SA aims for more women in justice

8 August 2012

Women continue to be under-represented as judges in South Africa’s court system, with only about a quarter of them receiving permanent appointments, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said on Tuesday.

“In the justice sector in particular, women are still the least represented category across the entire hierarchy of the courts.”

Radebe, speaking at the opening of a new courthouse in Palm Ridge for the magisterial district of Alberton in Ekurhuleni, said that of the 233 permanent judges appointed to different Superior Courts in the country, only 65 were women. Of that number 45 were black and 20 were white.

The minister said the problem of women in justice was not limited to judicial appointments.

“The allocation of legal work and briefs to legal practitioners is one area where there is almost a complete absence of women,” Radebe said.

Radebe said the government was beginning “radical reforms” to the State Legal Services to address the problem of women representation in South Africa’s justice system.

These were aimed at ensuring that the government, as a consumer of legal services, would introduce programmes that increased the number of black and women law practitioners.

The reforms would particularly affect the fields of constitutional litigation, competition law, aviation and social and economic transformation.

Radebe added that his department was considering reopening Sexual Offences Courts in the country to improve the conviction rate for sexual crimes against women.

Radebe said the number of rapes in the country was “startling” and had to be curtailed.

“I therefore urge all role players and the judiciary in particular, to join hands to rid South Africa of horrendous crimes which damage the country’s reputation both at home and internationally.”

Sapa