Chicago Journal of International Law


International courts are playing an increasingly important role in deciding international disputes and in defining the content of international law. Yet women make up only a meager percentage of international court judges. This Article explores the relationship between the paucity of women judges and the legitimacy of international courts. After providing statistics on women's participation on eleven of the world's most important courts and tribunals, the Article argues that under-representation of one sex affects the normative legitimacy of international courts because it endangers impartiality and introduces bias when men and women approach judging differently. Even if men and women do not "think differently," a sex un-representative bench harms sociological legitimacy for constituencies who believe they do nonetheless. For groups traditionally excluded from international lawmaking or historically discriminated against, inclusion likely strengthens sociological legitimacy, while continued exclusion perpetuates conclusions about unfairness. Finally, sex representation is important to the normative legitimacy of international courts because representation is an important democratic value. Sex representation may endanger sociological legitimacy, however, for constituencies who associate authority with male judges or if women judges are unqualified or perceived as less qualified.