Barefoot and pregnant with a gavel…

An Egyptian Judge has said that female judges are against the principles of Shari’ah Law. Part of the problem is that a female judge may have to confer on decisions with two male judges, and this would be improper. Yahia Ragheb Daqruri also said:

“Citizens and others present (in court) will be surprised by the presence of a woman judge. A woman judge will also become pregnant at some point, and that will certainly have an impact on the judiciary’s prestige and on judges’ public image.”

“Giving birth can also have an impact on the cases she is dealing with being dealt with correctly.”

First, if you can’t trust two male judges to treat a female judge with respect, who can you trust? It raises serious questions about Egyptian judiciary if the implication is that male judges cannot be trusted when alone with female judges.

Secondly, I am not quite sure why a pregnant judge would impact negatively on the public image of the judiciary. Women bear children. It is a fact of nature. Why should it be a negative thing? The only way in which it could have a negative impact on litigation would be if a trial was expected to last 10 months, and the judge was due to give birth in 3 months. But logic dictates that the trial would just have to go to a different judge. Judges are conflicted out of trials for other reasons all the time: what’s the big deal? Oh, I’ve thought of another reason why a pregnant judge might be slightly impracticable – she might have to take regular toilet breaks. That is, if she were anything like me when I was pregnant.

Perhaps it is safe to admit that if I went into labour in a courtroom, I wouldn’t be able to make an intelligent judgment about the merits of a legal argument. I don’t think I’d be able to make an intelligent judgment about anything much. Although it has to be said that when I first went into labour with my daughter, I still managed to win a game of Scrabble against my husband. But is the mere fact of childbirth a logical reason to ban female judges? I don’t think so.

What would Yahia Ragheb Daqruri say about a woman who was unable to have children? A woman who had undergone a hysterectomy? A woman who had undergone menopause? A woman who was single and celibate? A woman who was in a same sex relationship? (although there are ways and means for women within same sex relationships to have children …) Would these women be acceptable judges?

I was then wondering if there had been many cases in the Western world of judges who were pregnant. I did a quick Google search. Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella was Canada’s first pregnant judge when she was appointed to the Ontario Family Court. The only other example I could find was Judge Ingrid Uhler, Superior Court Judge in the County of San Bernadino, California. It’s obviously not a widespread phenomenon.

There is a precedent for a woman being a Judge in the Abramic tradition: Deborah was a Judge in the book of Judges in the Tanakh/Old Testament. She copped a bit of slack, but was apparently a very good judge…despite (or perhaps because of?) her gender!

Could it just be that Yahia Ragheb Daqruri feels threatened by women (not to mention their fecundity) and uses religion as an excuse to bar them from office? Surely not! Hmm, I think this story says more about Yahia Ragheb Daqruri and his pathetic insecurities than it says about the role of female judges.

(Via Jurist)



Filed under courts, feminism, islam, judges

6 responses to “Barefoot and pregnant with a gavel…

  1. Law Student

    “Article Two of Egyptian Constitution [text, in English] states that “the principal source of legislation is the Sharia.” Article Two is the result of a 1980 constitutional amendment and has been interpreted to prohibit the enactment of legislation are in fundamental contradiction with traditional interpretations of the Sharia”

    I was under the impression that Egypt was secular with no declared national religion.

  2. Legal Eagle

    That’s what I thought too…

    But now I check out the Egyptian Constitution on the official government website, I found in Article 2 that Islam is the Religion of the State, Arabic is the official religion and the principle source of law is Sharia. I wonder if the Coptic minority had much say in that?

    It’s a relatively recent thing, given that it was amended in 1980.

  3. Law Student

    Well, the minority no where have a say in anything. Starting with our own indigenous population…

  4. The Daily Magnet

    Well herein lies the problem legal eagle, the judge would have to be heard and not seen, instead of seen and not seen (ok, ok).

    The frequent communications with males would be unacceptable I think, and in any event she (any potential female judge/candidate) could hardly be subservient (as req by law) if presiding over a court room full of men, and to preside over only female matters would eradicate men from the equation which would be unacceptable too, according to sharia law.

    It’s just not possible to offset equality and human rights against an ancient and patriarchal legal system, the two will always be at odds.

  5. Paul

    Well, Egypt of course just jailed a blogger for four years for ‘insulting Islam’ and the President. LE, I think you’d definitely qualify for that having read you blog, watch out or some extraordinary rendition might be coming your way :).

    I wonder how much of our impression of the country is based on misleading information propagated to enhance tourism?

    Of course one must bear in mind that similar attitudes to women prevailed in our own society until the early 1900s (in terms of voting) and the 1960s (in terms of theoretical equality) and to this day (in terms of practical equality). However ‘resolved’ the issue might be in the west, there are still far fewer female judges, members of parliament, CEOs, and other persons in positions of responsibility.

    law student, the minority frequently has a say in systems which are based on proportional representation (e.g. Germany; New Zealand; our own Senate, where farmers and environmentalists both have a say). It is a system inherently geared towards compromise, and sadly not one in widespread use, particularly in lower houses of bicameral systems.

  6. Lorana

    just thought I’d add, and it may be apocryphal, but a friend once led the great Sir Garfield Barwick up to UNSW law school in the 80s to deliver a speech to the students and he said ‘oh, are girls allowed in here now? I could never have concentrated on my studies if they’d done that in my day’. Good one, Gar Bar!

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