AMMAN - HRH Princess Basma on Wednesday praised the Kingdom′s female judges, saying their presence in the judicial branch will pave the way for more women to join the sector.
The Princess made the remarks during a meeting with the Kingdom′s 48 female judges, aimed at exchanging views, hearing their experiences as well as their demands and concerns.
Princess Basma, head of the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW), praised the appointment of Judge Taghrid Hikmat as the country′s first female judge.
“We worked really hard at the JNCW to appoint Judge Hikmat at a time when it was really hard for the society to accept this fact and today I stand in front of 48 female judges. This is a proud moment for me,” Princess Basma said.
Hikmat, who was appointed by a Royal Decree in 1996, started her career as an assistant to the attorney general for judicial cases, and then was appointed as a judge at the Court of Appeals for the Income Tax Department and the Criminal Court.
She also made history when she was elected to the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2003, becoming the first Jordanian woman and Arab judge to serve the court.
Before Hikmat′s appointment in 1996, female attorneys complained it was not possible to become judges.
Many said there was discrimination in judicial appointments, pointing out that they had repeatedly taken the bar exam to become a justice and failed, even though they were certain they had performed well.
Princess Basma yesterday noted that it is important to praise the female judges for “serving their country and women in particular”.
“I am really proud of your achievements and I realise the challenges, obstacles and the great responsibility you face with your career. You are paving the way for more women to join the judicial branch,” the Princess told the judges.
JNCW Secretary General Asma Khader said the increasing presence of women in this sector is extremely important to empower women in general, adding that the commission will focus on collaborating with the female judges and learning from their experiences.
“Female judges are aware of women′s concerns and can pinpoint priorities when addressing discriminatory laws,” Khader said.
Director of the Arab Women′s Legal Network (AWLN) Judge Ihsan Barakat, who addressed the gathering, said her organisation strives to strengthen the professional legal aspects and experiences of female judges and lawyers.
She thanked Her Majesty Queen Rania for launching the AWLN in July 2005 and for “Her Majesty′s constant calls to increase the number of female judges in Jordan”.
Judge Fida Hmoud shared her seven-month experience as chief of the Amman West First Instance Court with the gathering, noting that she was hesitant to accept the post because “I was going to be responsible for 30 employees.”
“But then I decided to take the post and prove to everyone that women can do it,” she said, adding that she is now respected by citizens and male judges alike.
“Most citizens who visit the court and seek help are pleased when they enter my office and immediately start telling me their problems,” said Hmoud, the second female judge to preside over a court.
Mediation Judge Wala Akroush who serves as a judge at the Salt Court of First Instance said residents have accepted her presence.
“Many women in my community asked me how I reached this post because they also want to become judges. This is a positive sign,” she said.
Meanwhile, Judge Eman Qatarneh, who is specialised in trying juveniles, said there is clear cooperation between government institutes and the judicial branch to provide help and rehabilitation for juveniles.
But there is an urgent need to find a solution for girls who are placed in custody to protect them from their families, she noted.
“Once these girls turn 18 we are obliged by law to send them to the women′s correctional facilities,” said Qatarneh, who has been a juvenile judge for 18 months.
She stressed the importance of establishing specialised shelters for these women so “they do not have to mix with inmates at the prison”.
Other female judges asked for government support to go on training courses, help them continue their higher education and provide nurseries for their children at the workplace.
They also voiced hope that they will one day be appointed at the Judicial Council, the cassation, supreme and Sharia courts and as Criminal Court prosecutors.