The 2nd Asma Jahangir Memorial Lecture Series was held in Lahore on Monday, October 25th attended by the UN Special Rapporteur for Violence Against Women, Ms Reem Alsalem.

Over 150 female lawyers, public prosecutors, paralegals and students from different parts of the country, including FATA and Balochistan, participated in the lecture series. The Memorial Lecture Series included discussions with stakeholders about the rights of women and issues of early marriages, forced conversions and harassment.

Guests of honour included Reem Alsalem, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Violence Against Women and Girls and the Honourable Justice Ayesha A. Malik of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The opening note was delivered by Nida Aly the Executive Director of AGHS Legal Aid Cell. Other speakers included MNA Mehnaz Akbar Aziz the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Law & Justice, Nabila Khan the Punjab Ombudsperson for Sexual Harassment at the workplace, Dr Riffat Sardar Chairperson of the KP Commission on the Status of Women, Rukshanda Naz KP ombudsperson and, Kamran Adil DIG Training Lahore.

Addressing the audience, the UN Special Rapporteur highlighted the vulnerability of women during any conflict and lamented their absence from policymaking. She also proposed several amendments to the Domestic Violence Bill including adding provisions for marital rape and including ‘gender’ in its definitions and broadening the scope of violence against women in statutory laws to effectively curb the menace.

As she stated, “Without political will and resources, good legislation will effectively remain defunct.”

The UN Special Rapporteur then went on to appreciate the attendees for their work and praised the important initiatives taken on women’s protection locally by law enforcement, authorities and civil society.

Justice Ayesha A.Malik the first female Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan joined the Asma Jahangir Memorial Lecture virtually and acknowledged the obstacles in access to justice for women.

She further noted the importance of including gender-sensitivity training for male and female judges, especially in cases relating to sexual violence.

As she stated, “Gender-based violence crimes are deeply rooted in gender inequality”.

DIG Training Lahore, Kamran Adil, spoke about setting up an investigative force especially dedicated to sexual offences. He also said that police had already begun the on-ground implementation of the Anti-Rape (Investigation & Trial) Act 2021.

Adil stressed that there was a dire need “to move past the argument regarding the existence of women protection laws, and instead focus on what actions are being taken (for their implementation).”

Parliamentarian Mehnaz Akber Aziz noted how “Women’s rights need to be inherently linked to our basic democratic principles”. This was further reiterated by politician Uzma Kardar who noted that women are not mainstreamed in any strata and constitute just 1% to 2% of the cabinet leading to men making most of the women’s laws.

Before the event was concluded, the participants attending the lecture series had the opportunity to engage with the distinguished speakers during which the female lawyers shared their experiences pursuing cases of gender-based violence (GBV) at local courts.