Kia ora koutou katoa
I am deeply humbled by the receipt of this award today. My whole professional life has been in the law and in this sense I’ve had a parallel career in the field of international human rights as you have heard. For me, operating from the safe environment of Aotearoa New Zealand I feel particularly privileged because I am very conscious as I stand here of the many women judges and lawyers who have a far more visceral understanding of the need to promote and protect human rights than I do.
These are the women who not only are discriminated against simply for being female but also have a far greater struggle to achieve in their professions but above all they are the ones who advocate for those who are the least able to protect themselves from such abuses and as I stand here I am thinking in particular – although there are thousands of these women – I am thinking in particular this morning of Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian lawyer who can never be a judge because it’s not permitted to be a female judge in Iran and the sole Iranian female judge who was in that position following the revolution in the 1970s was stripped of her position.
Nasrin, simply for advocating, supporting and acting for women whose rights have been so severely compromised, is currently serving an extremely long sentence of imprisonment accompanied by lashes in one of the worst prisons in Iran. Now there are many, many like her but she’s someone who comes to mind because I have learned of her predicament relatively recently. I have never had to suffer anything like that. I have never had to fight against an unjust regime. So for those women I dedicate this award.