Panel discussion in Madagascar highlights role of women in criminal justice sector reform

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April 15, 2024

An important panel discussion was held in Antananarivo, Madagascar on March 9, 2024 to commemorate the 4th annual International Day of Female Judges. The event was organised by the UNODC, in collaboration with UNESCO and the Madagascar Women Lawyers Association, and focused on the importance of women in the justice sector in Madagascar. There were over 120 participants, including university students and legal practitioners, as well as key figures such as the former Minister of Justice of Madagascar, the public prosecutor of Antananarivo, the president of the tribunal of first instance of Ambatolampy, an instructing judge, and a criminal lawyer.

“There is no doubt that women judges make decisions that are more likely to protect the most vulnerable people in society, including children and women who are victims of gender-based violence in poor households," said Judge Raissa Ratsimbazafy, going on to say that she and her fellow women judges also tend to consider how the punishments of those convicted of crimes will affect their families.

The panel discussion also highlighted that women bring different life experiences, cultural backgrounds, and sensitivities to the table, which enriches decision-making processes.

Furthermore, it was noted that women's participation in the justice system can also play a critical role in promoting access to justice for all members of society. For instance, research indicates that women are more likely to report crimes and seek legal redress when they feel they will be treated fairly and respectfully by law enforcement and judicial authorities. As a result, having female officers, lawyers, and judges can help build trust and confidence among marginalized groups, including women, children, and minority communities, thereby breaking down barriers to accessing justice.

Madagascar is a prime example of how women are reshaping the face of justice. The country's Ministry of Justice is led by a woman, as is her Secretary General, bringing a fresh perspective and a focus on humanity to the justice system.  They are cracking down on sexual offenses, improving prison conditions, and making sure every child, regardless of where they live, has access to basic rights, like a birth certificate.

“In Madagascar, 54 per cent of judges are women. And putting women at the centre of the judicial system is giving a voice to marginalized groups,” added Judge Rindra Harizo Randriamahefarilala of the Pole Anti-Corruption in Mahajanga.

"The presence of women in these roles changes everything," said Judge Ratsimbazafy Sitraka Raissa. "We understand the challenges women face, especially when it comes to violence. We are here to create a system that supports victims and holds abusers accountable."

SecurityWomen hopes that lessons drawn from such discussions can also be applied to the policing, military, and peacekeeping sectors to ultimately improve security for all through the improved inclusion of women in these structures.

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