On International Women’s Day and fifty years on from the first women to be admitted the Manx Bar, guest writer Eve Aycock, LLM Global Environment & Climate Change Law graduate observes the growing number of women in her field and hopes for them to be the voice for change as environmental protection is bolstered on the Island. Eve currently works as trainee advocate at M&P Legal, the first law firm on island to set up an Environmental Law Unit.
‘Advocate’ (n.) (ad•vo•cate) has two meanings:
- A person (as a lawyer) who works and argues in support of another’s cause especially in court.
- A person or group that defends or maintains a cause or proposal.
The term derives from the Latin advocare – the root meaning of which is to “add” a “voice”. As a trainee advocate at the Manx Bar and an advocate for the environment, in my career I hope to fulfil both meanings of ‘advocate’ by speaking up for the voiceless. Our future generations, wildlife and natural resources are all “voiceless” and remain the most vulnerable to protect themselves against global climate change.
Women are a key group who are likewise disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – in fact, UN figures suggest that 80% of people displaced by climate change are women. The displacement of women compounds the risk of them being subjected to gender-based violence and human trafficking. The 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change explicitly referenced the importance of the empowerment of women and gender equality in combating climate change.
It is well-known in the Isle of Man that Tynwald was the first national parliament in the world to grant women the right to vote in a general election in 1881. However, it took almost another century for the first female advocate, Clare Faulds, to be admitted to the Isle of Man Bar in 1973 (in the UK the first female solicitor was admitted in 1920, with the first female barrister called in 1922). Clare Faulds went on to become Senior Magistrate in the Falkland Islands, partly due to her interest in its wildlife, and whilst there notably adjudicated on a case involving infringements of internationally agreed fishery conservation measures under CCAMLR (the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources). Exactly 50 years on from the first female admission to the Manx Bar, a strong emergence of women in the Island’s legal profession is perceptible, particularly at the junior level, but as in other jurisdictions it remains the case that women are underrepresented at the partner level of law firms and within the judiciary.
Environmental law in the Isle of Man is, too, emerging – with Tynwald’s enactment of the Climate Change Act 2021 representing a landmark moment. At the international level, environmental law has experienced its own sense of emancipation as a body of law in its own right, no longer merely occupying the position as an ‘irritant’ to be overridden or accommodated within other more dominant disciplines.
I hope that, with time, domestic environmental law in the Isle of Man will mirror this progression by assuming its own identity; and that we will see more environmental law enforced in our courts. With the growing number of female advocates at the Manx Bar, it may well be women leading – and ruling on – this change.
Image of Eve Aycock, LLM Global Environment & Climate Change Law graduate.