Judicial colloquium in India organized by Brandeis

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Justice Shiranee Tilakawardane, Justice Desirée Bernard and Leigh Swigart (l-r)

October 27, 2011

The International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life has just concluded the Judges Colloquium on Women and Justice in New Delhi. The colloquium, held October 22nd and 23rd, brought together judges from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the United States to address a variety of issues related to gender-based violence and its impact on the work of judges.

Judges discussed strategies to overcome unconscious gender bias, best judicial practices vis-à-vis gender equality in the courtroom, and the development of ongoing judicial education programs that can help judges to make decisions recognizing the special challenges faced by South Asian women who come before their courts. The colloquium was conceptualized and overseen by Leigh Swigart, Director of the Center’s Programs in International Justice and Society.

In addition to organizing the colloquium, Brandeis invited two participants with long-standing connections to the Center: Justice Shiranee Tilakawardane of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, a member of the Center’s International Advisory Board; and Justice Desirée Bernard of the Caribbean Court of Justice, a participant in the Brandeis Institute for International Judges in 2007 and 2009.

The Judges Colloquium in New Delhi was part of a larger conference, organized by the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell University Law School and the Jindal Global Law School, on “Gender-Based Violence and Justice in South Asia.” The conference brought together judges, academics, and practitioners to discuss, among other issues, the establishment of international norms combating violence again women in its various forms. Participants focused on issues pertinent to the South Asian region, including the cultural and religious barriers that impede women’s access to justice, the legal challenges posed by female foeticide, and the need to criminalize acid violence and prosecute its perpetrators.

The participants in the Judges Colloquium came from supreme and high courts across the region as well as both federal and state level courts in the United States. Notable was the representation of two “specialized courts” – the Mumbai child trafficking court, and the Tompkins County Integrated Domestic Violence Court of New York State. The experience of the international bench on these issues was represented by Justice Bernard.

The Judges Colloquium on Women and Justice in New Delhi marks the fifth region of the world in which Brandeis has organized programs bringing together domestic and international judges and experts. Since 2006, such events have been held in West Africa, North America, South America, and Israel.