Nepal: Judges agree on need to address gender stereotyping and discrimination in the in the administration of justice

“A fully gender responsive judiciary should be able to set the example that court rooms stand for the elimination of discrimination against women and enhancing access to justice,” stressed the 24 participating judges at a Judicial Dialogue held recently in Kathmandu.

Eighteen trial court and six high court judges of Kathmandu valley participated in the judicial dialogue organized by the International Commission of Jurists and Nepal Bar Association in the context of its project on Enhancing Women’s Access to Justice.

The participating judges discussed the practical implementation of the principles of equality, non-discrimination, and State obligations under Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discriminations Against Women (CEDAW), as well as Bangkok General Guidance for Judges on Applying a Gender Perspective (BGG).

Participants identified priority issues to be considered by individual judges and the courts as a whole to ensure equal access to justice for women. These included creating women-friendly infrastructure, such as a women’s “help desk”, toll-free numbers to register complaints and taking necessary steps to make legal aid service more accessible and effective.

Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, who leads the Women’s Access to Justice Project, provided an overview of the BGG on applying a gender perspective in South and Southeast Asia. She underscored: “BGG seeks to alert actors from all justice systems, formal and informal, and at all levels that harmful gender stereotypes and gender biases promote inequality and perpetuate discrimination, thereby undermining access to justice for all.”

Advocate Laxmi Pokharel, ICJ Nepal Legal Adviser, stressed: “Getting judges on board through such judicial dialogue shows a firm commitment from the judges to be more mindful about avoiding gender stereotypes and biases, the result of such actions will not only benefit women but the entire judicial sector and society as a whole”.

Former Supreme Court justice and Executive Director of National Judicial Academy Baidya Nath Upadhyay reflected on experiences from the past as how women were deprived of justice under the clout of influence; political, religious and cultural biases. He called the judges in Nepal to deliver “justice from the gender perspective”, observing that “the situation has changed as more women are coming to the court and seeking the judicial services, however, we have a long way to go as harmful stereotypes thinking creates biases in justice delivery.”

Highlighting the need to move beyond the principle of formal equality, Justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal Sapana Pradhan Malla, emphasized the need to see the equality of outcome, not only equal treatment in law. “Being mindful of the diversity, differences, disadvantage and discrimination in delivering justice, the judges need to make a paradigm shift from the equal treatment to equality of outcome, equality of opportunity, equality of access and equality of benefits.’’, Justice Malla stressed.

Reflecting the key take away from the Judicial Dialogue, one participating judge asserted: “As we discussed the essence of CEDAW, I am recalling the language I used in my judgment few years ago. This made me realize that most of the part of the judgement was largely gender-biased and stereotyped. We need to be very cautious in language we use in our judgment.”

The judicial dialogue held on 9 and 10 December was led by a leading expert, including Justice Sapana Pradhan Malla, Justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal; Justice Hari Prasad Phuyal, Justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal; Justice Tek Narayan Kunwar, Judge of High Court and Faculty of National Judicial Academy; and Kedar Poudel, former Judge of High Court and Deputy Executive Director of the National Judicial Academy.

 

Contact

Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh – Lead, Women’s Access to Justice Project, International Commission of Jurists, t: +27 84 514 8039 e: kajal.keogh@icj.org

Laxmi Pokharel, Legal Adviser for Nepal, International Commission of Jurists, t: +9779851047588, e: laxmi.pokharel@icj.org

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