This aspect of our work focuses on tackling gender disparity in the courts with particular emphasis on the Superior courts and some focus on the Magistrates court. Section 174 (2) of the Constitution requires that the racial and gender composition of society be considered when appointing judges. While racial transformation has progressed in leaps and bounds on our bench, gender transformation still has a long way to go.
In 2017 a mere 32% of judges on the Superior Courts (High Courts, Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court) are women. In the Supreme Court of Appeal, only one-third of the justices are women and in the history of the Constitutional Court there have never been more than three women judges sitting on it.
Although the proportion of women in the magistracy was 40%, it’s still dismal considering South Africa is a signatory to numerous regional and international obligations that call for a parity in positions of influence in government.
DGRU uses action research in this regard by monitoring JSC interviews, keeping statistics on appointments and engaging with relevant stakeholders such as the Department of Justice to make the case for gender transformation. We believe gender transformation is imperative not only because it is a Constitutional obligation but because it enriches our courts and ensures a plurality of perspectives. Having gender parity on the bench allows for different sectors of society to be represented and assists in effecting a truly transformative and constitutionally based model of adjudicating.
In addition, we have provided an annual address to the SA chapter of the South African Association of Women Judges in order to inform their objectives and assist in their mission to support female judges and magistrates and to overcome barriers to judicial appointment.
A secondary aspect of our work includes research into the state of the legal profession, the challenges that women in at the Bar, Side Bar, Academia and Magistracy are facing and how this impacts aspiration for judicial office. In this regard, we partner with Sonke Gender Justice to conduct workshops and research that can assist legal bodies.