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Gender and the Judiciary in Africa: From Obscurity to Parity?



Bauer, Gretchen & Dawuni, Josephine (eds). 2016. Gender and the Judiciary in Africa: From obscurity to parity? New York: Routledge Publishers.


Between 2000 and 2015, women ascended to the top of judiciaries across Africa, most notably as chief justices of supreme courts in common law countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Malawi, Lesotho and Zambia, but also as presidents of constitutional courts in civil law countries such as Benin, Burundi, Gabon, Niger and Senegal. Most of these appointments was a "first" in terms of the gender of the chief justice. At the same time, women are being appointed in record numbers as magistrates, judges and justices across the continent. While women’s increasing numbers and roles in African executives and legislatures have been addressed in a burgeoning scholarly literature, very little work has focused on women in judiciaries.


This book addresses the important issue of the increasing numbers and varied roles of women judges and justices, as judiciaries evolve across the continent.Scholars of law, gender politics and African politics provide overviews of recent developments in gender and the judiciary in nine African countries that represent north, east, southern and west Africa as well as a range of colonial experiences, postcolonial trajectories and legal systems, including mixes of common, civil, customary, or sharia law. Timely and relevant in this era in which governmental accountability and transparency are essential to the consolidation of democracy in Africa and when women are accessing significant leadership positions across the continent, this book considers the substantive and symbolic representation of women’s interests by women judges and the wider implications of their presence for changing institutional norms and advancing the rule of law and human rights. Review"At last, African women judges receive the careful scholarly attention they deserve. This work underscores the centrality of the third branch of government in democratization. The authors' careful following of a common protocol allows both valuable comparisons as well as solid introductions for the country specialist and novice alike. While the authors review no simple answers to the puzzle of significant country-to-country variation, happily, they analyze how to increase women's representation rather than replaying tired essentialist arguments about difference. Perhaps African feminists will inspire the rest of the world to demand a diverse and representative judiciary? A must read for anyone interested in comparative politics, African politics, women and politics, or judicial politics."―Sally J. Kenney, Newcomb College


About the Editors

Gretchen Bauer is professor of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware, USA. Her current research focuses on women’s political leadership in sub-Saharan Africa. She is the co-editor with Manon Tremblay of Women in Executive Power: A Global Overview(2011) and with Hannah Britton of Women in African Parliaments (2006).


Josephine Dawuni is an assistant professor of political science at Howard University. Her current research focuses on women and the legal professions in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Institute for African Women in Law (c) All rights reserved.