Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa imparted advice to female judges on Sunday, saying they "should be relaxed and be themselves".
Addressing the concluding session of 'Women Judges Conference' in Lahore, CJP Khosa said that because female judges work in an environment dominated by men, they are expected to be very compassionate, kind and considerate "like mothers".
"But we have noticed that when they become judges, somehow because the whole atmosphere is male-dominated [...] a 'she judge' also likes to behave like a 'he judge' so that she is taken seriously.
"This is one thing that we have noticed, that she does not even smile in the courtroom lest anyone else may get some impression," the chief justice said, noting this was a problem that male judges did not experience.
"Male judges don't have that problem. They would cut jokes with the lawyers, they would relax the atmosphere and they would be comfortable with everybody else appearing in the court.
"But the female judge somehow has to change her personality. She has to become an iron lady so that nobody messes with her.
"So this is something that I wanted to discuss with you that just relax. Don't become 'he' judges," he added.
The country's top judge said that female judges are "she judges" because they are better at many things.
"You are compassionate, you are kind, you are considerate and when litigants will see you in court, they will feel that they can be in safe hands, very kind hands.
"The atmosphere has to be very relaxed in a courtroom so that the litigant feels comfortable and the lawyers also can come up with whatever they want to say in support of their clients [...] I've seen women judges that have a very stern look so please relax, people will respect you, people will be very considerate towards you.
"Just because you are women judges, you don't have to impose yourself upon everybody and try to put on a show and to represent yourself as something which you're not," he remarked.
"Be women in the courtroom as well, be relaxed and be yourself. Don't put on a show."
CJP Khosa noted that there have been multiple instances when people have submitted applications to shift their cases from women's courts.
"They are just not comfortable, they can't see a lady sitting there as a judge," he said, attributing it to "social taboos" but observing that people are getting more comfortable with the idea.
"Once they deal with you [...] I'm sure this distinction between women judges and men judges will disappear," he said.
Additionally, the chief justice said that he had an objection with the title of the conference 'Women Judges Conference' and added that some other phrase should be coined for it and the distinction shouldn't be based on gender.
"This is a contradiction in terms. We've been told that we have to change the vocabulary [...] you haven't, please walk the talk. Act on what you tell us."
CJP Khosa also told the female judges that they too need to "shed this image" of themselves as female judges.
"Just behave like judges, normal judges, and dispense justice according to law and then people themselves will stop noticing whether they are appearing before a woman or male judge.
"But at the same time, you have to be firm in the court. Don't allow anybody to browbeat you, don't allow anybody to undermine your authority," he said, adding: "Be courteous but be firm."
"Now you'll say I'm contradicting myself, I'm not. I'm not saying that just change yourself and relax but at the same time, firmness is something different."
Earlier, during his address, the top judge noted that the female gender was becoming a part of normal life.
"It was confined to four walls for many centuries. It is coming out of it. This gender is becoming a regular part of almost every walk of life and we are very fortunate that even in this third world country of ours, we are making [an] effort and we are taking strides in that direction."
He said that previously, female judges in the district judiciary were unheard of but now there were nearly 300 female judges in the district judiciary.
CJP Khosa said that there were female judges in the high court as well and soon there could be a couple of female judges in the Supreme Court. He shared that he had the opportunity to propose two judges' names for the apex court and during the selection process, some female candidates were being "actively considered".
Rights for women
During his address, Chief Justice Khosa said: "You will find that for the last about 50 years, the courts have been trying to go an extra mile to take care of the areas where women were deprived of their rights."
He cited the example of inheritance in which the Supreme Court had taken the initiative and said that if someone was denied their inheritance even hundreds of years ago, she could still establish her rights today.
"The period of limitation will not be considered and she will be given her rights so that justice prevails," he said.
Additionally, the top judge shared that in most instances where concessions were given by courts in the country to women and in most of the efforts made to reinterpret the law and to extend legal rights to women, judgements were authored by judges who only had daughters.