Jury Duty Reform Act

“…they brought to the door a form for me that I could fill in and send back to the government. It said, “Because I am a woman I do not wish to serve.” It had to do with jury duty…In 1972, they finally decided to allow women on juries here. They thought they’d get around the problem by letting the women off the hook. I was astonished by that. If women were on trial or were being represented at trial, for instance rape victims, how can there ever be a fair hearing if women aren’t allowed?”

– Sandra Penrose, who was actively involved in the early days of the Newfoundland Status of Women Council, on the Jury Duty Reform Act.

Women were not allowed to serve on juries in Newfoundland and Labrador until 1972. This was changed by the Jury Duty Reform Act. However, this Act provided a clause that gave women the option to decline jury duty simply based on their sex. To help ensure women played an equal role in the justice system, the “Women in Public Life Group” of the Newfoundland Status of Women Council (NSWC, later known as the St. John’s Status of Women Council) worked hard to change this Act. They lobbied the government and did public education on the issue. Although the Act was not changed until many years later, their work helped encourage more women to participate on juries.