As well as a moment to celebrate the achievements of women across the globe, International Women’s Day is also a time to raise awareness about and take steps to minimise gender-related bias.
This is a tall order, and it can be hard to know where to start. So, here are five suggestions for our sitting members:
- Revisit your unconscious bias e-learning materials. It’s always helpful to be reminded of the inaccurate presumptions that might have contributed to the decisions that led to a defendant ending up in court.
- Challenge instances of bias you may encounter in the courtroom or retiring room.
- Re-read chapter six of the Equal Treatment Bench Book. Stuffed to the brim with practical guidance on how to make court proceedings more accessible for all parties, this key resource includes an insightful chapter on gender—with suggestions on adjustments you could make for court users who are pregnant, breastfeeding and/or have caregiving responsibilities.
- When sentencing, consider the disproportionate impact of custodial sentences on women who are caregivers and ensure you have asked for a pre-sentence report. In cases involving Black, Asian, minority ethnic and migrant women, this should specifically detail the multiple complex factors (for example racial discrimination, stigma, isolation, cultural differences, language barriers and lack of skills) that may have an impact.
- If you’re a family court magistrate and have not yet done so, complete your essential domestic abuse training.
We haven’t forgotten about our non-sitting members. Here are four things you might like to do:
- Help raise public awareness of disproportionality in the justice system by taking part in Magistrates in the Community.
- Encourage women from underrepresented groups who you know to consider applying to be a magistrate.
- Join one of our diversity and inclusion networks.
- Show your solidarity by participating in the #BreakTheBias social media campaign—strike a pose!