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Justice Bernard to continue her fight

Justice Bernard to continue her fight


Tue Oct 01, 2013

by Oscar Ramjeet

Outgoing Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) judge Desiree Bernard, who was a strong advocate for the rights of women, will continue to fight the cause of women in the region when she demits office early March next year.{{more}}

Justice Bernard who served as a member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Association of Women Judges and as vice president of the International Federation of Women’s lawyers, has been in the forefront of women’s causes in the region for the past five decades – shortly after she started her career in the legal profession.

In an exclusive interview from her Port of Spain home, Justice Bernard said that she would continue to advocate for equality of women, from speeches and papers. She has already penned papers on gender and legal issues such as “The Domestic Application of International Human Rights Norms as it affects Women,” ” Judicial Activism in Promoting the Human Rights of Women”, and “Confronting Gender-Based in the Caribbean.”

The bespectacled jurist was instrumental in the formation of a Women’s Association of Lawyers in Guyana more than 25 years ago. She has been of tremendous help to young attorneys in Guyana, especially female lawyers. In the area of volunteerism, her excellence continued, which is evidenced in her accession to positions in religion, education and movements for the young. She was the first female Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Guyana (and the first in the Province of the West Indies), as well as the Girls Guides Association’s Board of Trustees.

The legal luminary has several firsts in the Caribbean, including the first female judge in Guyana, first female Court of Appeal Judge, first female Chief Justice and head of the judiciary not only in Guyana but the Caribbean. She is the first and only female judge in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the highest Court of the land. She is now winding up her tenure as a CCJ judge, where she has been serving since the inception of the regional court in April 2005.

Her excellent work has not gone unnoticed by those in authority. For her exceptional contribution to the improvement of the status of women and to the development and practice of law, Justice Bernard has received several awards, the most notable being the Cacique Crown of Honour (CCH), and the Order of Foraima, Guyana’s 3rd and 2nd highest national awards respectively. The highest award, the Order of Excellence (OE), is only bestowed on Heads of Government, Prime Ministers and a few exceptional distinguished persons. However, the veteran jurist in 2005 received the CARICOM Triennial Award for Women – a distinction bestowed only to a handful of females in the Caribbean.