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To “Mother” or not to “Mother”: The Representative Roles of Women Judges in Ghana

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 November 2016

Josephine J Dawuni*
Affiliation:
Howard University, Washington, DC

Abstract

Feminist scholars have debated questions of gender and judging by focusing on variables such as representation, difference, diversity and legitimacy. While illuminating, most of these studies are by scholars in the global north. More research is needed to understand issues of gender and judging in the global south. This article adds to existing literature by asking whether women judges promote women's rights. Through in-depth interviews with women judges in Ghana, the article demonstrates that women judges do promote women's rights. The article presents a new method of analysis: exploring the dichotomy between direct and indirect modes of representing women's rights. Recognizing the importance of substantive representation and the contributions of female judges in promoting women's rights, it argues that female judges are not a sufficient condition for promoting women's rights. Necessary conditions include laws guaranteeing women's rights, working partnerships with women's civil society organizations and an enabling socio-cultural climate.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © SOAS, University of London 2016 

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References

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22 The data presented represents the numbers that were captured at the end of 2014. Since then, there have been promotions through the ranks of the court system, while one of the female judges on the Supreme Court resigned upon reaching the statutory retirement age. Attempts to update the information as at the time of writing were not successful due to technical issues on the Judicial Service of Ghana website, which does not currently display the list of judges in each court, and unsuccessful efforts to obtain updated data from contacts at the judicial service. Since 2014, 13 new judges have been promoted to the High Court, out of whom five are women. See for instance “CJ swears in 13 High Court judges to replace ‘Anas judges’” (15 July 2016) Myjoyonline, available at: <http://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2016/july-15th/cj-swears-in-13-high-court-judges-to-replace-anas-judges.php> (last accessed 27 September 2016).

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24 The process of obtaining judges' names and contact information was long and arduous, due to the need to protect and safeguard judicial independence.

25 Based on information received from the Judicial Service of Ghana at the time of the interviews, it is estimated that, out of a total of 326 judges, magistrates and career magistrates in Ghana, only about 80 are women. Due to the lack of proper record keeping, the exact numbers of judges could not be obtained from the Judicial Service. The total of 326 includes career magistrates who are often not considered to be judges.

26 Career magistrates are a recent development in Ghana, introduced in 2003 in response to the dearth of judges in district courts. They include people who do not necessarily possess a law degree. After two years training at law school, they qualify to serve as judges, but are not promoted to higher courts. They were introduced to help deal with the heavy caseload, which had often resulted in delays to the effective administration of justice.

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32 Interview with a High Court judge, June 2013 (copy on file with the author).

33 Interview with a High Court judge, June 2013 (copy on file with the author).

34 The promotion procedure for judges in Ghana is not contained in an accessible document. However, most of the judges asked about the promotion procedure noted that it involves a review of the cases and judgments written by the judges, and an examination and rigorous interview by the Judicial Council before promotion is approved. For details of the 2013 promotions, see SK Obour “14 new judges sworn in” (7 August 2013) Graphic Online, available at: <http://graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/7790-14-new-judges-sworn-in.html> (last accessed 14 June 2014).

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69 Tetteh-Charway, BPromoting a victim-centred approach to the adjudication of domestic violence cases” (2012) 52 Journal of the Association of Magistrates and Judges of Ghana 50 at 53Google Scholar.

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73 Interview with a Supreme Court judge, June 2013 (copy on file with the author).

74 Interview with a High Court judge, June 2013 (copy on file with the author).

75 Junqueira “Women in the judiciary”, above at note 9.

76 Anleu and Mack “Magistrates”, above at note 27; Cardinal “The impact of women”, above at note 39.

77 Anleu and Mack, ibid.

78 Hunter “Can feminist judges”, above at note 5 at 30.

79 Dawuni “Ghana: The paradox”, above at note 19.

80 Rackley Women, Judging, above at note 4; Anleu and Mack “Magistrates”, above at note 27; Hunter “Can feminist judges”, above at note 5.

81 Cardinal “The impact of women”, above at note 39.

82 Anleu and Mack “Magistrates”, above at note 27 at 190.

83 Martin “The representative role”, above at note 27; Kamau “Women judges”, above at note 36.

84 The Court Watch Program is an initiative led by WiLDAF to observe the outcomes of the fast track courts established to provide justice to victims of domestic abuse in three pilot regions. The programme involved a partnership between WiLDAF and the Judicial Service in monitoring court hearings, examining data on cases filed before the courts and observing the work of court clerks and staff towards victims of abuse.

85 Martin “The representative role”, above at note 27.

86 WiLDAF “Court watch report: Observation of the application of the Domestic Violence Act in courts in Greater Accra, Volta and Western Regions” (2010).

87 Interview with a circuit court judge, June 2013 (copy on file with the author).

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