Holding the weight of the law in her hands
“What does being a woman in the judiciary mean to you, what led you to go to the bench and do you have any thoughts on the importance of women and transformation in the judiciary.”
Hundreds and hundreds of years ago Themis: The Lady of Justice, was decreed in Greek mythology as the personification of divine order, law, natural law and custom. She is described as of good counsel and she was the organizer of the “communal affairs of humans”. Moses Finley remarked of Themis that she is untranslatable. She is a gift of the gods and a mark of civilized existence.
The above and many years of involvement in the justice system of South Africa convinces me that Justice has a feminine soul and she is a lady. This is the reason why women are important in the transformation of the judiciary and all law in South Africa. I have an appreciation of the reality that the world acknowledges the spirit of justice and does change but it remains the same. Weirdly enough, it is still an issue being a woman on the bench but not an issue to be a man on the bench. Judges have to do justice to the people; all people. It does not matter whether the judge is a man or a woman or the entity that is being adjudicated is a man or a woman.
Why do I have to, in 2016 and in a liberated country, answer the question what being a woman in the judiciary means and what the importance of woman in the judiciary is? It should be a given by now that justice means equality. May I suggest that you also ask what being a man in the judiciary in the post-constitutional era is? There should not be a difference.
About the Author
Lani Opperman is a Magistrate currently working at the Tshepong Domestic Violence Centre in Bloemfontein. The Tshepong Centre hears approximately 5000 applications a year and acts as community centre and court which provides legal, medical, physiological and police services for people affected by domestic violence.
Since starting her career as a Criminal Court Clerk she has obtained her B Iuris, LLB and two master’s degrees in law, graduating cum laude. Her first Master’s degree concentrated on sexual offences, child abuse and domestic violence and her second Master’s Degree concentrated on serious economic offences, business crimes and labour law. She has served as an acting Judge of the Free State High Court in 2015 and 2016.