Dr. Asma Jahangir delivered the 2016 Gruber Distinguished Lecture in Women’s Rights on September 12, 2016, at 4:30 p.m. at Yale Law School. Jahangir is Pakistan’s leading human rights lawyer, and formerly served as the President and chairperson of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, respectively.
Jahangir is well known for her courageous legal advocacy on behalf of women, children, religious minorities, and poor and disenfranchised communities. Among her accomplishments, she founded Pakistan’s first legal aid centre, and was the first woman elected President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan. She has held the mandates of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, and later Freedom of Religion and Belief, and has been recognized with numerous international human rights prizes including the Prize for Freedom and the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. Her Yale Law School faculty host was Professor Inderpal Grewal, chair of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale.
The lecture was entitled “Empowering the Disadvantaged: Bonded Labor, Women, and the Role of Human Rights.” Dr. Jahangir spoke honestly and openly about the challenging environment she operates in and about the difficulties, such as death threats, and imprisonment, she has faced throughout her life. Jahangir also offered moving and thought provoking stories about cases she has taken throughout her career working on issues involving human rights. She discussed and answered questions about the future of children’s and women’s rights in Pakistan, stating that while much has been done, there is ample room for progress. When asked where she gets the courage to stand up to exploitation and injustice, she said, “A human rights activist has to be stubborn… it’s not your dignity, [you’re] fighting for other’s dignity.” A recording of the lecture is made available here.
The following day, Jahangir was part of a round-table discussion entitled “Law, Labor, Gender, and Religion: Comparative Perspectives on Human Rights in Contemporary South Asia.” The panel featured Ms. Jahangir alongside Muneer Ahmad (Clinical Professor of Law, Yale Law School), Inderpal Grewal (Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies, Yale University), Zareena Grewal (Assistant Professor of American Studies and Religious Studies, Yale University), Asli Bali (Professor of Law, UCLA), and Anil Kalhan (Associate Professor of Law, Drexel University).
Asma Jahangir remained on campus through September 13 in order to interact with other members of the Yale community. Among the complementary events was an Ezra Stiles College Tea hosted by Head of College Stephen Pitti (Professor of History and American Studies, and Director of the Ethnicity, Race, and Migration Program). This allowed undergraduates and other guests to engage with Dr. Jahangir in an intimate and informal setting.