While past scholarly research on courts and judicial behaviour has been mostly US focussed and gender-blind, since the late 1970s, a steadily growing body of literature has examined the role of women judges, both in public law, political science, and legal anthropology. Echoing the feminist scholarship on political and substantive representation for women, three sets of arguments have been made as to why more women on the bench is a good thing: (1) for reasons of diversity and representation – a more representative judiciary is a better judiciary; (2) because they are different, i.e. women judges rule differently from their male counterparts (Davis 1992), and (3) for reasons of fairness. Women make up 50% of the population, so it is only right and fair that they are judges too (Kenney 2013). In this paper we examine whether the claims made to women’s representation on the bench in well-established democracies with well-functioning legal systems also hold true for women on the bench in fragile states. Through a close analysis of embryonic but growing literature on women judges in non-western, non-democratic contexts we explore the potential additional roles and importance that more women on the bench may have in court systems that are under (re)construction after periods of political crisis. These claims are empirically examined for the cases of Guatemala and Haiti.

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