It is not sexist of the judiciary to have potential women judges participate in training programmes, the office of the chief justice said on Wednesday.
“It would be absolutely wrong to read into our efforts anything sinister against women,” spokesman Lulama Luti said in a statement.
Training for aspirant judges was offered not only to women, but to men as well, and mainly those from a disadvantaged background.
This was to create a big enough pool, representative of race and gender, to make appointments intended to transform the judiciary.
“This has been the practice for many years since South Africa became a constitutional democracy.”
On August 31, The Star newspaper reported that Judge Kathy Satchwell said women who wanted to become judges faced an uphill battle in a judiciary that was still challenged by sexism.
“There's a lot of sexism. If you are a woman you have to go on a course to become a judge, but a man can simply serve as an acting judge and apply for the job,” Satchwell said.
Luti said each woman appointed as an acting judge was considered on her own merits and it was not, and had never been, a requirement that the appointee undergo judicial training.
“Women without such prior training have been, and will in future continue to be, so appointed.”
Luti said training programmes offered with women in mind were not meant to undermine them, but rather to enhance their judicial skills.
Satchwell, who was speaking to a group of University of Witwatersrand law students on August 30, said management of the judiciary was sexist.
“If a man had been an attorney for 18 years and a woman for 18 years, a woman is sent for this course and a man simply applies for the job,” Satchwell said.
“I think those people who thought there should be courses for women maybe haven't worked with a lot of women.” - Sapa