Women have made big inroads into the Angolan formal court system over the past two decades, currently making up around 40% of all judges, at all court levels, and around a third of the judges on the two apex courts. This influx of women judges has taken place in a period of post-war reconstruction and democratization under the auspices of a state dominated by the ruling party, MPLA, and the Presidency. Based on a combination of desk study and interviews with Angolan judges, we argue that while party affiliation and commitment to ruling party power and ideology are the chief factors explaining the access of women to the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court in Angola, access to courts at the lower levels has been moving in the direction of being more based on merit. Contrary to mainstream literature on judging and gender, and perhaps surprising in a country dominated by extreme levels of inequality, high poverty levels and a prevailing macho culture, we have not found any particular formal or informal obstacles that disfavour women’s entry to the bench in Angola, at any level. A history of women in the independence movement and in post-conflict politics may have had a positive effect on women’s access to the courts.
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