The Evolutionary Role of Law and Its Impact on Society

Law has consistently served as an essential instrument in humanity’s progress, both promoting justice and, at times, serving as a tool of repression. María Patricia Lira Alonso, from UNAM, discusses the dual nature of law, emphasizing the gender perspective in legal processes.

The Evolutionary Role of Law and Its Impact on Society
Historical snapshot: María Asunción Sandoval de Zarco, the pioneering woman who changed the face of law in Latin America. Credit: Revista Abogacia

Law has consistently served as an essential instrument in humanity’s progress. Its very existence is a response to the unique needs of a society at a particular juncture in time. While it has paved the way for justice, economic advancement, and societal transformation, it has also, regrettably, been a tool of repression. Racial segregation laws, gender discrimination, and obstacles to women's rights serve as somber reminders.

In an insightful interview on Lawyer's Day, celebrated in Mexico on July 12th, María Patricia Lira Alonso, a distinguished academic from the Faculty of Law at UNAM, discussed this dual nature of law. She highlighted that it wasn't until 1953 that women’s right to vote was recognized in many regions, illustrating law's occasional repressive nature.

Lira Alonso pointed out that the last two decades, particularly post the 2011 constitutional reform on human rights, have seen the gender perspective becoming crucial in judicial processes. This perspective, however, is not limited by gender itself. She noted that she has encountered empathetic male judges and emphasizes the need for both genders to adopt this perspective, fostering true equality and recognition of rights.

A glance at the data from the Federal Government's Data Mexico portal in the last quarter of 2022 reveals a revealing picture of the legal profession's gender dynamics: 65.2% men and 34.8% women. Despite women increasingly engaging in law, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) boasting most female law students at 53.86%, glass ceilings remain. Lira Alonso urges institutions to encourage more women to pursue advanced legal studies and break through these barriers.

For Lira Alonso, law is more than just a profession. It is a vocation, a commitment to serving society and the nation. She illustrates its importance by citing that a significant percentage of lawsuits in Mexico concern civil and family matters. From alimony to social justice and labor rights, lawyers have a profound societal impact.

This profound impact is mirrored in professions like medicine. Both careers revolve around human interaction, amplifying their sensitivity and responsibility towards societal changes. It underscores the legal profession's imperative to foster greater justice.

Historically, lawyers have played pivotal roles in shaping the nation's trajectory. Their versatility has allowed them to influence various societal sectors, from academia to the economic realm.

María Patricia Lira Alonso underscores the importance of gender perspective in law.
María Patricia Lira Alonso underscores the importance of gender perspective in law. Image by succo from Pixabay

Reflecting on history, Lira Alonso highlighted the monumental achievement of María Asunción Sandoval de Zarco, who, in 1898, became the first woman in Mexico and Latin America to earn a professional law degree. Notably, she successfully defended a woman in a self-defense case, setting a precedent in an era when such achievements by women were rare.

The evolving challenges of the 21st century require the legal fraternity to remain adaptive. Cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and information rights demand legal attention. Lira Alonso feels Mexico still has a way to go, especially when compared to countries like England, the U.S., and Japan.

In conclusion, as we commemorate Lawyer’s Day, tracing back to Bartolomé Frías de Albornoz’s first law lecture in 1553, it’s essential to understand the evolving role of lawyers in society. As guardians of justice, their influence extends beyond courts and legal chambers, shaping the very fabric of our communities.