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Pace of gender transformation a concern - O'Regan

Publish date: 17 April 2013
Issue Number: 3255
Diary: Legalbrief Today
Category: General

Former Constitutional Court Judge Kate O'Regan is concerned about gender transformation of the judiciary, notes a report in The Times.

Speaking at the Commonwealth Law Conference in Cape Town yesterday, O'Regan said there had been a 'dramatic change in the demographics' on the Bench. In 1994, there were nine men and two women judges at the Constitutional Court - seven of whom were white and four black. Today, she said, there were nine men and two female judges - eight of whom were black and three white. 'One can see the racial transformation of the Constitutional Court Bench has been quite marked. I am dismayed to see that gender transformation of the Bench has been less significant,' she is quoted as saying. O'Regan also said judges should be appropriately qualified, 'fit and proper persons' and 'reflect broadly the racial and gender composition of SA'. She added: 'In SA, a country with this deep pattern of racial exclusion and disadvantage, the question of how you balance these three requirements ... is something upon which reasonable people can often disagree. It does disturb me when I think that we try to assume, very often, that there's one right answer to this question. I do think that the JSC has struggled with a very difficult task to achieve a balance.' Full report in The Times

The JSC process 'is a very visible public process' and it is very important that it is 'seen and perceived to be fair', she told the delegates, according to a report in The Mercury. There had been a pattern in recent sessions of the commission in which candidates approached had declined to participate. She also noted dismay arose when one spoke of 'two black female candidates or two white male candidates' and the commission then selected somebody who was 'less experienced than somebody else'. Full report in The Mercury (subscription needed)

O'Regan's address included a discussion on the impact of the Constitution over the past 20 years, says a report in Die Burger. She said the Constitution was there to redress the inequalities of the past and to create a community with democratic values, social justice and basic human rights. 'Every citizen must be protected by the Constitution. It must improve the quality of life of all citizens,' she said, adding that 20 years later it seemed its vision was still a long way from realisation. Full report in Die Burger