Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director

Opening of the Women in Justice/for Justice event on International Day of Women Judges

  10 March 2022


Dear Minister Zadic,

Distinguished panellists,                                                        

Ambassador Markovic,


Dear guests,

Thank you all for joining us on this special day, the very first International Day of Women Judges.

Today is a day to recognize the leadership of women judges in the pursuit of justice. It is an opportunity to celebrate champions for diversity and equality in the justice sector, both women and men, and to commit to more determined action to promote laws and institutions that protect and empower every one of us. 

General Assembly Resolution 75/274, which proclaims the 10th of March the International Day of Women Judges, recognizes that gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls are crucial for achieving all Sustainable Development Goals and their targets. 

One of those targets, target 16.7, calls for ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory, and representative decision-making at all levels, including in the justice sector. 

We have seen tremendous progress towards this target. Forty per cent of judges were women in 2017, which is 35 per cent more than in 2008. But there is still more work to be done, even in regions where women have made greater strides towards representation. 

In Europe, female judges and prosecutors outnumber their male colleagues, but women still represent only 25 percent of court presidents.

A report from September 2021 found that in the United States, women now outnumber men in law school, but they account for less than one-quarter of equity partners in law firms. 

In the Americas, the share of women ranges between 41 percent for prosecutors and 48 percent for judges. In Asia, the share of women falls to around one-third, and for other regions more data is urgently needed to identify and address gaps. 

In addition, the share of women among police officers globally is still very low, accounting for less than one out of six officers.

Equal representation matters. It is a goal in and of itself, and it is a pathway to greater justice. Where gender imbalances have been addressed, we can see that women’s leadership brings positive systemic change. 

More women in law enforcement and criminal justice help to improve services and victim-centred responses, and to build trust. More women in justice also means more understanding of the specific threats women and girls face, such as femicide and gender-based violence. 

Increased diversity reinforces accountability and transparency, whether in the justice sector, the private sector, or anywhere else. 

We need more women in justice, and in top positions. We need to understand and address the barriers women face, so we can empower women beyond school to build career paths and reach their potential.

We also need to put in place laws that recognize the gender dimensions of crime, and we need to build institutions capable of responding effectively. 

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime is committed to supporting gender-responsive criminal justice and access to justice across our mandates on drugs, crime, corruption, and terrorism through networks, guides, tools, and training. 

We are scaling up prevention of gender-based violence in UNODC’s broader work on crime prevention through sports and education, which can help to reach youth, especially young men and boys, and make them part of the solution. 

I am also proud to note that just last week the UN approved a new statistical framework to measure femicide that was developed by UNODC with UN Women. By providing a global definition for femicide, we can help ensure that each and every woman killed because of her gender is counted, and that justice can be served.

We can only solve a problem by acknowledging and understanding the problem. That is the goal of the initiative we are launching today. 

Women in Justice/for Justice aims to:

I am looking forward to working with all of you on this important initiative to engender change across the spectrum of justice. 

Most of all, we need leaders and role models to drive change, and to inspire the leaders and role models of tomorrow to keep advancing hard-won progress. 

As the late US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you”. 

With this in mind, I am honoured to have a trailblazing young politician and lawyer like Minister Zadic with us today. 


Concluding remarks 

My warm thanks to Minister Zadic and to our distinguished panel for helping us to launch Women in Justice/for Justice with genuine passion and calls to action.

Together, we can strive for gender equality and women’s empowerment, from law schools to the bench, through mentoring, training, outreach, and awareness raising. 

Through improved data collection and research, we can support policy makers in developing targeted legislation and responses that work. We can transform mindsets, build institutions, and develop capacities. 

We must work together so that women are represented across the whole chain of justice, from women law-makers to women in police stations, social work services and courtrooms.

UNODC will advance efforts towards these goals through our programmes and through the UNODC Global Judicial Integrity Network, which was recognized by the GA resolution for its efforts to incorporate women’s representation issues into judicial systems.

We will be reaching out to Permanent Missions, as well as to professional networks and associations, law schools, and civil society, and working with our field network on targeted regional and national initiatives. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to conclude by applauding women judges around the world, as well as women prosecutors and public defenders; lawyers, jurors and witnesses; police officers, prison staff, and service providers. 

We salute the women serving in border protection, customs, and coast guards. 

We remember that every woman judge who is helping to uphold the highest standards of the law was once a girl who deserved every opportunity to reach for the stars, and we resolve to leave no one behind. 

This day is a tribute to fairness and excellence, and to every man and every woman who strives for equal treatment and equal opportunity. To all who commit to reflecting our communities in all their diversity, for greater justice for all. 

Thank you.