Women as Model Minority Judges: The Case of Indonesia
You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: Jan 21, 2022 10:00 AM London
Abstract: Serving the world’s third largest democracy, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court has been crucial to the past two decades of reform and the shift from authoritarian rule to constitutional democracy. There has only ever been one female judge out of nine on the bench at any one time. Symbolically, the Constitutional Court does not begin to meet global demands for women’s equal representation in the judiciary. In 2018, when Justice Indrati retired from her position, there was public debate about whether her replacement should be a woman or not. This occurred at a time when Indonesia experienced its #MeToo moment. The questions this raised were obvious but important: to what extent can we speak of the feminisation of the judiciary in Indonesia, both in a thin sense of women’s entrance into the profession and in a thick substantive sense of gender equality? What role do women judges play on Indonesia’s Constitutional Court? In this presentation I identify that while thin feminisation of the judiciary in Indonesia occurred as early as the 1960s, progress on the Constitutional Court has been slow. I profile Justice Maria Farida Indrati, a Catholic, as an example of women as model minority judges. That is, the selection of women as judges to high judicial office is explained by the fact that women may fit a model minority profile, reflecting dominant social and political values of the day. Ten years later, this also explains her replacement, an Islamic jilbab-wearing conservative woman judge, reflecting the rise of Islamic conservatism and the decline of democracy in Indonesia. Overall, I acknowledge that women judges hold both promise and paradox for the promotion of gender equality. The concept of women as model minority judges is one way to explain the appointment of women judges to high judicial office.
Melissa Crouch is Professor and Associate Dean Research at the Faculty of Law & Justice, UNSW, Australia. Her research contributes to the field of comparative constitutional law; law and society; and law and religion. Melissa established and runs the Southeast Asia Law & Policy Forum. This seminar draws on research from Women and the Judiciary in the Asia Pacific (CUP 2021), and earlier work on Indonesia’s courts such as The Politics of Court Reform: Judicial Change and Legal Culture in Indonesia (CUP 2019). Melissa also has forthcoming work on judges and the military in authoritarian regimes. This extends her work, The Constitution of Myanmar: A Contextual Analysis, which was shortlisted for the Australian Legal Research Awards book prize; in 2021 it was profiled by Chatham House and listed as a top book by International Affairs. In 2021 she received the UNSW Postgraduate Supervisor Award, and has also been shortlisted for the Australia-Indonesia Award (Education).