Lady Justice Effie Owuor, a retired judge of the Court of Appeal of Kenya, had a distinguished legal career spanning 33 years. She has a distinction of having a series of “firsts” being the first woman state counsel, the first woman magistrate and the very first judge of the High Court and then of the Court of Appeal.
The appeals court was then the final jurisdiction before the Supreme Court was established in 2010. Alongside this illustrious career in the judiciary where she presided over criminal, family and succession cases, she was protecting children and advocating for women rights.
The mother of six born in 1943 is an alumna of Butere Girls’ (1958 to 1961), and Alliance Girls’ (1962 - 1963) high schools and studied at the University of East Africa, Dar es Salaam for a Bachelor’s of Law degree. Her bright career began in late 1960’s as State Counsel in the Attorney General’s Chambers where she would in 1971 be appointed as Resident Magistrate and later elevated to Senior Magistrate. As a Magistrate, Owuor presided over purely criminal matters for a period of 10 years.
At the high court she presided over complex civil, criminal and constitutional cases and later at the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Owuor as a member of the court delivered final judgments in criminal, civil and constitutional appeals. She also served Kenya’s Goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF whose special role was advocacy, fundraising, and spotlighting the rights and plight of children in need of special protection in addition to chairing several national task forces. This included the task force for the review of laws affecting the rights of women and the task force on implementation of the Sexual Offences Act.
Ironically, when sitting on these task forces and passionately advocating against laws discriminatory to women and children, Owuor found herself caught up in the hideous Luo custom of widow inheritance. She however stood her ground against “cleansing” ceremony. Owuor retired from the judiciary in 2003 and her name would later come up as a nominee to the bench of the International Criminal Court, a move met with outrage by some lawyers and a parliamentary committee. The slot at the ICC bench was taken by Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch. She currently chairs the Sexual offences task force.
Owuor also consults for various national institutions, governments, non-governmental institutions within the country and the region and has written widely and presented a number of papers and opinions on justice, governance and human rights issues.