Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar apologised on Wednesday "if his recent remarks in Karachi hurt someone’s feelings".
The chief justice, in a recent speech in Karachi, had told participants: “Don’t think I’ve written a long speech. I was always told, ‘a speech should be like a woman’s skirt. It should not be too long that one loses one’s interest. Neither should it be too short that it doesn’t cover the subject’. So I will be adhering to that principle."
The quote, originally attributed to former UK prime minister Winston Churchill, drew criticism from several quarters, including women rights groups.
Making the remarks while hearing a case related to Karachi’s tax in the Supreme Court, the chief justice clarified that his intention was not to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Chief Justice Nisar observed that he used Churchill’s quote as a reference.
"Women represent half of our society. Attempts were made to turn the matter into an issue on social media," the chief justice remarked during the hearing.
In an open letter on Tuesday, the Women’s Action Forum had asked Chief Justice Nisar to ‘issue a public apology to the women of Pakistan’ for his remarks.
“The WAF Karachi, through this letter, calls on you to issue a public apology to the women of Pakistan; recognise the rampant sexism and under-representation of women in the legal profession and judiciary; and take immediate steps to provide a harassment-free environment for women in the profession and those who engage with it,” the statement read.
“On January 13, 2018, during your speech at a judicial conference in Karachi, you quoted Winston Churchill, comparing a good speech to the length of a woman’s skirt. Reliance on this quote reveals deep-rooted sexism and double standards women are held to which discourage women from joining the legal profession due to this hostile mindset towards them” the statement read.
Speaking to Geo.tv, Uzma Noorani one of the founder members of WAF, said the chief justice "should realise the difficulties faced by women in a male-dominated profession. By making such a statement he is putting down women and that makes me sad."
The WAF statement emphasised that “it is disheartening and disappointing for women to hear such sexist remarks from the highest-ranking judicial official of the country”.