Mansfield Chambers supports gender equality through the law, and gender parity in the legal profession. Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the British suffragette movement, believed that law was the greatest obstacle, and the most effective tool, to enhance gender equality in Britain. Over 100 years ago women did not have the right to vote. Women rarely had a say in political and legal matters, and yet women were presumed to consent to the rule of law. 100 years later and the law has made great strides in enhancing gender equality through statute, for example, marital rape is now a criminal offence, and legal redress is available for gender discrimination in the workplace.
Despite the changes that have been made, Mansfield Chambers are familiar with anti-women biases that exist within the law, and as a result, Chambers fearlessly campaigns for legal change. Still today, the law prohibits women from exercising a choice to undergo a termination in England and Wales. Instead medical professionals have to justify an abortion on grounds of mental health or physical health. In Northern Ireland, women have no access to abortion even when a woman or child’s life is at risk. Prostituted women carry the burden of criminality, while the law permits men to sexually exploit women in exchange for money. Family courts rarely recognise the significant impact of domestic violence on a mother’s and child’s welfare, instead contact is readily ordered between children and violent fathers.
At Mansfield Chambers, we support progressive social change to law that furthers gender equality. A key step to introducing necessary legal change is recognising that there is a fundamental problem with a male dominated legal profession. The majority of lawyers and judges are from one demographic background: white, upper class men. One privileged group of individuals is responsible for designing and enforcing laws that impact on women’s lives, and yet women remain invisible from the legal process. For an effective democracy, we need lawyers and judges that reflect the public, and that means at least 50% women lawyers and judges at every level of the legal hierarchy.
To further women’s rights, Chambers is passionately committed to representing vulnerable and marginalised women who seek exceptional representation in court. Mansfield Chambers also lobbies for legislative change, supports women’s NGOs, and campaigns, and members regularly write articles, and speak at feminist events.