Gender Inequality in the Brazilian Judiciary

Gender inequality in the Brazilian Judiciary


 Anna Carolina Venturini and João Feres Júnior


This study examines the issue of gender equality in Brazil’s judicial careers, between 1988 and 2015, paying special attention to the five higher courts: the Supreme Court (STF), the Superior Court of Justice (STJ), the Superior Labor Court (TST), the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) and the Superior Military Court (STM). We base our analysis on data made public by organs of the Judiciary Branch.
Although they make up a majority of the Brazilian population, women are severely underrepresented in judicial careers. Access of women to entry levels of the judicial career is increasing over time. However, promotion to higher courts take into account merit criteria, and other political and corporate factors that are hard to be directly regulated.
According to the Census of the Judiciary released by the National Council of Justice (CNJ) in 2014, only 35.9% of Brazilian judges are women, a proportion that decreases as one approaches the higher ranks of the judicial system. Data demonstrate that in the initial stages of the judicial career (substitute judge) women take 42.8% of all jobs, but that proportion decreases to 36.6% among  the holder judges, 21.5% among the lower courts’ ministers, and 18.4% among  justices of the higher courts.
True democracy cannot tolerate a hegemonic male judiciary. Gender issues that are extremely important to the administration of justice such as violence against women, reproductive rights, gender-related labor rights, equity, equal recognition of merit, among others, must be assessed by professionals of both genders. The relative exclusion of women from decisions concerning them directly constitutes a serious injustice. Furthermore, women and men should be equal partners in the administration of justice in general. The adoption of affirmative action and criteria aimed at increasing women’s participation in judicial careers seem to be the most promising solutions to solve this serious problem that afflicts out society and its institutions.