Photo: Frode Bakken
10 Nov 2023

PhD defence: Women Judges in Fragile States. Insights from the Haitian Judiciary

Marianne Tøraasen defends her PhD thesis 'Women Judges in Fragile States. Insights from the Haitian Judiciary' at the Department of Comparative Politics, the University of Bergen on November 10 in Ulrike Pihl's hus, Ulrike's Aula. 


A large part of the world's population lives in so-called fragile states. Haiti is considered one of the world's most fragile and least equal countries. Through a case study of Haiti, Marianne Tøraasen investigates what the representative role of female judges is, the reasons for different access to the office of judge for women and men, as well as the gender-related experiences of being a judge in a fragile context.  There is growing international attention to the importance of including women in decision-making. However, most of the research on gender and courts has been aimed at institutionalized democracies in the global North, and little is therefore known about how mechanisms in more fragile states affect female and male judges differently.

A main finding is that fragile contexts can offer greater opportunities for women to become judges, especially through donor-supported judicial reform that establishes more transparent and merit-based recruitment procedures that in turn promote the recruitment of women. At the same time, we find a number of challenges in fragile contexts that affect female and male judges differently. An unclear security situation, combined with male-dominated corrupt networks, contributes to women feeling more vulnerable in the judiciary. The dissertation also shows that there is room for gender representation on the judges' bench - despite a "neutral" ideal of judges - if you interpret gender representation broadly.

The thesis contributes to understanding the underlying conditions for women's actual participation in the courts - and in potentially promoting women's rights - in fragile states.

Tøraasen's PhD degree is part of  "Women on the Bench: The Role of Women Judges in Fragile States", a joint UiB/CMI/ODI project.


Trial lecture: "Explaining Gendered Judicial Representation: What Haiti Can and Cannot Tell Us about Other Countries".



Public defence: