Asma Jahangir

Doctor of Laws

As a lawyer courageously battling for human rights, Asma Jahangir has fought against a range of injustices, including so-called “honor killings” of women by their own families, child labor in the carpet-weaving industry, the plight of bonded agricultural laborers, and the enforcement of blasphemy laws. In the course of these battles, she has assumed great risk to herself and those she cares about; but even in the face of arrest and assassination attempts, she has carried on.

Jahangir was raised in a family that did not shrink from political dissent: Her father was imprisoned for opposing the actions of the Pakistani military in pre-independence Bangladesh, and Asma Jahangir’s commitment to social activism was born when, at the age of 20 and not yet a lawyer, she launched his legal defense. In the 1980s, she attained prominence as an organizer of protests against the highly restrictive laws imposed under
General Zia ul Haq in the name of Islam. These laws had a particularly harsh and discriminatory impact on the legal status of women. Together with her sister, Hina Jilani, Asma Jahangir founded a legal practice to support women litigants.

Since then she has helped found the Women’s Action Forum, aimed at protecting the legal rights of poor and uneducated women. She is
also a founding member and now secretary general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Since 1998, she has served as special rapporteur of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions.

Married and with three grown children, Jahangir has written many papers on a wide range of human rights issues, as well as two books, Divine Sanction? and Children of a Lesser God. Amherst’s honorary degree takes its place among her many international awards, including the 2001 Millennium Peace Prize for Women.

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