Women as Model Minority Judges: The Case of Indonesia

On 21 January 2021, the Oxford Programme in Asian Laws series will host a seminar by Melissa Crouch on ‘Women as Model Minority Judges in Indonesia’. Registration for the seminar is open here.

Serving the world’s third largest democracy, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court has been crucial to the past two decades of reform and the shift from authoritarian rule to constitutional democracy. There has only ever been one female judge out of nine on the bench at any one time. Symbolically, the Constitutional Court does not begin to meet global demands for women’s equal representation in the judiciary. In 2018, when Justice Indrati retired from her position, there was public debate about whether her replacement should be a woman or not. This occurred at a time when Indonesia experienced its #MeToo moment. The questions this raised were obvious but important: to what extent can we speak of the feminisation of the judiciary in Indonesia, both in a thin sense of women’s entrance into the profession and in a thick substantive sense of gender equality? What role do women judges play on Indonesia’s Constitutional Court? In this seminar I identify that while thin feminisation of the judiciary in Indonesia occurred as early as the 1960s, progress on the Constitutional Court has been slow. I profile Justice Maria Farida Indrati as an example of women as model minority judges. That is, the selection of women as judges to high judicial office is explained by the fact that women judges fit a model minority profile, reflecting dominant legal, social and political values of the day. Ten years later, this also explains her replacement by a Muslim jilbab-wearing conservative woman judge, reflecting the rise of Islamic conservatism and its influence on politics, and the decline of democracy in Indonesia. Overall, I acknowledge that women judges hold both promise and paradox for the promotion of gender equality. The concept of women as model minority judges offers insight into the appointment of women judges to high judicial office in Indonesia.     

For further details on the seminar see here.