Ensuring Access to Justice in Balochistan
December 5, 2022
As an officer of the law, Maimoona Karim strongly believes that access to justice is closely tied to the principles of gender justice.
"Women have the same number of unmet justice needs as men, but the nature of these needs reflects women's experience of disadvantage, exclusion, discrimination, and violence. Gender-specific barriers, such as biases in justice institutions, social stigma, the psychological trauma of bringing claims, and lack of gender-sensitive procedures, prevent women from utilizing available pathways to seek justice and realize their human rights. For an equitable society, access to justice needs to go hand in hand with gender justice for the future of our women and girls."
As a mother to a three-year-old girl, Maimoona is committed to making society and the legal system more accessible to women and girls.
Born in a household that valued education, Maimoona was always supported in her quest for knowledge by her family. Upon completing her bachelor's (LLB) in law, she further pursued her education and graduated with a master's degree in law as a gold medalist. She began her professional practice soon after graduation; however, it was halted.
On 8 August 2016, Pakistan lost some of its brightest and boldest human rights defenders. A suicide bombing at the Civil Hospital Quetta left over 70 dead and many more injured, most of whom were lawyers and journalists. Maimoona Karim recalls this tragic day and its impact on her life. 'This bombing happened soon after the shocking murder of a fellow lawyer whose remains were brought to the Civil Hospital. Many lawyers had shown up at the hospital in solidarity; thus, many casualties were from the lawyer's community.
"I lost many friends, class fellows and colleagues that day. There was an air of fear and threat in the many months that followed. My mother was so scared that she requested I would give up my practice, and I did. When a calamity of such proportion takes place, it is tough to move on from it both at an individual and a societal level."
However, the darkest nights produce the brightest stars. Balochistan's lawyer community roared brick by brick, building back the foundation that had been so violently disrupted.
"There was pain, anguish and anger but hope, resilience and a profound sense of community. Young lawyers like myself received a lot of encouragement from some senior members of the community, and they would hold motivational lectures and discuss other academic and legal points of interest. The courtrooms became more welcoming and inclusive. It was then, two years after the bombing, that I decided to resume legal practice."
Today, Maimoona is a Legal Expert with UNDP and SEHER, heading the Access to Justice section of the Gender Desk in Balochistan. UNDP in partnership with the Women Development Department operates the gender desk with a designated lawyer and a psycho-social expert who provide services to displaced communities in need, in a confidential environment, without discrimination. The gender desk can be reached on the helpline number 1089 which is operational 24 hrs. The legal and psycho-social experts also conduct support sessions with local communities to create sensitization on key issues and available remedial support.
We asked Maimoona what does she love the most about her work?
"The world has changed today, but marginalized communities are more vulnerable than ever. As lawyers, it is our foremost duty to make sure that the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalized are protected. I am glad to be working in a position so close to the community, where I am working closely and helping some of the most vulnerable groups and persons in Balochistan."
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Story by: Amna Syed, Human Rights Reporting Expert, Decentralization, Human Rights, & Local Governance Project, UNDP Pakistan