How many women judges are enough on international courts?
Article by Andreas Føllesdal in Journal of Social Philosophy
A legitimate international court need not secure numerical sex equality on the bench – complete parity. The article argues that a commitment that institutions should treat all with equal concern requires not only token representation of both prevalent sexes, or a ‘critical mass’ of 15 -25%, but a ‘parity zone’ of 40% of each. Arguments of compassion , epistemic competence; and expressions of status equality favour a high threshold of both the prevalent sexes, and further requirements to ensure a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives among the international judges . The aim is to explore what these arguments require regarding the proportion of men and women on the international bench. The strongest of these arguments withstand criticisms that they ‘essentialize’ gender, or assume that elitist female international judges can represent all other women, or lead to a slippery slope where ICs must also ‘mirror’ a myriad of characteristics of the affected populations and constituencies. The many reasons to lament various unjust forms and levels of inequalities counsel different, only partly overlapping objectives. The composition and workings of ICs must satisfy the norms of impartiality independence and procedural fairness, especially because the ICs are tasked to uphold these very norms. The arguments support a parity zone, and several of the arguments entail that more judges – regardless of their own sex and gender – should be ‘gender sensitive,’ and that there should be further requirements to ensure more diversity of perspectives among the international judges. But there are no strong arguments for complete equal proportions of men and women – ‘sex parity’ – on the international bench.
Andreas Føllesdal is professor and director at PluriCourts at the University of Oslo.