She said “the legal maxim that presumes everybody knows the law is a fiction,” adding that the assertion tended to be a grave injustice and had no place in Africa, where majority of the population was illiterate.
The Chief Justice was addressing the opening session of the Global Leadership of Women (GLOW) West Africa Regional Conference in Accra yesterday.
The two-day conference, organised by the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) and the IAWJ-Ghana Chapter, is being attended by women judges from Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Cameroun, Uganda and the United States of America (USA).
Justice wood underscored the need for lawyers in developing countries in particular, to be encouraged to offer free legal services to the vulnerable, as a way of helping to demystify laws and procedures.
She said judges could contribute to the process by approaching their work with diligence, efficiency and integrity. She added that judicial diversity was critical to the strengthening of the rule of law and explained that, that helped in promoting equality, fairness and justice and engendered institutional trust and confidence.
“I believe in judicial diversity; a judiciary which, without sacrificing competence or merit and as far as practicable, is reflective of the society it seeks to serve”, she stressed.
On women judges, Justice Wood said they were not intended to be deployed to champion partiality, but that their presence was to ensure equity, fairness and justice, to enhance national growth and development.
“Thus, women in justice administration must be actively encouraged and legitimately supported to function effectively,” she said, adding that “they must be assisted to achieve their leadership roles in this sphere of influence”.
Justice Wood announced that the judiciary was in the process of establishing an integrated family justice centre which would be equipped to address issues of family justice, including gender-based violence confronting women and children.
The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, in a solidarity message, commended female judges for advancing human rights and equal justice for all.
Nana Lithur said she had confidence in the judicial system to ensure that issues such as child marriages and gender-based violence would be stopped.
The President of the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ), Ms Eusebia Munuo, said the vision of the association was to advance human rights and equal justice for all.
Goodwill messages were delivered by representatives of the Association of Female Lawyers (FIDA-Ghana), the Association of Magistrates and Judges of Ghana (AMJG) and the Ghana Bar Association (GBA).
The IAWJ has a membership of more than 4,000 from 103 countries across the world.