SA govt to act on judiciary transformation

Pretoria – President Jacob Zuma has received a report on the transformation of the judiciary from the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), says the Presidency.

“President Zuma has noted the recommendations of the CGE report and thanked the Commission for its extensive investigation. The report will be processed by the relevant government departments,” the Presidency said on Tuesday.

The report is a result of an investigation conducted by the CGE after it received complaints from the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit at the University of Cape Town and the Sonke Gender Justice Network.

The two organisations lodged a complaint with the CGE pertaining to what they called “gender discrimination in the appointment of judicial officers” in South Africa.

The two organisations argued that the manner in which judicial appointments were conducted in South Africa violated the right to equality as articulated in section 9 (3) of the Constitution, and the right not to be unfairly discriminated on the grounds of gender as articulated in section 8 of the promotion of Equality and Unfair Discrimination Act.

They stated that between 2009 and 2012, the Judicial Services Commission interviewed a total of 211 candidates for 110 positions in the judiciary and only 24 women were appointed.

They further maintained that a fewer number of women being appointed to judicial positions goes against statistics that show that there are more female law graduates than male ones, and more female admitted attorneys than male ones.

Furthermore, at the time when the complaint was lodged, there were 561 female practising advocates nationally from a pool of 2 384.

After the investigation, the CGE found that there is a slow pace of gender transformation in the judiciary, and the slow pace is applicable to both the permanent and acting judicial appointments.

It identified the lack of certainty of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) procedure and criteria in how it makes appointments as one of the critical barriers lying behind the slow gender transformation.

Other barriers included was the lack of a clear process in the selection of acting judges, inaccessibility of venues selected by the JSC, the lack of female leadership at institutions such as the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) and patriarchy and sexism which continue to persist require women to prove themselves in the male dominated legal profession.

In their report, the commission recommended that the JSC, in partnership and consultation with the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, the CGE and the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services should jointly convene a national symposium or summit to engage key stakeholders on gender transformation in the judiciary.

The report also recommended that different bars and law societies should develop gender equality codes that will ensure gender equality prevails in all the activities of their organisations and that the private sector and the state should ensure that they give legal work to both women and men with particular reference to black female lawyers.

Further it was recommended that the Department of Justice and Correctional Services should draft a law that will deal with gender transformation in the judiciary, while in compliance with the Constitution, President Zuma should reject recommendations for judicial appointments that do not address gender and racial equity imperatives that are enshrined in the Constitution. – SAnews.gov.za

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