A life lived to uphold the promissory note called the Constitution

Judicial stalwart: Ginsburg passed away recently after a brave battle with cancer PIC: GETTY IMAGES
Judicial stalwart: Ginsburg passed away recently after a brave battle with cancer PIC: GETTY IMAGES

This tribute, like many I have penned before, seeks to record and celebrate an extraordinary life, of a Justice I held in high regard, and who, as law reports will show, has contributed immensely to a better world for all. 

Her life was a quintessential cause for celebration, for a life well lived, of total dedication to the cause of justice, in particular, gender justice.  In penning these tributes my abiding hope is that we, the servants of the law, and indeed ordinary members of the public, can draw appropriate lessons to contribute to a better world. With this particular tribute, I hope my daughters, and yours the reader, can find further inspiration in the life of this extraordinary Justice. Two weeks ago a friend of mine, Mimi Zilliacus from Melbourne, Australia, who knew of my respect of Justice Ginsburg, texted me to inform me of her passing. I knew she was in and out of the hospital for the greater part of the year, but did not expect that she would retire to sleep permanently so soon. I would like to express my sorrow at the passing of Justice Ginsburg, the most adored, respected, distinguished and resilient judge of our time. She was an undisputed rock of principle and a champion of equality.

Justice Ginsburg dedicated her career to gender equality before being appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993. She is often referred to as “the Thurgood Marshall of gender equality law,” and although she was not the first woman to be appointed to the US Supreme Court, she was, perhaps, the first impactful woman advocate of women’s rights in the Supreme Court.  The first woman to be appointed to the US Supreme Court, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, was not given to sweeping precedents, let alone as passionate as Justice Ginsburg on issues of gender equality. It is no exaggeration to say that with the passing of Justice Ginsburg the US Judiciary, the country and the world has lost a tireless campaigner for human rights more particularly the rights of the vulnerable and the marginalised. During her many decades at the bench she carved a name for herself in the area of gender equality. I met Justice Ginsburg thrice in my judicial excursions around the world at conferences, in the US, and on every such occasion I was struck that we were of the same mind on many thorny constitutional issues of our time, such as the death penalty, same sex relationships, abortion and gender identity.  At our last encounter in Arizona, where we had breakfast that spilled over to lunch time, we spoke endlessly on how judges can play a role to uproot patriarchy! One of my memorable moments was receiving her call soon after my decision in Mmusi. Chuckling she said to me, “that was a beautiful rendition, although you were a bit cheeky, but I loved your judicial midwives metaphor - you must come here and talk to your brothers.”

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