IAWJ President, Hon. Vanessa Ruiz, Spoke at the 61 Annual Meeting of the International Association of Judges in Marrakesh

Marrakesh, Morocco | On October 17, 2018, IAWJ President, Hon. Vanessa Ruiz gave a speech titled The Role of Women Judges and a Gender Perspective in Ensuring Judicial Independence and Integrity at the 61 Annual Meeting of the International Association of Judges in Marrakesh, Morocco. The theme of the meeting was “Judicial Independence and the Implementation of the New Universal Charter of the Judge.”

Judge Ruiz highlighted the reasons why the inclusion of women judges in high judicial roles increases judicial independence. Women judges, not only have earned the credentials and accomplishments inherent to any judicial selection, but they have the lived experience—social and cultural—of being a woman. 

“An experience that tends toward a comprehensive, empathetic perspective, one that encompasses an awareness of the consequences of judicial action for the people affected, as well as the legal basis for such action.”

Achieving equality of women judges at all levels of the judiciary is an important goal because it is right for achieving a more just rule of law. For this, she said, we must break the glass ceiling. “Where judicial selection is based on measurable merit, by examination, women excel. But once selection is made by subjective discretion, whether by judicial councils or political appointment, the promotion of women drops significantly. It is a problem not only in the courts but also in judicial associations“.

“The entry of women judges into spaces from which they had historically been excluded has been a positive step in the direction of a judiciary that is perceived as being more transparent, inclusive and representative of the people whose lives are affected by court rulings.” 

According to Judge Ruiz, women judges, just by being visible, enhance the legitimacy of the court because they send a signal that courts are open and accessible. It goes even beyond that, women judges contribute to the quality of decision-making and the quality of justice because their presence enhances the representation of considerations that would not have been taken into account otherwise. “By enlarging the discussion, their presence … prevents ill-considered or improper decisions. By making more evident how some laws and rulings are based on gender stereotypes or how they might have a different impact on women than on men, a gender perspective improves the quality of adjudication. This benefits men and women.” 

She continued by highlighting the accomplishments of the IAWJ in training judges worldwide on how to judge with a gender perspective. The IAWJ stands with the UNODC, IAJ, and other judicial associations working to review and update the Bangalore Principles, to develop training tools for judges, and to create an international network of judges to support high ethical standards for judicial conduct. 

“The work plan for the Global Judicial Integrity Network includes gender-related issues such as discrimination and sexual harassment. This is so because IAWJ made a presentation and was in the room when the work plan was adopted in Vienna earlier this year. Otherwise, it would not have been included. Yet when we made the recommendation, there was general acceptance. Simply by being included, by being given an opportunity to express our views, there was a substantive improvement in the agenda of the Global Judicial Integrity Network.”