By Dulan Hettiarachchi
Throughout ancient civilisations, across various cultures, justice has been personified as a woman colloquially referred to as the ‘Lady Justice’. To the Ancient Greeks, she was Themis, the goddess of divine justice and Dike, Themis’s daughter who protected mortals and kept political and social order. The Ancient Romans saw her as their Goddess Justitia and to the Ancient Egyptians thought her to be Goddess Ma’at the daughter of the sun god Ra.
She carries the scales of justice in one hand and is sometimes seen carrying a sword in the other hand. In some depictions she wears blindfold to cover her eyes. The balancing of scales signifies truth and fairness and the double-edged sword in her right hand, symbolises the power of reason and justice, which may be wielded either for or against any party. The blindfold represents the concept of blind justice – objectivity of those holding the power to mete out justice in that justice should be handed out impartially, without favour, regardless of power, identity, or money.
These depictions make one thing crystal clear – even in the Ancient world, women were seen to signify justice and fairness. It is apparent that that they placed a great deal of faith in their belief that women can be relied upon to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equally.
In recent times, especially over the last few decades, the great deal of faith society placed on women in this regard especially rings true in a Sri Lankan context. The position of women in the justice sector in Sri Lanka has strengthened significantly as many empowered women have been entrusted with key positions in the sector.
2011 was a very special year for ladies in the justice sector of Sri Lanka. The appointment of Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake as the Chief Justice ensured that Sri Lanka had its first-ever female Chief Justice. This was followed by the appointment of the first-ever female Attorney General of Sri Lanka, Eva Wanasundera.
The dawn of 2012 saw the appointment of Kamalini de Silva as Secretary to the Ministry of Justice. In addition to this there are a few other ladies holding empowered positions including Secretary to the Law Commission Lakshmi Gunasekara.
Even though Therese Perera is officially referred to as the ‘Legal Draftsman,’ she is yet another example of a lady who is part of the formidable team of women who plays a significant role in the justice sector of Sri Lanka.
It is an undeniable factor – in a man’s world, there are quite a lot of women taking over!
(The writer is Media Consultant to the Ministry of Justice.)