On the Steady Path to Gender Balance: The Recent Appointment of Women in Ghana’s Supreme Court

By Atchere Asuah-Kwasi

The persistence of gender disparity and imbalance in public offices in Ghana is not because there are no qualified women capable of filling public positions, but rather one of whether equity and inclusion are central considerations when appointments are being made. From the perspective of this author, the key issue is that if equity is applied, women have the necessary qualifications to fill those positions. In a recent advocacy intervention in an article published by J. Jarpa Dawuni, PhD, titled Why More Women on the Supreme Court of Ghana Matters: Open Letter to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo[1], the author makes a strong case for addressing the disparity of women judges on the bench of the Supreme Court of Ghana. In advocating for why more women need to be appointed to the Supreme Court, the author provides a compelling argument through a historical analysis of the trailblazing achievements of women, in Ghana, while zoning in on Ghana’s judiciary. This current article analyzes the December 2019 appointment of three women judges to the Supreme Court of Ghana to fill the vacancies left by the retirement of three other women judges—Justice Vida Akoto-Bamfo, Justice Sophia Adinyira and Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo.

In December 2019, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo, in exercising his constitutional mandate in Article 144(2)[2] of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, appointed 30 women and 18 men to the three apex courts of the Supreme Court (3 women), Court of Appeal (five women, six men) and High Court (twenty-two women, twelve men). Together, these recent appointments have led to an increase in the number of women judges within the higher courts of Ghana. Without the recent appointment of three women judges—Justice Mariama Owusu, Justice Gertrude Torkornoo and Justice Avril Lovelace Johnson to the Supreme Court, there would have been only one woman justice—Agnes M.A Dordzie, making it the lowest it has been in decades.[3] Though these recent appointments by the President are commendable, it should not be taken as an end, but rather as the beginning of the quest for gender equitable representation in the judiciary and in other public offices.

Who are the women judges?

Justice Mariama Owusu comes from Beposo in the Ashanti Region. She was called to the Ghana Bar in 1981. Justice Owusu went into private practice with Totoe Legal Services in Ghana. In 1990, she joined the bench as a district magistrate, and later appointed a circuit court judge in 1992. She was elevated as a justice of the High Court in 2000. In 2006, she was appointed a Justice of the Court of Appeal, and in 2019, appointed to the Supreme Court. She has been an active member of the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ), serving as President of the Ghana chapter from 2014 to 2018. She also served as a member of the Ethics Committee of the Judicial Service, and as a member of the Performing Assets Committee, Judicial Service, from 2010 to 2014.[4]