IAWJ believes the judiciary has a critical role in ensuring equality and equal access to justice – and it starts within the judicial system itself. Our members and chapters have been front and center in pursuing ground-breaking initiatives to promote equality for women and men in the courts.
Gender Offices within the Supreme Courts: IAWJ members have been in the vanguard of efforts to spread a new model: “gender offices” within the Supreme Court. These offices design and establish policies that incorporate a gender perspective into the working of the courts, with the aim of guaranteeing non-discrimination and equal access to justice. Gender offices exist in 23 Ibero-American states, with a variety of workstreams: increasing awareness and training judicial officers in gender perspective; creating protocols on access to justice with a gendered perspective, including in cases concerning gender-based violence; and collecting statistics on judicial composition, performance, and cases. The Ibero-American Judicial Summit, in the Declaration de Santiago de Chile (2014), now formalizes this commitment, and our members sit as leaders within these commissions.
Gender Bias Task Forces: in the USA examined the interaction between gender and the court system, including the role gender plays in the appointment process, within all aspects of courtroom interactions – both on and off the record — and between and among judges and attorneys. In addition, the task forces looked at the perceived level of adversarial fervor, incivility, or gender bias. IAWJ members put their judicial careers on the line to create and sustain these task forces and make public their disconcerting findings and recommendations. To this day they continue their efforts to bring about meaningful changes.
Gender and Judging Conferences: IAWJ members held some of the first conferences in their countries under the title of “Gender and Judging,” and have since made them ongoing events. These conferences discuss the influence of gender on how courts work for employees and users of the judicial system, on access to justice considerations, and on the application of substantive law. The inaugural meeting of women judges in Pakistan in February 2016 used its forum to discuss the work conditions of judges and their impact on women. IAWJ has also had delegations to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The most recent CSW had a theme of rural women and our delegation was able to have a panel discussion where they discussed the experiences of rural women seeking justice through the courts and compared them to the experiences of their urban counterparts.
Drawing on these and other transformative models, IAWJ members can support efforts in their countries by:
- Encouraging the collection and analysis of diversity data on the bench and in the bar.
- Promoting the disaggregation of court, criminal and domestic violence statistics by race and gender.
- Ensuring that courts are accessible to lawyers, judges, and litigants with disabilities, and encouraging the incorporation of assistive technologies in the courts.
- Advocating inclusivity in the faculty of national judicial training institutes and in the committees that identify topics on which judges will be trained.
- Developing and disseminating “Know your Rights” legal literacy materials appropriate to their communities (such as the cartoon illustration above)
- Holding conferences, panels, and meetings on diversity and inclusivity across all axes.