Botswana and Mozambique are at the bottom of the pack having the least number of senior female jurist in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
This is despite the SADC Committee of Ministers responsible for Gender and Women’s Affairs calls for strengthened efforts for women’s empowerment in order to achieve gender equality and equity within member states.
Overall, the number of women who hold management positions of the judiciary and those sitting on the bench in member states is meagre. The SADC gender and development monitor states that greater representation of women in the judiciary and on the bench, as well as other sectors of the justice delivery system is likely to result in better outcomes in terms of access to justice intervention options by encouraging confidence in women to approach the courts, who would otherwise be intimidated by the male-centred outlook of the personnel of the courts.
At the moment Zimbabwe leads the region with the number of women judges currently pegged at 48 percent: 26 female judges and 28 male judges. On the other hand, South Africa is doing fairly well and is placed in second position with 18 female judges and 157 male ones which makes a total of 34 percent. Botswana and Mozambique are the lowest among the member states.
Although calls for the strengthening of women’s participation in politics and decision-making processes in Botswana grow louder, the 2019 General elections proved to be a disappointment as only 11 out of 210 parliamentary candidates (5 per cent) were women. This is unlike in 2014 when 17 of the 192 candidates were females.
The 2007 African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG), the continental legal framework on the promotion of democracy, free and fair elections and good governance, obliges member states to encourage full and active participation of women in the electoral process and ensure gender parity in representation at all levels, including legislatures.
Pundits also argue that an increase in women judges leads to better ethos for gender-aligned judgments and hasten the uptake of the judiciary and legislative transformation of laws among member states.