12 Jul 2004

Fiji woman judge criticises attitudes of her male colleagues

9:38 am on 12 July 2004

Fiji's only woman High Court judge has severely rebuked her male colleagues for chauvinism in the legal profession and the judiciary.

Justice Nazhat Shameem says for far too long the legal profession has been dominated by males because it was seen as "requiring physical strength, stamina, and adversarial spirit."

Justice Shameem says "the idea of letting women enter the profession used to be abhorrent to men" adding that "all women lawyers suffer from some form of discrimination and sexual harassment is not unknown in Fiji."

Justice Shameem says "women have always been portrayed as emotional and irrational souls, incapable of thinking clearly."

As a result, "women who complain of sexual assault are regarded as unreliable whose evidence requires corroboration from an independent source."

Justice Shameem is calling for an attitudinal change.

She spoke at the launch of the Fiji Women Lawyers' Association in the presence of the judiciary including the chief justice, Daniel Fatiaki, and senior overseas judges of the Appeal Court.