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Justice Singh urges Asian judges to take part in efforts toward gender equality

Maria Filomena D. Singh | Published on 10/11/2023

Justice Singh, IAWJ Asia-Pacific Director, urges Asian judges to take part in efforts toward gender equality.

Picture from UNDP JIN ASEAN

In a two-day event in Bangkok, Thailand, Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh emphasized the importance of gender equality and judicial integrity in the Asia and the Pacific. This regional event entitled “Evolving Justice: ASEAN Judges Conference” was organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.

In 2018, the UNDP organized the Judicial Integrity Network (JIN) in the ASEAN region (a Network for Judges by Judges), which was designed to support countries in pursuing judicial reforms. The JIN aims to strengthen a forum for networking, peer-to-peer exchange, and collaboration among ASEAN countries’ judges interested in exchanging knowledge and seeking solutions on transparency, accountability, integrity, accessibility and court excellence.

The two-day event was held last October 5-6, 2023, where esteemed judges, legal professionals, development partners and policymakers, as well as stakeholders from academia and civil society from the ASEAN region participated.

Justice Singh talked about how the recent Covid-19 pandemic, particularly the work-from-home scheme and the lack of work-life balance, adversely impacted women in particular. She highlighted the Philippine Supreme Court’s efforts to address these effects through, among others, the establishment of mental health units and a 24/7 hotline, and child-rearing centers.

Justice Singh recalled her experience working in the judiciary as a female judge, beginning from her appointment in the Metropolitan Trial Court. She explained that among the principal factors that prevent women from applying to the judiciary is that they feel that they have to prioritize their duties as mothers, daughters, or wives. It was emphasized that diversity is essential in order for the judiciary to be progressive and effective. The promotion of gender equality and women representation eliminates gender barriers and biases in the judiciary.

Justice Singh invited the members of the judiciary to take an active role in contributing to achieving true gender equality. Justice Singh showcased the Philippine Supreme Court’s Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022-2027 (SPJI), particularly, the issuance of its Guidelines on the Use of Gender Fair Language and the issuance of the Gender Fair Courtroom Etiquette. Access, as the third outcome of the SPJI, is sought to be achieved through the 3-pronged approach starting with gender sensitivity and awareness, leading to gender inclusivity, as a steppingstone to gender equality.

Beyond the judicial branch, a collective effort from the government is necessary to address the patriarchal culture and society. As it stands, the executive, legislative, and judiciary are dominated by males. As regards the family, fathers are still viewed as the head of the family; in communities, elders are, likewise, mostly males.