- To promote the interests of judicial officers throughout the Commonwealth
- To ensure wherever possible, equal access to the law
- To provide a forum for judicial officers to be able to consider ways of redressing any gender
a) Gender Bias and other colleagues;
b) Gender Bias and the Public both specifically and generally;
c) Institutionalised Gender Bias and the Justice System.
- To exchange information among judicial officers;
- To encourage the advancement of women;
- To promote and encourage women to be aware of their legal rights;
- To address women's groups on issues relating to the law and their legal rights.
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Before the setting up of the Gender (formerly the Women's Section) of the CMJA
in August 1994, the Association was not unconcerned with issues surrounding women. The Rule of Law
provides that the law should apply equally to all individuals who make up society regardless of
gender, race, religion, and so on.
Commonwealth Judicial Officers have participated in human rights conferences and
meetings organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat, Interights, and other international agencies
since the late 1970's. each passing decade, human rights issues have become an increasingly significant
part of any conference agenda, and part and parcel of discussions on development in the legal field.
Human Rights as a distinct area of Commonwealth focus became crystallised in what is referred to
as the Harare Declaration of 1991 and is synonymous with democracy and good governance.
The Gender Section of the CMJA was
established in August 1994 to promote the interests
of women jurists throughout the Commonwealth and to
ensure wherever possible that women have equal access
to the law. The Section was set up in Zimbabwe during
the CMJA's Tenth Triennial Conference.
The current Chair is Justice Lynne
Leitch of Canada. The previous chairs were Dr Clover
Thompson-Gordon OD, JP of Jamaica and The Hon Miss Justice
P Macaulay of Sierra Leone.
Following its establishment the Section embarked on a Gender Bias Project which
aimed to survey gender bias within the judiciaries of the Commonwealth. Statistics on the number
of women magistrates and judges were collected and assessed, the results of which have been incorporated
into the training programmes of the CMJA.
The Gender Section has been actively involved in four judicial colloquia on the
Domestic Application of International Human Rights Norms to promote Women's Human Rights which were
jointly organised with the Commonwealth Secretariat's Gender and Youth Division and the Commonwealth
Foundation. The Colloquia took place in Zimbabwe in 1994, Beijing 1995, and Hong Kong 1996 and Guyana
The Victoria Falls Proclamation
on the Rights of Women was adopted in Zimbabwe in 1994. These principles were approved and reaffirmed
at both Beijing, Hong Kong and Guyana, all of which produced recommendations relevant to the needs
and interests of their particular region. The Council of the CMJA has also given full backing and
approval to the Declaration.
The CMJA was an official Observer at the Commonwealth Ministerial Meeting on Gender
in Beijing 1995 which met to consider and approve the Commonwealth Plan of Action, produced by an
expert group set up following the Cyprus Heads of Government meeting in 1993. Together with other
Commonwealth Professional Associations under the auspices of the Organisation of Commonwealth Associations,
the CMJA participated in a workshop which identified the Plan of Action as an example of the sort
of Commonwealth programme on which CPA's could base their collaborative efforts and activities vis
a vis intergovernmental organisations, with the view to streamlining objectives and therefore among
other things secure project funding.
The CMJA is working closely with other
non-governmental organisations, academic institutions,
intergovernmental organisations and national judicial
bodies on gender issues. It participated in the formulation
of the Commonwealth Secretariat's Gender and Equality
Plan of Action agreed by Commonwealth Women's Affairs
Ministers in 2004. It also participated in the Gender
and Human Rights Expert Group convened by the Commonweatlh
Secretariat in January 2004. In conjunction with the
Commonwealth Lawyers' Association, the Legal and Constitutional
Affairs Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat it
launches a Gender and Human
Rights Toolkit in March 2005 which was updated in
May 2013 for use by paralegals, lawyers and judicial
officers in the Commonwealth.
The third objective of the Gender Section
is to convene meetings of judicial officers and to facilitate
the exchange of information among them and to discuss
common problems. In practice the composition of participation
at the judicial colloquia so far held have been that
of an almost equal number of women and men judicial
officers. The view being taken is that gender bias exists
among women and men, and that raising gender awareness
is desirable generally. In other words it is a matter
of overall judicial education. The CMJA incorporates
gender bias as a regular topic for discussion groups
in its education programmes across the Commonwealth.
Specifically the seminars help to identify gender bias
in court and in the attitudes of those concerned with
the court, namely magistrates and judges, counsel and
court administrators. Since 1999, the CMJA has run a
number of Gender Section Conferences in conjunction
with the Caribbean Regional Conferences in order to
raise awareness of gender issues. These have take place
in St Lucia (1999), The Bahamas (2000) and Barbados
(2001) Bermuda (2007). A Gender Day forum also took
place during the Jubilee Conference 2002 and Gender
Section Meetings have been held regularly in the wings
of the CMJA's Conferences in Turks and Caicos (2009),
Brighton (2010), Kuala Lumpur (2011) Uganda (2012),Jersey
(2013), Livingstone (2014) and Wellington (2015).
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