Asma Jahangir Conference kicks off


LAHORE: On the first day of “Asma Jahangir Conference 2019 – Roadmap for Human Rights”, experts proposed three reforms in dealing with cases of sexual harassment against women and children, here Friday.

The proposals are: timely alarm in such cases, reforms in methods of investigation and timely DNA test.

AGHS Legal Aid Cell is the organiser of the conference. The first half of the conference was called “Moving Closer to 2030 – SDGs, Gender Equality and the Justice Gap” and took place in a hotel.

The panel comprised eminent speakers from England, including Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, FRSA, Director of International Bar Associations Human Rights Institute, one of Britain most distinguished lawyers, HHJ Khatoon Sapnara, Circuit Judge in England and Wales and authorised to act as a High Court Judge in England and Wales, Shona Jolly QC, Chair of the Human Rights Committee and Head of Cloisters Human Rights Practice Group and Barrister Zimran Samuel, Human Rights Practitioner in Children and International Law.

There was a lecture and discussion on the place of women in the practice of law and the challenges for women in the criminal justice system.

Helena Kennedy spoke about the challenges facing women in criminal justice system. She said she was very impressed by Asma Jahangir’s vision. She was an institution in herself, and her services would be written in golden letters. She said not a single woman of her stature could be found even in the UK. She said mostly no laws in almost all countries of the world provide protection to women. Despite democratic countries, corruption is rife. Men, in many cases, exceed their limits and women are neither given posts according to their capabilities nor wages.

She said “Me Too” was getting popularity across the world. She said women would have to break their silence against the excesses committed against them in the name of shame and family honour. She said society also would have to play its role.

Human Rights Committee head Ms Julie, Barrister Kamran Samuel, British woman judge Sampan Roy also spoke on the occasion. The conference would continue today.

In the second half of the pre-conference lecture series called “Crimes Against Women and the Criminal Justice System of Pakistan” the speakers were Justice Shehram Sarwar of the Lahore High Court, former Justice and Prosecutor Syed Ehtisham Qadir Shah, Harris Azmat, Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan, Sara Malkani, Advocate and Legal Expert from Karachi. The Panel was moderated by Meenal Munshey from Beirut, Lebanon, with an expert degree in criminology.

Justice Shehram Sarwar said those closer to the victim of sexual harassment had a key role in raising an alarm promptly. He said untrained and inexperienced medico-legal staff created serious issues in these cases. Non-completion of challan in time, poor methods of investigation and corruption were also serious problems, he added.

Former Justice Syed Ehtisham Qadir stressed the need for a relation between interrogation, prosecution, and judiciary on scientific basis. He said that there were 70 acquittals in sexual harassment cases in in 2016. Even a matriculate interrogator had the authority establish guilt in a murder case which was a systemic fault, he added.

Barrister Harris Azmat said the number of judges was far lower than the number of cases. He laid stress on strengthening courts’ infrastructure, supporting staff and research teams for speedy dispensation of justice.

Day one of the conference was largely attended by judges from Lahore and female lawyers from all over Pakistan. They included members of the Bars in Tharparkar, Chitral, Swat, Bajaur, Tanli, South Waziristan, Miran Shah, Peshawar, Swabi, Mardan, Mansehra, Dera Ismael Khan, Kohat, Jammu, Nowshera, Buner, Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Muzaffargarh, Multan, Vehari, Jacobabad, Shikarpur, Sukher, Khairpur, Meerut and Khuzdar.

The day ended after a thorough interaction of female lawyers and other justice sector personnel. They resolved to improve and elevate the current position of women in the justice system and their ability to access justice.