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.