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Breaking the Silence: Gender Mainstreaming and the Composition of the European Court of Justice

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Why has it taken so long for member states to appoint women to the Court of Justice? Despite having won relatively significant policy instruments for equal treatment at work and high levels of legislative representation, women in the European Union have been slow to extend the demand for gender mainstreaming to courts. Prior to 1999, the Court of Justice had had one woman member until Ireland appointed Fidelma Macken in late 1999, and Germany appointed Ninon Colneric and Austria appointed Christine Stix-Hackl Advocate General in 2000.The 1995 U.N. meeting in Beijing was a catalyst for the demand for balanced participation of women and men in decision-making processes within the E.U., and it coincided with Sweden, Finland and Austria joining and championing the cause of gender equality. In 1999, the Commission published a report on women in the judiciary and women lawyers began to organize across Europe. After tracing the appointment process, I review the European Parliament's role in championing women on the Court and consider recent developments. Courts, particularly supranational and federal courts, are representative institutions even if their representative function differs from legislatures. Non-merit factors have always been a factor in judicial appointments and thus the demand for women on the bench is not a terrible deviation from merit. An all male bench is no longer legitimate.

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Kenney, S.J. Breaking the Silence: Gender Mainstreaming and the Composition of the European Court of Justice. Feminist Legal Studies 10, 257–270 (2002).

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