CGE to take action on gender in the judiciary

Press release

A Commission of Inquiry will be held in Pretoria on 24th and 25th July in order to address the paucity of women in the judiciary.  The Inquiry comes as the result of a complaint lodged by the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit (DGRU) of UCT and Sonke Gender Justice in October 2012 to the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE).  The two organisations cited the President, the Office of the Chief Justice the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), and the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development as respondents. One of their primary requests was that the CGE investigate what appears to be gender discrimination in the appointment of judicial officers. After an eight-month wait, an inquiry has finally been called.

The Commission has confirmed that the JSC, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs  and the Presidency will be required to make presentations during the hearings that will be held on the 24th and 25th, and that there will be additional presentations from other legal stakeholders.

The decision taken by the CGE to institute the inquiry demonstrates that it is capable of exercising its constitutional duty to call government departments to account where women’s rights are concerned.  However, Cherith Sanger, an attorney at Sonke Gender Justice has noted, “We find it problematic that it has taken eight months for this to happen but we are glad that it there is finally some progress.”

The hearings will be open to all stakeholders interested in the Judiciary, gender transformation and matters of public interest.

According to a report by the DGRU:

  • At no time in the last 19 years have there been more than three women sitting on the court;
  • African women make less than one percent of the senior counsel in the legal profession in South Africa;
  • Of the 473 senior counsel from whose ranks candidate judges are selected, only nine are black women; Of the nine women, only four are African.
  • Twenty white women are practicing as senior counsel in South Africa
  • As of October 2012, only 28% of the judges in the country were female;
  • Only two of the 11 Constitutional court judges are female; a number that has not increased since 1994 when the court was set up;

For more information, or for full details of the research paper by the DGRU, please contact:
Tabeth Masengu, Researcher, DGRU: 072 386 0546

Cherith Sanger Policy, Advocacy and Research Manager, Sonke : 071 608 3357


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