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Justice Through a Gender Lens

January 28 2019 - by Carole Houlihan, CLP's Gender and Diversity Specialist

Trinidad and Tobago recently launched an important tool to support gender equality in the justice system. Justice through a Gender Lens, the Gender Equality Protocol for Judicial Officers, will support Judges, Masters, Registrars, and Magistrates, on whom the duty to dispense justice is entrusted. It contains best practices to address inequality as a result of gender or other discrimination.

It is a publication of the Judicial Education Institute of Trinidad and Tobago in collaboration with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers (CAJO), Trinidad and Tobago Association of Women Judges (TTAWJ), Judicial Education Institute of Trinidad and Tobago (JEITT), UN Women and the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project - a regional judicial reform initiative funded by the Government of Canada.

The protocol notes that as a concept, legislative “gender” equality in the Caribbean should not be confined to women’s issues only. Instead, it must be inclusive of all persons. The Protocol seeks to:

  • Equip Judicial Officers to render decisions that are the product of a fair, transparent, and unbiased process;
  • Increase the awareness in Judicial Officers of T&T’s international responsibilities toward the promotion of gender equality;
  • Assist Judicial Officers in recognizing and eliminating individual biases which foster gender discrimination and provide signposts or markers for use by Judicial Officers to assist in identifying and treating with those issues which trigger individual gender biases; and
  • Provide Judicial Officers with the tools to identify, treat with and provide redress for power imbalances which hinder equality of treatment before the courts, structural inequalities in society and equal access by the litigant to the remedies and redresses available from the court.

A 2016 survey by CAJO and UN Women found that 78% of Judicial Officers agreed that it was either extremely or very important for them to identify their gender biases when adjudicating cases. An overwhelming 82% agreed that they would support having established protocols to combat gender discrimination.

The Protocol addresses: Special considerations for the treatment of non-traditional gender identities; Domestic violence; Sexual offences; Child ustody and maintenance, and; Human trafficking.

The Foreword by the Honourable Mme Justice Judith Jones, Justice of Appeal and Chair of the Committee to finalize the Protocol speaks eloquently to the challenge being addressed:

The world is changing and in this vortex of changing norms and mores of society we, as Judicial Officers, are tasked with the responsibility of applying these laws and doing justice. Doing justice is much more than simply applying the laws. Computers can do that. It is also about applying the laws to the cases before us so that, as far as possible, we can ensure equality of results and the protection of the vulnerable. It is about applying a gender perspective to any adjudication that involves a power imbalance regardless of the source of that inequality. It is also about facing and confronting those individual biases that have the potential to impair our judgment.

Does your country have a similar Protocol for Judicial Officers?  Is one required?

If so, what have been the results of its implementation?



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