Women on the Bench: The Role of Female Judges in Fragile States

Project Team: Elin Skaar, Pilar Domingo, Siri Gloppen, Ruth Rubio-Marín, Rachel Sieder, Aslak Jangård Orre, Antonio De Lauri, Torunn Wimpelmann, Ana Braconnier, Margareth Nangacovie, Marianne Tøraasen

Timeframe: 01/01/2017 - 01/12/2022

Project team:
Project leader: Elin Skaar
Pilar DomingoSiri Gloppen, Ruth Rubio-Marín, Rachel Sieder, Aslak Jangård Orre, Antonio De Lauri, Torunn WimpelmannAna Braconnier, Margareth Nangacovie, Marianne Tøraasen 

Project reference group: Monica Kirya, Erika Rackley, Ulrike Schultz, Astri Suhrke, Georgina Waylen

Funding: Norwegian Research Council, NorGlobal

Since the 1970s, women have increasingly  made it to the bench. Surprisingly, the proportion of women judges is generally higher in post-conflict countries than in well-established western democracies. Why is this so? Situations of political rupture generally create new opportunity structures; some may favour the entry of women into public positions of power. Post-conflict assistance often includes gender friendly rule of law reforms, and the conflict itself may have placed rights issues in focus. How these conditions affect women’s access to, and utilization of, positions of judicial power has not received much attention in the literature.

This project investigates this puzzle by hypothesising that political rupture can provide women with opportunity structures that favour their access to judicial power. A small but growing literature on the role of women in the legal profession has paid virtually no attention to women judges in post-conflict and fragile states.

The overall objective of this project is to study three different but related phases of a judgeship (entry to the bench, experience on the bench, and judicial outcomes), using a gendered lens, and with a focus on fragile and conflict-affected states. We will use grounded “thick” analysis based on a combination of secondary sources and primary data. Starting from a tentative analytical framing that will be developed by the core research team, the research will contribute to developing an analytical and explanatory structure identifying institutional (formal and informal) socio-political factors at each of the three steps addressing our three central and interrelated research questions:

What are the main pathways of women judges to the bench? What are the gendered experiences of women on the bench? How and in what ways does having more women on the bench impact on judicial outcomes – specifically on cases involving violence against women and children? In essence, what difference do women judges make?

The project is a partnership between CMI, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the Department of Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen.


Recent Events

Lunch with the Judge: Justice Lydia Mugambe (the High Court of Uganda) in conversation with Ruth Rubio Marin (University of Sevilla and the European University Institute).            21 August 2019

Lunching with Judges: Ruth Rubio Marin in conversation with Hanne Sophie Greve
22 August 2018
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Project Launch: Women on the Bench
January 2018
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Case countries: Afghanistan, Angola, Guatemala, Haiti and Uganda