The Bangkok General Guidance for Judges in Applying a Gender Perspective

In the modern era that holds ample developmental potential, no progress is complete without holding a balanced outlook in the socio-cultural, political, economic and judicial fields. This balanced outlook definitely involves efforts targeted towards removing the seeds of discrimination and bias evidently till date present in several corners of the world along gender, racial, regional and religious lines. The need of the hour is definitely the implementation of a judicial system that guarantees the right of women to equal access to fair and gender-sensitive court proceedings, mediation processes, adjudication and enforcement of judgments. The same idea has earned the support of the Member States of the Non-Aligned Movement.

In lieu of their commitments to write an egalitarian story in the judicial framework, so as to adopt a gendered perspective while dealing with judicial cases, four of the Member States of the Non-Aligned Movement falling in the Southeast Asian region, have laid the “Bangkok General Guidance for Judges in Applying a Gender Perspective” that serves to be the guiding force for other signatories of NAM as well as rest part of the world to buckle up their initiatives in the judicial framework and bring them in the same line as of the General Guidance.

Judges from the Philippines, Thailand, Timor Leste, and Indonesia extensively discussed all the strings attached to the judicial process emphasising on adopting a gender sensitive attitude and perspective that could assist the judges in making informed and unbiased decisions, in the two-day workshop organised in Bangkok, Thailand, from June 24 to June 26, 2016, that gave the General Guidance its name. The Supreme Court of the Philippines, represented by Justice Teresita de Castro, lead the development of the General Guidance that got solidified in the Bangkok Conference. The session led to identifying and addressing the gender stereotypes that have been plaguing the judicial framework of many countries and that require effective addressal to such issues. The workshop was hosted by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the UN Women that blurred its borders to traverse Southeast Asia to the rest part of the world.

Extensive pondering on issues that led to the formation of the Bangkok General Guidance for Judges in Applying a Gender Perspective witnessed its conceptualization even before the Bangkok conference. The idea that got solidified in 2016 Bangkok Conference rooted out a year before in Jakarta, Indonesia from the ASEAN Regional Dialogue on Judging with a Gender Perspective. The main aim behind the initiative was to lay down measures for the judges across the globe to refrain from giving out any judgement that could harm the integrity of the judicial system at large especially along gender lines.

The General Guidance has framed a structure to be followed by making the judges aware of the means to consider the evidence without resorting to gender stereotypes and decide cases based on the principle of equality recognized under international human rights standards, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The Bangkok General Guidance for Judges in Applying a Gender Perspective is aligned with several international laws both in principles as well as in actions. It respects the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that provides provisions on equality, non-discrimination, and equal access to public service, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, Article 10 of the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, on non-discrimination in judicial selection processes; and related articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

NAM Member States have adopted the Guidance in principle and reality and on individual levels have been taking significant measures to ensure that the fragrance from the flower of justice reaches far and wide and no person be it a male or female have to face any discriminatory measures affecting the integrity of the person at large. NAM has always identified that because of inequalities prevailing along gender lines, it is of utmost importance that member states should give extra attention to the wide-spread issue and work in close co-ordination and co-operation to uproot this evil of gender disparity from all walks of life.

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