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An hommage to the iconic neck collar of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
An hommage to the iconic neck collar of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Laure Gautherin and Anne-Sophie Goninet

From Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai to Golda Meir and Corazon Aquino, women activists and political leaders have led the fight for gender equality and human rights around the world over the past century.

But as the tributes keep pouring in for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Sept. 18 at the age of 87, we are reminded of the particular importance of sealing progress in the courts — and the judges and lawyers making it possible.

While a recent OECD study shows that 54% of judges are women in developed countries, it also pointed to a lack of women in top-ranking judicial positions, making profiles like RBG all the more outstanding. From Brazil to France to Malaysia, here are six exceptional women who, like RBG, have made a lasting impact in the courtroom:

Gisèle Halimi (Tunisia/France): Less than 2 months before Ginsburg's passing, women's rights in France mourned one of its fiercest advocates. Tunisian-born Gisèle Halimi, a renowned lawyer, author and Member of French Parliament, dedicated her life to gender equality, changing a male-centric judicial system to protect women and their rights over their own body, as recalls Le Monde in her obituary.

• In 1972, during what is now known as the Bobigny trials, she defended a 17-year-old student accused of having an abortion after being raped, along with her mother and three of her colleagues who helped terminate the pregnancy. Thanks to Halimi, the victim and two of the accused were dismissed. The verdict later played a part in the adoption of the Veil Law, legalizing abortion, in 1975.

• In 1978, she defended in two victims of a gang rape. The case attracted significant media attention, and her defense strategy contributed to a clear legal definition of rape, officially criminalizing it in 1980.


Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat (Malaysia): In May 2019, Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat made history when she became the country's first female Chief Justice, reports Malay Mail.

• The 61-year-old mother of four boasts a long legal and judicial career. As a Court of Appeal judge, and then a Federal Court judge, she has presided over multiple high-profile cases.

• Seen as a progressive judge, women's rights groups hope her appointment will help to tackle the issue of lower prosecutions in rape and domestic violence cases and bring "more justice to women."

• Her nomination, according toFree Malaysia Today, came as 2019 marked a milestone for women judges in Malaysia, many of whom were appointed to top positions.


Lady Brenda Hale (UK): Appointed as the first female Law Lord in 2004 (becoming Baroness Hale of Richmond), Lady Brenda Hale was named the Supreme Court's first female president five years later.

• In 1984, she was the first woman to be appointed to the Law Commission, where she took part in the groundbreaking Children Act of 1989. The reform obliges government and public entities to place a child's "best interests' at the center of their decision making.

• In 2011, as the leading judge in Yemshaw v. LB Hounslow, Lady Hale participated in redefining "domestic violence" to include verbal and psychological abuse, no longer limiting it to physical assault, reports Family Law Week.


Sudha Bharadwaj (India): Law was not this mathematics student's first love, but after seeing the working conditions of certain minorities in India, Sudha Bharadwaj's pursuit of justice, as described by an editor of The Wire, led her to obtain a late law degree.

• Before becoming a lawyer, she joined the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as general secretary of the Chhattisgarh branch. She was also a member of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha labor party, where she fought corruption among bureaucrats and pushed for fair wages.

• In 2005, Bharadwaj started working in the High Court of Chhattisgarh. Her cases mainly targeted big corporate groups exploiting the Adivasis, an indigenous people, and ruining the environment. She talks more about this particular commitment in an interview on the Socialist Project.

• In 2018, Bharadwaj was arrested along with four other Human Rights Defenders following a TV program claiming they had a link to Maoists. Her arrest was highly criticized as a government move to silence her, and she has been denied bail multiple times by several courts (including the Supreme Court).


Joênia Wapixana (Brazil): Joênia Wapixana became Brazil's first indigenous female lawyer in 1997 and the country's first indigenous congresswoman in 2018, reports O Globo.

• A member of the Wapixana tribe in northern Brazil, she was the first indigenous lawyer to win a case before the country's Supreme Court. The case defined the boundaries of the indigenous territory Raposa Serra do Sol and ended violence against indigenous people who refused to cede their lands to agribusinesses.

• Her role as an activist defending the rights of indigenous people led her to win the 2018 United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights.

• Following the dam disaster in Brumadinho, she presented her first bill proposal as a congresswoman, which aimed at legally designating environmental crimes as "heinous crimes," which would subject them to more severe penalties.

Arwa Al-Hujaili (Saudia Arabia): There are, of course, some countries that have a particularly long way to go in terms of gender parity. But even women continue to hold court, wherever they may be — like Arwa Al-Hujaili, who became Saudi Arabia's first woman trainee lawyer in 2013.

• Al-Hujaili was only 22 when she graduated from King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah in 2010. Yet she would have to wait another three years to be able to practice as a lawyer, which is certainly not the case for men who follow the same educational path. She spent those years working as a "legal consultant", receiving no recognition as a lawyer.

• But Al-Hujaili did not take no for an answer, tirelessly petitioning the Ministry of Justice. On April 8, 2013, The ministry licensed Al-Hujaili as a legal trainee, allowing her to finally practice law. After a three-year apprenticeship, she became a fully licensed lawyer.

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AL JAZEERA
Al Jazeera is a state-funded broadcaster in Doha, Qatar, owned by the Al Jazeera Media Network. Initially launched as an Arabic news and current-affairs satellite TV channel, Al Jazeera has since expanded into a network with several outlets, including the Internet and specialty television channels in multiple languages.
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REUTERS
Reuters is an international news agency headquartered in London, UK. It was founded in 1851 and is now a division of Thomson Reuters. It transmits news in English, French, Arabic, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Urdu, and Chinese.
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LE MONDE
This leading French daily newspaper Le Monde ("The World") was founded in December 1944 in the aftermath of World War II. Today, it is distributed in 120 countries. In late 2010, a trio formed by Pierre Berge, Xavier Niel and Matthieu Pigasse took a controlling 64.5% stake in the newspaper.
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THE WIRE
The Wire is a news website available in English and Hindi, was founded in 2015 in New Delhi. It is published by the Foundation for Independent Journalism (FIJ), a non-profit Indian company.
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O GLOBO
O Globo is a nationwide Brazilian newspaper based in Rio de Janeiro. It was founded in 1925 and is one of the cornerstones of the media conglomerate Organizações Globo, led by businessman Roberto Marinho.
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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) is a daily newspaper published by Fairfax Media in Sydney and is also an Australian national online news brand. Founded in 1831 as the Sydney Herald, the SMH is the oldest continuously published newspaper in Australia and is published six days a week. Historically, the SMH had been a conservative newspaper, but announced in the 2004 Australian election that it would "no longer endorse one party or another at election time.”
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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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