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Title: Female Justice: A Qualitative Analysis of Gender Equality Policy Impact Through Gender Representation on the Supreme Courts of South Asia
Authors: Downs, Simone
Advisors: Cameron, Charles
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Certificate Program: South Asian Studies Program
Class Year: 2020
Abstract: In 1989, Fatima Beevi became the first woman to join the Supreme Court in India. In doing so, she became the first woman to hold such a position in South Asia, and the first Muslim woman in the world on an apex court. She was a trailblazer, but being the only woman in a male-dominated system, was she actually able to represent women’s interests? Are any of the women currently on the Supreme Courts of South Asia truly able to represent women’s interests within these systems? In this thesis I seek to explore the descriptive and substantive representation present in South Asian Supreme Courts. I measure descriptive representation by the number of women present on the court. However, these numbers alone are not enough information to determine the status of representation. I also explore the selection mechanisms behind judicial appointments in order to identify barriers to entry for women. I measure substantive representation through gender equality policy impacts and the ability to influence policy. I look at prominent examples of Supreme Court rulings that directly influenced policies affecting women. In addition, I assess how much power women have in deciding the outcome of a case. In order to investigate these parameters, I use qualitative methods. I strive to capture the entire process of representation, from appointment to impact. I first establish the overarching narratives behind these instances of descriptive and substantive representation, then bring the reader’s attention to key moments, judgments, and mechanisms that have implications for my research question. My findings indicate that the descriptive representation on these courts is low, even abysmally low, but improving. The Supreme Court does provide an avenue through which women gain the power to influence gender equality policies, so substantive representation is possible through descriptive representation on these courts. In particular, women have the ability to strongly influence policy through judicial rulings, as many rulings have led to direct policy action. My findings do indicate, however, that there are a number of institutional mechanisms still working against women. Because of the norms and selection mechanisms present on these courts, women must attain seniority in order to fully realize this substantive impact. Women still do not have access to the upper level positions on South Asia’s Supreme Courts. The policy implications of this thesis are clear—more women need to be on powerful judiciaries in order to represent women’s interests and bring about change. I suggest policy interventions which could bring transparency and equality to the currently secretive elevation processes. This thesis seeks to initiate a discussion about gender representation on the Supreme Courts of South Asia; I invite further study of female representation in the world’s judiciaries.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, 1929-2020

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