicial slots too. For instance, I did this for Justice (Retd) Nasira Iqbal's extension and Justice (Retd) Khalida Rashid's appointment for the International Court of Justice for Rwanda.
“It is a wrong perception that there exists discrimination. You look at the examples of Justice (Retd) Majida Rizvi, Justice (Retd) Nasira Iqbal, Justice (Retd) Khalida Rashid and others. Justice (Retd) Khalida Rashid was the second most senior judge of the Peshawar High Court when she went for a senior position with the UNO. If she would have stayed, she must have either become the Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court or been elevated to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Hence, there is no gender discrimination in this profession. They are taken very seriously and are working hard to keep themselves in the race against male lawyers, which is an encouraging sign for their sisters who can join the field and earn a name for them. They are given due respect both within and without courts.
“Present lot of lawyers has a good attitude, and they are working hard. They have a better understanding of the society; thus they can serve better. It does not mean that the previous lot was not hard working. It is true that they have more opportunities now. They can go for the Provincial Judicial Service and end up as a judge.
“The legal profession is testing and it demands a higher level of perseverance and hard work. People, who stick to the profession and take it seriously, hardly fail. The same is applicable to females as well. My advice to them is to work hard and patiently. They should consider every day as a new day and every case as a new case. Money should not be paramount, rather the profession should be given due importance.”
–As told to Aamer Waqas Chaudhary