N Touch
Thursday 19 July 2018
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Editorial

Bizarre complaint

SOMETHING is seriously wrong with the judicial system, according to attorney Stephen Boodram, and what is wrong has everything to do with sex.

In a letter to the Assembly of Southern Lawyers, Boodram laments the vast majority of magistrates are women.

“That is not democracy,” Boodram said. “I call upon the assembly to take steps to bring to the relevant authorities the need to perform a balancing act with the sexes in the appointment of magistrates so as to increase the number of males on the lower bench.”

Boodram states only six of 56 magistrates are male. But according to the Judiciary website there are, in fact, 41 magistrates of which 10 are male. Either way, the situation is unsatisfactory for the attorney who claimed it has been the experience among many lawyers that female magistrates need to temper their anger a bit when adjudicating cases involving male and female parties.

We agree with Boodram when he says a balance needs to be struck. However, we disagree strongly with his assessment of the current state of affairs, as well as the capacity of female judicial officers. While there may well be an imbalance in favour of women in the lower tiers of the criminal justice system, the same cannot be said for our highest courts. Nine out of 13 – or about 70 per cent – of the Justices of Appeal are men. Further afield, two of the 12 members of the Privy Council – which is still our highest court – are women. If there is imbalance, we say that imbalance is actually in favour of men who appear to be more fortuitous in advancement up the highest rungs of the ladder.

Admittedly, things are better at the High Court. The vast majority of recent appointments there have been female. The result is that about half of the 35 judges are female.

In the end, Boodram is wrong to claim women have some fundamental defect which makes them ill-suited to the task. Just as a man is capable of reining in emotion and acting judiciously, so too are women. What else have half of the population – including many mothers who lead households – been doing from time immemorial? And if Boodram thinks instances of inappropriate judicial conduct are limited to women, he is gravely mistaken. His is a bizarre complaint which misses the point.

If more and more women are being encouraged to take up judicial office, that is a matter to be celebrated, not discouraged, especially given the reality that females are still struggling to find an equal place in our male-dominated society, notwithstanding the progress exemplified by the appointment last week of a new female president.

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