Gender Imbalance in International Courts
By Cecilia M. Bailliet, Coordinator/Professor, PluriCourts
The 11th ESIL Annual Conference on the Judicialization of International Law- A Mixed Blessing? included a panel addressing the significant gender imbalance in international courts, affecting both adjudicators and the legal teams appearing before them.
Nienke Grossman of the University of Baltimore presented her paper “Shattering the Glass Ceiling in International Adjudication” (forthcoming Virginia Journal of International Law) which reveals the opaque nature of selection procedures and the lack of quotas or targets to achieve gender balance on the courts. She combines both quantitative and qualitative data on 12 different international courts. She contrasts international courts which lack gender representativeness requirements as having only 15% women judges with international courts which have targets or representative language as having 33% women judges. Most poignantly, she reflects upon the element of democratic legitimacy: “Both women and men are the beneficiaries of the work of international courts and should be involved in judicial decision making for these institutions to possess justified authority.”
Stephanie Hennette Vauchez of Universite Paris Ouest Nanterre pursued the issue through her paper- “More Women -But Which Women? The Rule and the Politics of Gender Balance at the European Court of Human Rights” available in the European Journal of International Law. She sets forth the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly rule of gender balance on the list of candidates presented by states for the post of judge. She discusses strong opposition and counter-mobilization to implementation of the rule- thus flagging the importance of follow up engagement. She warns that although there are currently 18 women on the bench, there is a need to be wary given the prevalence of all male lists.
The final paper was presented by Cecily Rose of the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies at Leiden Law School, titled “A Study of Lawyers Appearing before the International Court of Justice, 1999-2012” (co-written with Shashank P. Kumar and published in theEuropean Journal of International Law as well). Rose examined the composition of legal teams appearing before the ICJ and demonstrating grave gender imbalance, in addition to imbalance regarding nationality, development status, and geographic region of country of citizenship, as well as professional status (lawyers v. professors). She concludes that only 4 members of the ICJ Bar were women and accounted for 2.91 per cent of total speaking time. 85 per cent of the Bar were nationals of developed states and the majority were international law professors.
All three papers call for greater transparency and left the audience with a profound sense that there is a need to heed this recommendation both at national and international levels; as the issue of appointments to international courts is indeed transnational in nature.
It appears that the next step will be to support the GQUAL campaign which launches this upcoming week at the United Nations in New York. It seeks to raise awareness about the lack of women’s representation in international institutions, the lack of fair and transparent procedures at national and international levels to nominate candidates. It calls for the establishment of guidelines, measures, and mechanisms on national and international levels to attain gender parity and calls upon States to guarantee parity when presenting and voting for candidates. Of particular interest, it will seek to study the underrepresentation of women in international courts from the perspective of non-discrimination. GQUAL will issue a Declaration which will serve as a public petition for all to sign! It is hoped that all IntLawGrrls will disseminate this campaign!