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Book Chapter

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This chapter will focus on the contribution of female judges to the transformation of the judiciary in South Africa and specifically the pursuit of gender equality. It is a limited project that will explore the impacts of women judges on constitutional jurisprudence and how the influence of women judges has interacted with the broader transformation of the judicial and political system in South Africa after apartheid. In examining the impact of women judges on constitutional jurisprudence with respect to gender equality, I explore whether women judges have, in their judgments, conscripted and interpreted the constitution to highlight and guarantee its transformative potential and possibilities. The focus of my research project is partial, since it is based on a small number of judgments of the Constitutional Court, the highest court in South Africa. The very nature of the work of the Constitutional Court, the venue of last judicial resort, renders it an arcane institution vis-à-vis the rest of the judicial system. It was only established in 1995 in the wake of democracy and therefore occupies a rarefied place in the court structure. Most people in South Africa experience justice, or at least have their legal disputes adjudicated, in the lower courts, especially the Magistrates’ Courts, as well as Indigenous courts. Since the decisions of these courts are not published, a study of their decisions would require resources, time, and particularized expertise—which is outside the scope of this chapter. A study of judgments of the Constitutional Court, however, does provide a mechanism to investigate constitutional interpretation early on in the South African democratic project. These judgments do provide an indication of the jurisprudential direction of the country—and how lower courts might in turn implement and interpret the constitution.


Dawuni, J. J. (Ed.). (2021). Gender, Judging and the Courts in Africa: Selected Studies (1st ed.). Routledge.