From left: Virtue Foundation Co-Founder
On March 31 and April 1, 2011, the Avon Global Center and the International Human Rights Clinic participated in the Virtue Foundation Senior Roundtable on Women and the Judiciary in Washington, D.C. Approximately 50 women judges from 20 countries around the world attended the event. The event focused on how to increase the participation of women in the judiciary in order to improve access to justice, particularly for women and girls. (Please click here for the conference report.)
As discussed by Roundtable participants, increasing the involvement of women judges at all levels of the judiciary is not only an important aspect of gender equity and civic participation, it also can directly impact how survivors of gender-based violence interface with and obtain protection and redress from the courts. Throughout the world, survivors who seek justice through the court system often find themselves re-victimized when they enter the courtroom. Women judges may be more likely to be sensitized to issues of gender discrimination, cycles of domestic violence, sexual violence, and other forms of gender-based violence. At even a basic level, having women as decision makers on the bench may make the courtroom a less intimidating place for women survivors. In addition, the involvement of women judges has proven to be an important factor in changing some engrained misconceptions about women and violence, both in specific cases and more broadly.
|Justice Elena Highton de Nolasco
of the Supreme Court of Argentina
The Avon Global Center and the International Human Rights Clinic assisted the Virtue Foundation in preparing for this Roundtable by designing a survey on barriers to women’s entry and advancement in the judiciary, which was administered to all participating judges. At the Roundtable event, Professor Sital Kalantry, Avon Global Center Faculty Director, introduced the methodology and concept of the survey instrument. Then, Virtue Foundation’s Co-Founder and Vice President Dr. Joan LaRovere moderated a panel on which Avon Global Center Steering Committee member Judge Ann C. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Justice Martha Koome of the Kenya High Court discussed the survey results.
Students in the International Human Rights Clinic also prepared research memoranda on the judicial systems and barriers to women’s involvement in the judiciary in Argentina, Cambodia, Ghana, India, Kenya, and South Africa. These memos were given to and read by judges from several of these countries, including Avon Global Center Steering Committee members Chief Justice Georgina Wood of Ghana and Justice Elena Highton de Nolasco of Argentina. The judges drew upon these memos in their Roundtable presentations on the barriers and potential solutions to improving women’s involvement in the judiciaries of their home countries.
Her Ladyship Chief Justice Wood of Ghana
The Roundtable event also featured an opening reception at the Supreme Court, co-hosted by U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, judge-led roundtable discussions towards increasing opportunities for women to enter and advance in judiciaries, a Newsweek Daily Beast Women in the World panel on Social Innovation, Africa and the Role of Women Judges, and a closing reception at the U.S. Department of State. Clinic students served as rapporteurs, and they prepared a roundtable report for the Virtue Foundation.