BOOK LAUNCH ~~~ INTERNATIONAL COURTS AND THE AFRICAN WOMAN JUDGE: UNVEILED NARRATIVES (ROUTLEDGE, 2018)

 

The Institute for African Women in Law and the Wilson Center Women in Public Service Project jointly launched the book, International Courts and the African Woman Judge: Unveiled Narratives (Routledge, 2018) edited by Dr. Josephine Jarpa Dawuni and Hon. Judge Akua Kuenyehia (Former Judge of the International Criminal Court), with a foreword by Hon. Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald (Former Judge/President of the ICTY and Former Arbitrator, Iran-US Claims Tribunal). 

Gwen Young, Director of the Wilson Center Women in Public Service Project introduced the panel.

Dr. Josephine Jarpa Dawuni opened the discussion, highlighting her motivations for editing this volume, noting among others the importance of drawing on the theories of postcolonial feminism, legal narratives and feminist institutionalism to analyze the place of women from the continent of Africa on international courts. She noted, “Why are we looking at African women judges? Why not the fact that she is a judge, she is qualified, she can do it. Legal Narratives help us understand their trajectory to the international bench.”

 

 

Prof. Nienke Grossman discussed the work of International Court of Justice Judge Julia Sebutinde (Chapter 3 below).

 

Prof. Rachel Ellett’s chapter focused  on Judge Kellelo Mafoso-Guni of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR) (Chapter 7 below).

Counsellor Christiana Tah, Former Minister of Justice, Republic of Liberia, provided remarks as a discussant. She noted;

“We [women] want to participate, we want to be a part of the process.”

“It’s important to uplift African women, but it’s not all about race, it’s about uplifting all women.”

“One of the things I always think about when discussing Africa and the judiciary is that you have to look at it as a dichotomy because of the history of colonization. How do you harmonize the two?

                                          Other Chapters in the Book Include

Chapter 1: Introduction: Challenging Gender Universalism and Unveiling the Silenced Narratives of the African Woman Judge

By Josephine Jarpa Dawuni

This chapter provides the theoretical and conceptual framework around which the book is developed. By engaging in an overview and analysis of existing scholarship on gender and judging, it questions the gaps in existing theoretical perspectives and exposes questions on gender diversity which have not been addressed. It discusses the method and structure of the book.

 

 Chapter 2: Women Judges in International Courts and Tribunals: The  Quest for Equal Opportunities

 By Judge Florence Ndepele Mwanchande Mumba

This chapter is a personal reflection on the life and journey of Justice Florence Ndepele Mwachande Mumba. The chapter traces her life growing up in Zambia, attaining a legal education and becoming the first woman High Court Judge in the Zambia. In 1997, Judge Mumba was elected to the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.  She served as a Trial Judge for six years. She presided over, the Prosecutor vs Anto Furundzija, IT-95-17/1; the Prosecutor vs Kunarac  et al, IT-96-23-T; the Prosecutor vs Simic et al. IT-95-9/T. Convictions in these cases included torture as a violation of laws or customs of war, outrages upon human dignity, rape as torture, enslavement, and crimes against humanity for persecution, cruel and inhumane treatment and beatings.  These were among the first convictions for ICTY where rape and sexual violence were pronounced as crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. Judge Mumba presided over two guilty pleas, The Prosecutor vs Drazen Erdemovic, IT-96-22 and the Prosecutor vs Milan Simic, IT-95-9/2. Judge Mumba’s view is that international crimes trials must be held in the territories where atrocities were committed for the benefit of indicted persons and the community. Statutory provisions for gender balance in international courts and tribunals are essential.

Chapter 3: Julia Sebutinde: An Unbreakable Cloth

By Nienke Grossman

This Chapter discusses the life story of International Court of Justice Judge Julia Sebutinde.  It highlights her determination and strength of character, while raising questions about gender, geographical background, race, ethnicity and judging, and international judicial selection procedures.  After detailing her biography before becoming an international judge, the Chapter turns to her selection to, experiences on and contributions to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and subsequently, the International Court of Justice.  The Chapter contains a section on her advice to future generations, an analysis of why her story is significant, and finally, it suggests avenues for further academic research.

Chapter 4:  Akua Kuenyehia : Leaving a Mark Along the Journey for Human  Rights

 By Josephine Jarpa Dawuni

This chapter chronicles the life and journey of Justice Akua Kuenyehia, an academic, women’s rights activist and an international court judge. Using legal narratives as a tool for centering her experiences, the chapter presents monumental developments in her life as presented sometimes in her voice and situated within existing discourse on women, gender and feminist engagement with international law.

Chapter 5: Fatoumata Dembélé Diarra : Trajectory of a Malian Magistrate and Civil Society Advocate to the International Criminal Court

 By Sara Dezalay

A high-level magistrate and prominent civil society advocate in Mali, Judge Fatou Dembélé Diarra featured among the historic first bench of judges elected to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2003. This chapter gives prominence to the voice of Diarra herself, as an exceptional individual with an acute degree of reflexivity over her own trajectory, the options she had and the professional strategies she pursued, and further, that of her own country’s post-colonial history. In so doing, however, it strives to reconstruct the structural conditions that can help explain her path, in what was still a French colony, in 1949, to the ICC. It underlines, meanwhile, how Diarra’s trajectory can prove a powerful entry-point to account for the position of legal elites in post-colonial Mali, and further, the role played by her appointment to the ICC, as a woman and as an African, in fostering the authority of the court over time. 

Chapter 6: Judge Sophia Akuffo: Balancing the Equities

By Kuukuwa Andam and Sena Dei-Tutu

Justice Sophia was sworn in as the 13th Chief Justice of Ghana on June 19, 2017. Prior to this, Akuffo had served as the first female President of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (ACtHPR) in 2012, as Vice-President of the ACtHPR in 2008 and as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana since 1995. This chapter tracks Akuffo’s career from her birth in Akropong-Akuapem, in the Eastern Region of Ghana, to her appointment as the second female Chief Justice of Ghana. In particular, a selection of cases that Akuffo delivered judgments in will be analyzed as a means of contextualizing Akuffo’s legal philosophy. Additionally, this chapter will examine some of the challenges Akuffo faced as well as the lessons learnt during her legal career. In identifying the barriers that Akuffo encountered, this chapter considers the similarities between Akuffo’s experience and the experiences of thousands of female lawyers and judges working on the African continent; with a mind to highlighting avenues for increasing the participation of African women on International Courts. The chapter concludes with some observations and future research questions. 

Chapter 7: Justina Kellelo Mafoso-Guni: The Gendering of Judicial Appointment Processes in African Courts

By Rachel Ellett

Representation of women in domestic and international courts is essential to the legitimacy of those institutions. Over the last decade low representation of women judges has begun to be addressed through reform of appointment processes. However, reforming formal appointment mechanisms does not eliminate the gendered informal structures of judicial appointments. Justice Mafoso-Guni’s biography – first woman to the Lesotho High Court and the African Court of Human and People’s Rights (ACtHPR) – illustrates the pervasiveness of informal gendered institutions as an obstacle to women reaching the bench; both in Lesotho and the ACtHPR. Utilizing diachronic analysis, this chapter reveals the arch of Mafoso-Guni’s career trajectory and pauses to offer more in-depth analysis on her appointment challenges in Lesotho and to the ACtHPR.  Placing Mafoso-Guni’s appointment challenges in the broader context of increasing numbers of women to the bench more generally; her story highlights both the limitations and the gendering of individual agency in light of weak formal institutional commitments to gender parity. It further reveals the gendered power asymmetries present in the informal institutional mechanisms of both domestic and international judicial appointments. Judicial appointments perfectly illustrate the gendered institutional context in which women seek to carve a pathway to the bench.

Chapter 8: Elsie Nwanwuri Thompson: The Trajectory of a Noble Passion

By Rebecca Emiene Badejogbin

This chapter explores the trajectory of Judge Elsie Thompson from her background, to the Nigerian judiciary and onward as a Judge and eventually a Vice President of the African Court of Human and People’s Rights. It reveals the distinctiveness of her experiences and trail blazing paths, and is a demonstration of the impact of various factors such as socio-economic and political, as well as cultural location, education, contextual experiences, institutional opportunities and personal agency on the ascendancy of African women to transnational courts, and according to her, divine providence. The narration and analysis of these experiences engage a convergence of theories that touch on the impact of institutional arrangements on women, and the lingering effects of political, economic and cultural factors on women’s access to political appointments in a post-colonial context. While her experiences generally agree with literature on the subject of women’s ascendancy to these courts, this chapter closely interrogates her ascent as an African woman to a transnational court and states that not only does her presence in the court create judicial diversity, she has made ‘valuable contributions to jurisprudence and the development’ of regional laws.

 Chapter 9: Conclusion: International Courts and the African Woman Judge– Unlocking Doors, Leaving a Legacy

By Josephine Jarpa Dawuni and Akua Kuenyehia

This chapter provides a recap of the goals of this project. It summarizes the key findings, amplifies questions yet to be explored and sets an agenda for the development of future research on women and judging in Africa. It also sets a plan for maintaining the momentum made with African women’s access to international courts and tribunals.

 Copies of the book can be purchased on Amazon.com 

For speaking engagements, email: info@africanwomeninlaw.com

 

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Achieving Gender Parity in International Courts and Bodies: Does Diversity Matter?

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Conference Attendees

From October 3 to 5 2017, women’s rights advocates, feminist scholars, Ambassadors, Heads of Government, policy practitioners and supporters of women’s rights convened in the beautiful city of Den Haag in the Netherlands. Viviana Krsticevic, Maria Noel and the entire team at the GQUAL Campaign organized this conference which had a twofold purpose; first, to celebrate the second-year anniversary of the GQUAL Campaign, and second, to bring together participants under a conference theme “Changing the picture of International Justice.” The highlights of the three-day event included an exciting plenary session with speakers like Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, the current President ofthe International Criminal Court (ICC).

ICC President Judge Fernandéz de Gurmendi and Prof. Josephine Dawuni

Judge Fernandéz de Gurmendi, while acknowledging the gains made in achieving near gender parity on the ICC bench, cautioned participants and feminist advocates that such gains could easily be reversed. The ICC reached a high of eight women judges out of eighteen in 2003, which reduced to six out of eighteen by early 2017. With the  ICC elections in December 2017, women took five of the six available seats. Out of the five women elected, two were from the continent of Africa, Judge Reini Alapini-Gansou of Benin and Judge Solomy Balungi Bossa of Uganda.

 Another highlight of the plenary session was the speech by the current Vice President of Costa Rica, Her Excellency Ana Helena Chacón. While reflecting on her experience in the parliament of Costa Rica and now in the office of the Vice President, Mrs. Chacón hinted at the fact that women have to work together to push women’s equality forward, noting further that “together we can and we should change the face of international quality; democracy is real if we leave no one behind.” Dr. Theresia Degener, Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), gave moving remarks on the imbalance in the UN body, noting in particular the challenges she has had to face as the only woman in the Committee at one point during her tenure. She called for more efforts to nominate women. The rest of the conference was filled with insightful panels and workshops aimed at addressing central questions such as why equal participation of women matters, the international obligations of states in promoting gender equity on international courts and bodies, and strategies on how to achieve gender parity on these bodies.  The conference concluded with the adoption of an Action Plan to achieve gender parity.

The overall goal and theme of the conference, was to acknowledge modest gains, while mapping a strategy for moving the campaign forward. The question that remains to be answered is how do we move this agenda forward? I provide a few strategies, which I believe are important for the overarching goal of changing the picture of international justice with the goal of achieving gender parity on international courts and bodies. In the first place, it is important to acknowledge, celebrate and develop a conscious effort to embrace all forms of intra-group diversity. To borrow from the acclaimed poet, Maya Angelou, “we all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” The global feminist movement has come under attack for tendencies to reproduce the very gendered and privileged hierarchies which it purports to fight in the first place. For Black feminist scholars such as Kimberlé Crenshaw, developing the concept of intersectionality provides a new prism through which feminist scholars can begin to question the multiple and intersecting layers different women face in their struggles against patriarchy and other forms of dominant discourse.

 

The call for acknowledging diversity has also come from what some call “Third World Feminists”. Scholars like Chandra Talpade Mohanty has criticized the western notions of womanhood and the incipient tendency at “othering” non-western women in her powerful piece “Under Western Eyes.” African feminist scholars such as Filomina Steady, Amina Mama, Oyeronke Oyewumi and Akosua Adomako Ampofo have increasingly called for a recognition of African notions of womanhood and the impact of imperialist and globalist layers of oppression in challenging the traditional notions of womanhood and women’s agency. Chicana feminist such as Gloria Anzaldúa, and feminist scholars from Asia such as Trinh Minh-ha, each remind us of the need for the global feminist movement to accept, celebrate and embrace a truly diverse global ethos of feminism.

So, how can the plethora of feminist voices be incorporated in the global agenda for more women on international courts in order to create an all-inclusive bench? The answer is simple; that in adopting strategies to increase gender parity on international bodies, these efforts  should focus on adopting all-inclusive strategies that advocate for the “best woman candidate”, irrespective of national origin, geo-political affiliation, sexual orientation or other identity marker. This sounds like a simple suggestion; however, it requires that feminist scholars develop an understanding of the historical, social and political context from which different women come from. No doubt the domestic politics of judicial nominations will have to be examined as well. Ascribing personal agency to some women from particular regions of the world and not to others­— which has tended to plague the global feminist movement, will need to be addressed in the global efforts demanding the nomination of more women. If indeed, feminist scholars and advocates are interested in achieving gender parity, it must be a gender parity that fully embraces intra-group diversity. The multilayered and intersecting identities women come with, will need to be fully recognized, acknowledged and accepted.

Another important strategy for the success of the GQUAL Campaign will be the cross-pollination of ideas and strategies. In other words, there is the need to learn from one another in terms of what has worked in some places and not so well in other places. Let me pause by noting that I am fully aware of the plethora of different variables at play here—the different legal traditions, the different political systems, the multiplicity of selection methods and the varying levels of political will to name just a few. Nonetheless, as I argued in my presentation at this conference, based solely on my research findings from the continent of Africa, women across the African continent have done relatively well, within a relatively short time period in not only accessing the judiciaries, but rising to the top as Chief Justices. At the international level, women from across the continent of Africa have made immense gains as international judges—both permanent courts and ad hoc tribunals.

Though the gains are not uniform across the continent—and that should come as no surprise for the second largest continent of 54 nation-states, yet certain patterns are evident. The success of African women as judges on international courts at the global and sub-regional levels in the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights are noted in a recently published edited by Josephine Dawuni and Akua Kuenyehia—- International Courts and the African Woman Judge (Routledge, 2018). Using legal narratives, this book presents the lived experiences of seven women judges from Africa. It challenges exiting notions of gender and judging, it elevates the voice of the woman judge and it leaves a legacy for the future through the voices and lives of these remarkable and accomplished women judges. Documenting the experiences of women who have blazed the trail in the international judiciary is important for raising awareness not only to stakeholders, but also to future generations that “yes, women can!” Documentation through theoretically grounded research and the development of context relevant epistemology, such as the matri-legal feminist theory I have argued elsewhere[1] is important for moving the gender equality agenda forward.

IMG_9821Other speakers at the conference spoke about developments that have taken place within the African context. Osai Ojigho highlighted the developments within the African Court which led to the current situation with the African Court being the most gender balanced international court as of this writing. In an earlier post, I highlighted the African court as a roadmap for achieving gender parity and encouraged other courts to follow suit. The African experience provides many lessons which the rest of the world can learn from. To think that in its eleven-year history of existence, it has achieved gender parity, a goal and aspiration which the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights are yet to attain. Sheila Keetharuth, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Eritrea highlighted the developments that have taken place within the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights where women have made gains as Commissioners.

Lastly, it is necessary for the survival for a movement, or campaign like GQUAL, that  scholars and policy makers engage in research as a tool and mechanism for awareness raising. Justice Mary Mamyassin Sey, a Justice of the Supreme Court of The Gambia and first woman judge in The Gambia discussed her experiences across multiple jurisdictions, spanning The Gambia,  and as a Commonwealth judge in Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Liberia and Vanuatu. While discussing the challenges of working in different cultural contexts and often being the “first” and often “only woman”, Justice Sey noted that her call to duty, integrity and personal work ethics contributed to her success in these multiple arenas. Indeed, being at the intersection of multiple identities has come with its own costs, for instance with the threat on her life and threat of deportation for her decision in the Vanuatu Supreme Court that led to the conviction of 14 members of parliament.

The foregoing summary is my personal de-briefing from the wonderful conference in The Hague. Many strategies and action plans were adopted during the workshops held over two days. We look forward to more engaged, vibrant, diverse and theoretically relevant and practically plausible strategies that will be developed out of this conference. Many questions abound, such as the issue of setting aspirational targets as posited by Professor Nienke Grossman. For other practitioners such as Osai Ojigho who poignantly

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(L-R )Josephine Dawuni, Nienke Grossman and Osai Ojigho at the foregrounds of the ICJ.

asserted “why walk when you can fly?”, quotas should be used as a necessary strategy to achieve gender parity, Ojigho further argued that “women should not be shamed into thinking that quotas or affirmative action lacks merit.” Gender equality matters not because it is a women’s issue, but because it is a human issue. Together, we can make gender equality on international courts and bodies a reality! Join the movement by signing the GQUAL Campaign Pledge!

 

 

[1] See, Dawuni, Josephine. (2018). Matri-legal Feminism: An African Feminist Response to International Law. In Ogg, Kate and Rimmer, Sue Harris (eds.). Feminist Approaches to International Law. Edward Elgar Publishing. (Forthcoming, 2018).

 

African Women Judges and Gender Parity on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights

At the recently ended 28th African Union (AU) Summit, held January 22-31 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the African Union has finally made good on its promise to promote gender parity on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR)! Two women judges were elected to fill the two remaining vacancies on the court, these are Justice Chafika Bensaoula of Algeria and Justice Tujilane Rose Chizumila of Malawi. This development brings the total number of women judges currently serving on the court to five out of a total of eleven judges. This development is a big victory for advocates of gender parity within the AU, as well as scholars and practitioners advocating for gender parity in international courts. The recent election is preceded by the 27th African Union Summit held in July 10-18 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda, during which there were four vacancies to be filled on the ACtHPR. At this meeting, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) elected only two judges who were both women; Justice Ntyam Ondo Mengu from Cameroon and Justice  Marie Thérèse Mukamulisa from Rwanda. The postponement of the election to fill the two vacancies appears to have been a deliberate action on the part of the AU to make good on its gender parity promise by requiring states to nominate and elect female judges as provided for in Article 12(2) and Article 14(3) of the Protocol establishing the court. This brings the total number of women judges to have ever sat on the ACtHPR to eight, representing 34%, out of a total number of 23 judges since the court first got in session in 2006.

For the first time in the history of the court, there will be five women judges sitting concurrently on the eleven-member court. The election of Justice Bensaoula of Algeria is another major milestone as it marks the first time in the history of the court that a woman is represented from the Northern region of the continent. As Osai Ojigho has argued, increasing the number of women judges on the ACtHPR can be achieved if the vacancies are widely advertised, if nomination procedures at the domestic level are transparent and widely publicized, civil society involvement is encouraged, outstanding candidates are sought out and that at least one of three possible nominees is a woman. The recent elections have shown that where there is a will, there is always a way for gender parity. In the note verbale communications sent out to States during vacancies on the court, the Office of the Legal Counsel has consistently asked for the nomination of women. So, what changed this time around? It appears that in the last two elections, a punitive measure was applied whereby states that did not have women were disqualified to run. For scholars concerned with achieving gender egalitarian benches both at the domestic and international levels, the recent election of four women judges to the ACtHPR may provide some glimmers of hope and it is a hope that we need to actualize at other sub-regional courts on the continent.

As I have documented elsewhere, African women judges have, to date, accounted for the largest number of women judges from one geographic region to serve on the ICC. The fact that African women hold this record is indicative that women judges have the right qualifications to fill vacancies on courts at the regional and continental levels—thus the limited pool argument does not hold much sway. The patterns and history behind the growing number of African women judges in international courts, is discussed in the forthcoming volume, “African Women Judges on International Courts: Unveiled Narratives”, (Dawuni, Josephine and Kuenyehia, Akua  Routledge, 2017). As IntLawGrrl Nienke Grossman has suggested, the use of temporary mandatory quotas may be one strategy to increase the number of women on international courts. While temporary quotas may be a good way to expand access for qualified women judges, I do not ascribe to that strategy. As we have seen in the recent elections to the ACtHPR, enforcement of existing provisions for gender parity such as the application of measures to hold States to their obligations may be one strategy to achieve gender parity. It becomes the duty of States Parties to nominate the strongest female candidates. Nonetheless, women judges will also have to be intentional about gaining access to nomination processes and gatekeepers. Preliminary evidence on the record of women’s success at the domestic level in most jurisdictions across the continent as discussed in  Gender and the Judiciary in Africa: From obscurity to parity? strongly indicates that there is a big enough pool of qualified women from which to draw women nominees for international courts. We may also be missing some important factors when we focus only on the numbers. We should ask a couple of questions: first, whether female candidates know about these courts and, second, whether they are interested in positions on these courts? This is where the role of networking and awareness raising becomes crucial in programs such as open dialogues hosted by the Institute for African Women in Law, where former judges Justice Akua Kuenyehia and Justice Sophia Akuffo discussed their experiences on international courts.

Dawuni and Kang have documented the rise of  women judges to the upper echelons of judiciaries across Africa. At the international level, we have seen the record set at the ICC, with African women accounting for 33% of the total number of women (15 to be precise) to serve on the ICC bench. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice comes has had 29% women representation, the East African Court of Justice comes in at 16% and the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights has just moved from hovering around 18% to 45% as currently constituted. African women judges have also made their mark on ad hoc tribunals such as the ICTY, ICTR and SCSL. As the highest-ranking continental court, the ACtHPR has proven once again that where institutional mechanisms are enforced and opportunity structures exist, African women will always rise to the occasion. This is just the beginning and it is the hope that the sub-regional courts such as the ECOWAS Court of Justice and the East African Court of Justice will learn from these new developments. Now is the time to start working towards future elections at the sub-regional levels. Now is the time for Heads of States, civil society organizations and other agencies to nominate women for future elections on the ICC and other international courts and tribunals. Now is the time to sign the pledge on the Gqual Campaign!

 

Race to the top? African women judges and international courts

What do we know about African women as subjects of international law? More so, what do we know about African women judges who sit on international courts at the regional and international levels? These questions are central to moving forward the agenda on increasing the number of women on international courts, especially considering that most judges (though not all) on international courts are also judges at the domestic level. Countries across Africa have made substantial gains in the numbers and leadership roles of women judges, as documented in Gender and the Judiciary in Africa: From obscurity to parity? Across, the continent, women occupy important leadership positions such as that of Chief Justices and Heads of Constitutional Courts (for more see Her Ladyship Chief Justice).

Developments at the domestic levels have been replicated at the international level with a growing number of African women judges serving on international courts. The diversity of the continent of Africa, its peoples, culture and rich history cannot be simply qualified by one word “African”, however, for purposes of creating a uniform understanding of who I am referring to, I use the word “African” to denote women who hail from a country in Sub-Saharan Africa. In “African women judges on international courts: symbolic or substantive gains?”, I have argued that the presence of African women judges challenges notions of tokenism;  indeed they are highly qualified to be in those positions. The professional achievements of these women indicate that they have stellar academic backgrounds, outstanding professional qualifications, trailblazing achievements, and some of them have earned the status as “first” in their various professional endeavors. Notwithstanding these observations, women’s entry into international courts appears to be a road less travelled for various reasons as documented by IntLawGrrl Nienke Grossman. A critical rule of thumb remains that appointments to international courts involve a great deal of domestic politics and women have to find strategies to combine their professional experiences with other political considerations in creative ways. As fellow IntLawGrrl Fionnuala Ní Aoláin notes,

By accessing elite judicial institutions, women exert agency by taking    ‘strategic, creative and intuitive action’, to generate individual opportunity as well as to enable dynamic entry to gendered institutional environments that have been, as a practical matter, closed to the female sex since their inception (231).

 The persistent trend of gender imbalance in international courts is more disturbing when viewed in the light of the fact that international courts are perceived as arenas for fighting injustice and inequality. Increasingly, research has demonstrated that courts, both domestic and international, continue to be informed by masculine expectations, often operating within institutional selection cultures that view the qualifications of women as secondary to those of men, as argued by Terris, Romano and Swigart (another IntLawGrrl).  In essence, Mackenzie et.al remind us that the playing field is not equal for men and women.

That being said, we are seeing some preliminary advancements in the number of women sitting on the benches of international courts. Women judges on the International Criminal Court (ICC) represent the different geographic regions of the world, yet, we see that some countries have had success in nominating women to the court and not so for others.  For instance, women represent about fifty percent of all judicial positions in France’s judiciary. Yet, France has yet to successfully nominate a woman judge to sit on the ICC or the International Criminal Court (ICJ).  Similarly, in Great Britain, women are said to account for about fifty percent of the judiciary, though a dismal number occupy positions on the higher courts. This poor record of women on higher courts may provide some preliminary explanation for its failure to nominate a woman to sit on the ICC, though the first woman to sit on the ICJ in 1995, Judge Rosalyn Higgins, was from Great Britain.  In the case of Uganda, we see success in producing two women on international courts, one on the ICJ -Judge Julia Sebutinde and the other on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR).- Judge Solomy Balungi Bossa. Continue reading