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

Project Team: Elin Skaar; Pilar Domingo; Siri Gloppen; Rachel Sieder; Ruth Rubio Marin; Torunn Wimplemann; Antonio De Lauri; Aslak Orre

Timeframe: 01/31/2018 - 12/31/2021

A team of LawTransform researchers lead by Elin Skaar (Chr. Michelsen Institute) has been awarded a grant from the Norwegian Research Council to investigate  ”Women on the Bench: The Role of Female Judges in Fragile States”. The project is a partnership between the CMI and the Overseas Development Institute (Pilar Domingo) and the Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen (Siri Gloppen). Participating researchers include: Rachel Sieder; Ruth Rubio Marin; Torunn Wimplemann; Antonio de Lauri and Aslak Orre.

Since the 1970s, women increasingly have 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 numbers:

Project title Women on the Bench

– The Role of Female Judges in Fragile States –

Name of client Elin Skaar
Country Afghanistan, Angola, Guatemala, Haiti, Uganda
Dates (start/end) 01.01.2018 – 31.12.2021
Contract value, Euro 9,27 mill NOK