At the recent Biennial International Conference of the International Association of Women Judges (the “IAWJ”) Baroness Hale, the only female UK Supreme Court Justice, was elected as IAWJ’s President.  The Conference took place in Seoul, South Korea between 11 and 15 May 2010. 

IAWJ is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation that has over 4,000 members (which includes both men and women) at all judicial levels, has a presence in over 90 countries and has an impressive list of supporters.  Since forming in 1991, the IAJW has brought together female judges from a diverse range of judicial systems. 

The idea for the creation of the IAWJ came about in 1989 when 50 female judges from various jurisdictions were invited to participate in the tenth anniversary meeting of the United States National Association of Women Judges.   At that meeting, female judges realised that the gender discrimination that they experienced as the result of patriarchal attitudes and practices would be far easier to combat if an international alliance was formed.  Soon after, a committee was established and by October 1991, women judges in 15 nations had approved a constitution creating the IAWJ. 

Since then, the IAWJ has continued to grow in strength and numbers.  It believes that women judges are in a position where they can advance the rights of women through the judicial system.  The worldwide objectives of the IAWJ include advancing women’s right to equal justice, promoting women’s access to courts, increasing the number of female judges at all levels and uprooting gender bias from judicial systems. 

The recent Conference had the theme of “judicial challenges in a changing world“.  Lady Hale took part in a session on the challenges to judicial independence posed by global terrorism and speakers included Judge Sang-Hyun Song, the President of the International Criminal Court and the Hon. Navanethem Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

Lady Hale said “It is a great honour to be elected President of the IAWJ.  The work and achievements of the Association in promoting global communication on gender issues between members of the world’s judiciaries have been remarkable.  Women judges are in a unique position to recognise and uphold the rights of women through the world’s diverse judicial systems.”

The United Kingdom Association of Women Judges  (of which Lady Hale is also the President) will host the next Conference, which will take place in London in 2012.