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Justice Leona Theron – Constitutional Court of South Africa

This week on Womanity-Women in Unity, Dr. Amaleya Goneos-Malka talks to Justice Leona Theron, who is a judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. The Constitutional Court is described as the highest court in South Africa, it was born of the country’s first democratic Constitution in 1994 and 11 judges stand guard over the Constitution charged with protecting everyone’s human rights, more than 60 million lives. Over time the Court’s mandate has enlarged.

The judiciary should reflect the diversity of the people that it serves. In 1994 there were only two women judges in South Africa. Justice Theron was a founding member of the South African Chapter of the International Association of Women’s Judges. The International Association of Women’s Judges aims to increase the number of women judges and promoting equal justice for women and girls throughout the world. The South African Chapter provides a platform for training women judges, to share experiences, to exchange knowledge and to collaborate with each other  and to support one another.

Justice Theron’s jurisprudence spans a broad range of issues. She has a track record of advancing women’s rights. For example, in the case of Gumede (born Shange) v President of the Republic of South Africa, she wrote a seminal judgment which ruled that women in customary marriages were, in effect, married in community of property and so accrued similar rights and benefits.

Justice Theron holds BA and LLB degrees from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and an LLM from Georgetown University in the United States, where she studied as a Fulbright scholar. She was appointed to the bench in 1999, becoming the first black woman judge at the KwaZulu-Natal High Court. At the age of 32, she was the youngest judge to have been appointed in South Africa at the time.

Reflecting on her journey, Justice Theron shares how she was able to rise above the circumstances of the Wentworth environment that she grew up in, including violence, crime, drug abuse, women abuse and teenage pregnancy. Her parents had a plan and a vision for her, at the age of five her father decided that she would attend university, and implemented his plan for his daughter.

Justice Theron reminds us, through her own story, that ordinary people are capable of achieving extraordinary things. Tune in for an inspiring conversation…

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