Why Tengku Maimun matters

Opinion  |  James Chai
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | Not enough has been written about Tengku Maimun (above) - her appointment as Chief Justice of Malaysia is a big deal.

When Lady Hale was appointed as President of the UK Supreme Court 2 years ago, the unanimous reaction from the UK public was “Finally!”

The UK is our favourite country of reference for astounding developments, mature values, and exemplary governance. Even then, it took the UK hundreds of years before they had their first female judge to helm the highest court of the land.

Lady Hale used to attribute the lack of female judges to an “awful lot of unconscious assumptions and judgments”. The years of denying women’s rights in politics, judiciary, government, and society convinced the mind that it is unnatural to see a woman appointed to great power.

Universities, columnists, and activists have highlighted the issue of gender diversity in the judiciary for a long time. My former law lecturer was one of them. When she heard that the prominent millionaire Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption asked women to “not rush” gender diversity at the judicial bench, my lecturer was so infuriated she couldn’t teach the whole day. She brought out argument after argument to show why Lord Sumption’s resistance against gender diversity was flawed, myopic, and regressive, and she wrote several journal articles criticising such backward thinking...

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