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Studies of Indonesian Law over the past two decades have been animated by one theme, law reform, and one question, how law reform is used as a tool for social change. The fall of Suharto in 1998 and the demand for democracy and the rule of law led to major efforts at constitutional and political reform, including significant court reform. Indonesia is the third largest democratic country, yet there has been no major study of women either in the legal profession or in the judiciary. Studies of the legal profession have focused on towering male figures and their contributions to advocacy and judicial practice, such as lawyer Adnan Buying Nasution or former Chief Justice Jimly Asshidiqqie. This does not explain the rise of figures likes Maria Farida Indri, Indonesia’s first and only female Constitutional Court judge, nor of the women judges in the Supreme Court, lower courts, advocacy and legal profession. This chapter interrogates to what extent we can speak of the feminisation of the judiciary in Indonesia, both in a thin sense of entrance to the profession and in a thick substantive sense of gender equality. The author considers the wider social and legal context of steps forward and backwards in terms of gender equality in Indonesia, and reviews existing legal scholarship to identify where and how women appear. In the Constitutional Court, the role of the only female judge, Ibu Maria Farida Indri is analysed, and the author argues that she was successful because she was considered to be a ‘model minority judge’. A brief outline of women judges in the Supreme Court and lower courts is also offered, acknowledging that women judges’ may not necessarily be any less corrupt than male judges, nor are they necessarily more sensitive to issues of gender equality. While some women judges like Maria are clearly trailblazers, the paradox is that other women who have entered the judiciary have perpetuated the system of corruption and patriarchy inherent in the courts. The chapter concludes by suggesting that any agenda for research on the feminisation of the legal profession in Indonesia needs to hold in tension both the promise and paradox of women in the judiciary.
Women in the judiciary in the Asia-Pacific are understudied. Building on the comparative literature on women in the judiciary, this chapter considers the extent to which we can identify the feminisation of the judiciary in the Asia-Pacific, past and present. The authors question the meaning of the feminisation of the judiciary across the Asia-Pacific, and how gains have been made on issues of entry into the profession and the more substantive issue of the difference women judges can make. An example of the increase in women judges and advocacy for women’s issues in the profession is the formation and growth of women’s bar associations and women’s judicial associations. We identify that some jurisdictions, such as Indonesia, had female appointments to the highest court well before some jurisdictions of the Global North. But overall, there are still many ‘firsts’ in terms of women’s entry and career progression into various tiers of the judicial profession. We argue that the extent to which we can speak of the feminisation of the judiciary in the Asia-Pacific relates to the wider issues of recognition, equality and non-discrimination for women in society more broadly. The judiciary in the Asia-Pacific, as in much of the Global South, is influenced by religious, traditional and customary values and practices, as well as postcolonial realities of corruption, inequality and violence.
Courts can play an important role in addressing issues of inequality, discrimination and gender injustice for women. The feminisation of the judiciary – both in its thin meaning of women's entrance into the profession, as well as its thicker forms of realising gender justice – is a core part of the agenda for gender equality. This volume acknowledges both the diversity of meanings of the feminisation of the judiciary, as well as the complexity of the social and cultural realisation of gender equality. Containing original empirical studies, this book demonstrates the past and present challenges women face to entering the judiciary and progressing their career, as well as when and why they advocate for women's issues while on the bench. From stories of pioneering women to sector-wide institutional studies of the gender composition of the judiciary, this book reflects on the feminisation of the judiciary in the Asia-Pacific.
How hard is it to change a constitution that was drafted by an authoritarian regime? What strategies might democratic actors adopt to change such a constitution, and what risks may they face? These dilemmas face democratic actors in Myanmar who seek to change the 2008 Constitution. In this chapter I introduce the contours and practice of Myanmar’s Constitution as a political order set in place by the former military regime. I identify and explore the different strategies that have been used to change the 2008 Constitution – formal constitutional amendment proposals in 2013–2015; informal constitutional change through judicial interpretation in the Constitutional Tribunal; and informal constitutional change in the form of the legislative innovation of the Office of the State Counsellor. These attempts at constitutional reform come with particular risks to democratic actors, personal, political, and institutional. I suggest that the risks of constitutional change are heightened during the first period of a constitution, particularly if the constitution has been designed to protect the interests of the former authoritarian regime.
The court system in Indonesia has changed and expanded rapidly since 1998, with the introduction of a wide range of specialised courts. These come in a variety of forms, from independent specialised courts to ones that exist within the general court system, each with different forms of specialised jurisdiction and often a mix of non-career and career judges. These specialised courts often seek to disrupt existing concerns with the general court system in an attempt to circumvent the cycles of corruption. I consider the extent to which Lev’s work can help us understand this phenomenon. Lev’s empirical approach to the study of Indonesian law remains critical to ensure a deep view of courts. Further Lev’s work demonstrates the importance of legal culture as a means to study the politics of courts, while remaining conscious of the need to avoid ‘grand myths’ in favour of the empirically obvious. Lev’s work leaves a significant and intellectually formidable legacy for the study of legal culture and Indonesian courts. The chapters that follow in this volume consider the judicial innovation and specialisation that has occurred across the court sector in Indonesia. They also point to persistent features of judicial practice, such as the pervasiveness of corruption, that resonate with Lev’s assessment of the state of the courts.