29 September 2010

Supreme Court, Gender, and Backlogs -- Indonesia

There was an interesting article in The Jakarta Globe that suggests that a recent appointment to the Indonesian Supreme Court can thank her gender for her appointment.

Sri Murwahyuni who previously sat on the Surabaya District Court has successfully negotiated the fit and proper testing procedures conducted by the House of [not so] Representatives to take her place as the 51st member of the Supreme Court bench. Yes, you read right, 51 members of the bench.

The other appointment was Sofyan Sitompul. Unfortunately, it would seem his gender was not of any assistance as he only just scraped through with 29 out of 57 votes of Commission III on legal affairs.

There are now six women on the 51 member Supreme Court bench. Not truly representative in a population sense, but certainly a move in the right direction.

However, I would be somewhat concerned that the perception is being allowed to develop that she was appointed based on her gender rather than her qualifications and skills, and more specifically what she brings to the Supreme Court as one of its newest members. This perception has developed and will continue to develop if legislators and other commentators do not re-orient their sound bites.

Let's face it,when the Head of the Commission suggests that gender played a role and was an advantage this immediately detracts from the appointee. This is plain and simple sad. This is even more so when the following sentence runs along the lines of "Oh, and she was also qualified too!" But, to add insult to injury, Benny K Harman, the Head of the Commission went one step further to reinforce a stereotype about women being more emotional than men and relying on unknown and unquantifiable other skills.

In this case, Harman said that "A female judge can use her intuition more than a man can and this is what the people want." Huh? What the people want, Benny, is consistency and equitable application of the law. The people want fairness. The people want to know that when they enter the legal system in pursuit of justice that they have every opportunity to find it.

Sad, Benny, sad!

But on a slightly different note. Ruhut Sitompul, no relation to the candidate, stated that there was no corruption in the process because he had never met Sofyan before the vote. I have to say, Ruhut, this hardly engenders any confidence in the process. So, if you had met him before then you might have been open to some good old-fashioned horse trading? But, this is about par for the course for Ruhut in pursuit of getting his head on TV. After all, it was not all that long ago he was seeking support for an idea to amend the constitution to allow SBY to seek a third presidential term for no other reason than all prospective candidates were lousy (in his view).

Sad, Ruhut, sad!

On a completely different note. There are now 51 members on the bench of the Supreme Court. There really should be no delay in seeking justice at the Supreme Court. There should not be any backlog of cases. A country of a similar population size, the USA, has a Supreme Court bench of just nine justices. They seem to manage their workload pretty well in comparison.

Ho hum...


H. Nizam said...

Hi Rob,
It's a big shame that 51 judges are not able to do their job on time.
I think that gender is not the problem here, but rather old age.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Harry...

It is a shame.

My point is not that a better gender balance would reduce the problems.

Yep, old age can be a factor. But, a recent retirement from the USSC shows that age need not be a barrier to performance, even into one's 80s!

My gender point related to the idea that women are appointed to positions merely because they are women. These women are appointed because they are qualified, the fact that they are women is a bonus :D

My other point is that Harman sounds foolish when he suggests that gender was the prime consideration and that women have better intuiton than men making them more suitable for certain work.

How much longer until that is taken to "well, women are most suited to the tasks of reproduction and cooking and keeping a happy home, so women are now prohibited from working anywhere but the home!"

Some weird news of late, including virginity tests for high school girls!