1. Introduction and policy description
In 2018, JSCA approved its Gender Equality Policy, the goal of which is to increase gender equality in the justice systems of the region. To that end, we have adopted a dual strategy that is based, on the one hand, on mainstreaming gender which, following the Beijing Conference, can be understood as “an active and visible policy of incorporation of the gender perspective into the monitoring and evaluation of all programs and policies.” This dual strategy is also composed of specific policies for equality that include positive actions and positive discrimination designed to correct the discrimination caused by the social system or social practices.
2. Internal training on gender and sexual diversity
One of the first steps that we took at JSCA in the process of implementing our Gender Equality Policy was to provide mandatory training for all professional and administrative staff regarding various topics related to gender.
In 2017, we held the first awareness workshop with consultant Macarena Bravo, which focused on introductory aspects such as sex-gender categories, the functioning of roles and stereotypes and diverse mechanisms of violence. The same instructor offered a second workshop focused on equality public policy, mainstreaming, dual focus, impact evaluations and transversalization of the gender approach in justice systems.
In 2018, we held another training activity offered by consultant Andrés Rivera, who expanded on concepts related to gender identity and the human rights of the LGBTI+ population. We also provided training on planning with a gender approach and gender analysis in policies and projects.
3. Institutional changes
In addition to the training and awareness process within our team, we are making a series of changes to our internal operations that emanate from our Gender Equality Policy. For example, we are currently working to implement a “Code of Conduct and Coexistence with a Gender Perspective” based on recent international experiences in this area. At the internal level, we are analyzing measures that can be implemented to promote work-life balance. We also have changed the contracts and terms of reference that we sign with our consultants so that the use of inclusive and non-sexist language is mandatory and so that the gender perspective is incorporated into the work that is done.
4. Commitment to applying the principle of balanced presence of men and women on the JSCA Board of Directors
JSCA has a governance body composed of seven board members appointed by the OAS General Assembly or REMJA meeting. The candidates are proposed by each of the member states of these entities. When we crafted our Gender Equality Policy, the board was entirely comprised of men.
While proposing candidates for the JSCA Board of Directors is a sovereign decision of the OAS member states, JSCA’s Executive Leadership asked that the states propose women in order to correct this serious imbalance.
As a result of this effort, in 2017 Uruguay proposed the candidacy of attorney Margarita de Hegedus. In 2018, during the 48th OAS General Assembly, Board members Patricia Pérez and Jenny Murphy were appointed by Chile and the US, respectively. In 2019, Maytrie Vydia Kuldip of Suriname was elected. As a result, in 2019 the Board of Directors had 4 male members and 3 female members, and in 2020 it will have 4 female members and 3 male members.
5. Commitment to balanced hiring of consultants and trainers
Prior to drafting the Gender Equality Policy, we conducted an assessment that revealed major problems in this area. Gender inequality was observed in the hiring of teachers and consultants for studies and projects. No explicit strategies for countering this were identified.
In order to rectify this situation, we have begun to successfully apply the principle of balanced hiring of consultants and trainers. This allows us to ensure that gender representation is balanced prior to beginning a research project or offering a course. The results have been quite satisfactory.
6. No all-male panels!
As a result of the application of the balanced presence principle to the events that we organize and those in which we participate, we have committed to avoiding panels comprised exclusively by men. This is unfortunately a frequent issue, particularly in legal circles.
If we are invited to participate on a panel that consists solely of men, we inform the organizers of the situation and offer them the opportunity to adjust the panel so that there is balanced participation. If the organization states that they are not aware of female experts on the subject, we offer a few names. If the organization offers to include a woman as the moderator, we insist that they include female panelists.
We have already proceeded in this manner on at least five occasions, and in each case we have had a good response from the organizers. In addition, the quality of the discussion improves a great deal when the gender approach is included.
7. Inclusive and non-sexist language
People tend to say that language creates realities. In our case, we want our discourse to be directed at everyone in the region regardless of their sex, gender or sexual orientation. We have thus committed to writing our reports and publications using inclusive and non-sexist language. We use various strategies such as including gender neutral nouns and slashes (his/her).
We know that the Royal Spanish Academy does not agree with us and that some would be shocked by our decision, but we are going to address this issue with a great deal of calm and patience. Does anyone believe that words like jueza and abogada (the feminine forms of the words ‘judge’ and ‘attorney’ in Spanish, respectively) were introduced into daily speech in just one day?
8. The gender perspective in our daily work
One key element of the dual strategy on which our gender policy is based in mainstreaming, which means “incorporating the gender and human rights approach into our internal and external policies.” This has a direct impact on the day to day work carried out by every member of our organization.
For example, research methodologies should be designed with a gender perspective, the contents of our courses must be presented in a way that considers the gender of each of the individuals who participate in the judicial process or the case, and our proposals state how much money is allocated to salaries and honoraria for men and women.
9. We want to position ourselves as a regional reference on gender and justice
All of the work that we have been doing forms part of an institutional commitment to increasing gender equality in the justice systems of our region. We seek to strengthen ties with all organizations, judicial institutions, NGOs and universities that are engaging in similar efforts.
In order to fulfill one of our institutional objectives, which is the exchange of experiences in the justice sector, we are working to position ourselves as an agency that helps to disseminate and encourage all of the progress made in the region towards gender equality in our justice systems.