Thursday, October 27, 2022
Study of Women Judges in Pacific Island Courts Concludes that Appointment of Women Helps, in Part to Affirm Gender Justice
Anna Dziedzic, "To Join the Bench and Be Decision-Makers": Women Judges in Pacific Island Judiciaries"
In Melissa Crouch (ed.), Women and the Judiciary in the Asia-Pacific (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021) 29-65
Studies of women in leadership in the Pacific tend to focus on the under-representation of women in the political branches of government. The number and role of women in the judicial branch has received less attention. Male judges outnumber women judges across the region, but the reasons for this, and its implications, have not been the subject of detailed study. This chapter provides a history and comparative analysis of the appointment of women judges in the Pacific, focusing on the nine states of Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. It presents empirical data on the composition of the superior courts in these states, including judges’ gender and professional background. It examines how the criteria and processes for judicial appointment – including the distinctive use of foreign judges – affect the appointment of women to the judiciary. Finally, the chapter considers why it matters whether women are included on Pacific judiciaries, drawing on reflections by women who have served as judges in the region; scholarship on law and gender; and an examination of high-profile cases in which women judges have presided. The analysis suggests that the appointment of women judges to Pacific judiciaries cannot, in and of itself, correct all the harmful gender biases in law and society. However, the appointment of women judges in greater number would counter some of the harmful stereotypes about women that persist in Pacific societies and contribute to work across a range of sectors in Pacific states to ensure that the law meets the needs of women and affirms gender justice.