“Magistrate Luisa Segoviano Astaburuaga. With Her, We All Progress” by Magistrate Gloria Poyatos Matas

Last September 30 was a great day for equality, the real one, not the formal one, in the Spanish justice system.

In the middle of the morning, a Magistrate crossed one of the most insurmountable thresholds of the Spanish Judiciary, although only if you are a woman.

Her name is María Luisa Segoviano and she is a pioneer. She has become the first woman to preside over one of the five Chambers of the Supreme Court, the Social, in the more than 200 years of history of this high judiciary.

The milestone has a special relevance if we take into account that justice in Spain has historically been a preserve for women, who were prohibited by law from entering the judicial and prosecutorial career until 1966.

Judging has always been a rational, formalistic discipline that is far from human. A perfectly calculated distancing as a generator of “authority” by way of fear of the unknown. Women were not fit for judgment any more than they were for combat. Affection, tenderness or care are a challenge to the unconditional acceptance of authority and therefore those values ​​were eradicated and confined to the private and female spheres.

Justice is an unknown and often unintelligible estate, in the application and interpretation of a right with severe deficiencies in the female perspective, both in substance and in form, a very visual example being the constitutional prevalence of the male sex in succession to the throne of the Spanish crown or the standard of civil diligence of the “good family man” or the “orderly businessman” in commercial matters.

And where are the women judges?

The latest statistics from the General Council of the Spanish Judicial Power remind us that in the Spanish Supreme Court there are only 16 women magistrates out of a total of 80 members. In the Military and Civil Chambers there is only one woman, despite the fact that in the latter Chamber family matters are settled, where women lead the statistics on care in all countries of the world (OXFAM January-2020).

Only 2 of the 17 presidencies of the Superior Courts of Justice have a woman’s name and only 10 presidencies of the Provincial Courts, out of a total of 50, are headed by women magistrates. There has never been a female magistrate presiding over the Supreme Court and the General Council of the Judiciary.

The same stamp of inequity is reproduced in the Spanish Constitutional Court where only six women magistrates out of a total of 64 members have been known since the creation of this Court in 1981 and more than 2 women magistrates have never cohabited in this body composed of 12 members.

The data exposed make visible the dimensions of a robust armored glass ceiling for women judges, who represent more than 53% of the Judiciary. But in justice, this ceiling is especially serious because it weighs down the experiences, aspirations and concerns of an entire half of the population, underrepresented wherever major judicial decisions are made.

The absence of women in the dome of Justice is a democratic anomaly that affects the quality of Justice because it does not represent the complete view of a society made up of women and men.

Law has a gender and it is not female, so it is urgent to feminize justice from above, changing the binding jurisprudence for those of us who judge from below. It is time to promote transformative changes that lead to a more realistic, egalitarian and co-responsible society. Justice must be brought closer to the society to which it is addressed, integrating historically despised values associated with femininity, such as emotional intelligence or the value of care, promoting a more humane and less mechanical justice.

For all this, today we are in luck.

The promotion of Magistrate Luisa Segoviano is a great advance in our associative struggle for gender equality from the justice system. She is a brilliant jurist and recognized ambassador for the use of gender perspective in the application of justice.

Today is a great day for equality, the real one, not the formal one, because with it, we have all crowned the top of Spanish justice.

We are progressing, slowly, but we are progressing…

The article was written by IAWJ Board Member, Magistrate Gloria Poyatos Matas. The views presented in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the IAWJ.