Asma Jahangir remembered on her third death anniversary
Asma Jahangir was a lawyer and activist, and perhaps one of the most notable feminist figures Pakistan has witnessed. Her books, Divine Sanction? The Hudood Ordinance, and Children of a Lesser God: Child Prisoners of Pakistan are a source of direction. In less than 70 years, the activist achieved a position that guides many to this day.
Asma Jahangir was born and raised in Lahore where she completed her education, graduating as a lawyer from the Punjab University Law College in 1978. In 1980 she joined the Lahore high court and was later called to join the Supreme Court in 1982. During this time, Jahangir, a staunch supporter of democracy directed her activism against the Zia regime.
In 1986, Asma Jahangir moved to Geneva where another one of her achievements awaited her – becoming the vice-chairperson of the Defence for Children International. She remained in that position until 1988.
In 1980, Asma Jahangir and her sister Hina Jilani helped form the Women’s Action Forum (WAF). On Feb 12th, 1983, she joined the Punjab Women Lawyers Association to organize a public protest against the Hudood Ordinance. During this protest, Jahangir and many other members of the WAF were beaten and arrested by the police.
In 1987, Jahangir co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and became its Secretary-General, later becoming the commission’s chairperson. Being one of the leading forces at the Lawyer’s Movement of 2007, she was the first woman of Pakistan to serve as the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association. Jahangir not only co-chaired the South Asia Forum for Human Rights and also became the vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights.
Asma Jahangir also served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion from 2004-2010. By 2016, Jahangir had become the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran. She remained in that position until she passed away.
Asma Jahangir became a recipient of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 1995. She was also awarded the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights. Jahangir was given a Sitara-e-Imtiaz in 2005 by the Pakistani government. The very same year, she also received the Ramon Magsaysay Award.
In 2010 she received the Freedom Award by the IRC, and a Hilal-e-Imtiaz by the Pakistani government. Four years later, in 2014, the activist received the Right Livelihood Award (along with Edward Snowden). Even after her passing, the name of Asma Jahangir lives on, bringing her achievements such as the Nishan-e-Imtiaz in 2018. Perhaps, Pakistan furthering her legacy is what serves as her biggest accomplishment.