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The legal profession must guarantee gender balance | Analysis – analysis


Judge Sujata Manohar, the second judge to be elevated to the Supreme Court of India, had a funny anecdote to tell in the fifth edition of the Difficult Dialogues conference in Goa, whose theme was The State of Law. When she began to practice as a lawyer, her colleagues asked her if she was looking for a husband in court. Attitudes may have changed, but throughout the world and in India, women are poorly represented in the legal profession. India has only three judges in a Supreme Court of 34 judges and only 73 judges in higher courts. There are more women entering the legal profession, but when it comes to advancing as judges, they tend to fall off the radar.

Professor Linda Mulcahy, director of the Oxford Center for Socio-Legal Studies, feels that the legal profession, like many others, tends to be a closed club. In the United Kingdom (UK), his experience has been that almost all senior judges attended schools such as Eton and Harrow, and attended top-level universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. She describes the judiciary as “masculine, pale and stale.” If in the United Kingdom, the barriers are color, class and gender for women. In India, there is the additional factor of caste and strong patriarchal prejudices both at home and in the workplace. Inflexible hours and the often hostile work environment make it more difficult for women to manage the balance between work and life than in the United Kingdom. The legal profession requires long hours, and women face stereotypes in the type of writings they receive. Nor can women keep up with their male counterparts in networking skills, which, according to several lawyers, is invaluable in getting ahead.

Many law firms are also predisposed against women for the usual reasons: you can take time off to start a family, you cannot rely on “substantial” writings, and you are considered less capable and committed if you take time off to start. a family . Re-entering the profession generally puts women at a disadvantage.

In a feminist trial project conducted in the United Kingdom in 2010, it was discovered that more judges do not necessarily lead to better outcomes for women’s cases. But if the judge were feminist, the narrative is different and the end point changed for the better in many cases. That is why India not only needs more judges, but also more gender-sensitive judges.

There is also pressure for women to be better than their male colleagues, and lawyers or judges struggling to make their voices heard are often described as aggressive. However, this feature is seen as a virtue in male legal professionals.

Then there is the big hidden problem of harassment in the workplace. Such is the opaque nature of our superior judiciary that this type of harassment is largely hidden under the carpet. There have been many cases of female lawyers subject to verbal harassment by their counterparts while arguing cases. There are states that do not have a single judge in the higher courts: these are Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh, among others. Of the whopping 1.7 million defenders enrolled in the councils of lawyers, approximately 15% are women.

Mulcahy feels that we should see legal professionals more as human rights practitioners, and that gender should appear more in legal courses in India. But, according to her, behind every successful lawyer or legal scholar there is another woman who failed. Her mother and aunts were completely behind her, although they themselves were not recognized in their fields. The role models do not necessarily have to be other female legal luminaries, but these women, the unrecognized heroines that are often family members, without whose support many lawyers could not have done so. India could emulate a project initiated in the United Kingdom to identify these women and honor them.

Legal firms that actively participate in long-term life decisions for people should begin by providing infrastructure support for women to move forward. Courts should also be more gender friendly. This should include flexible work schedules and daycare centers, and a reduction, if not eliminate, the wage gap.

But women in the legal profession must also be more proactive. They should come together to address gender inequality issues in the workplace. There are many lawyers who can run such associations, and while things may not change overnight, there are a lot of people. In recent years, the courts have made several amendments to the law favorable to gender. But now, he must look inward and accept inequality in the profession, and how, because of this, he is clearly losing the services of many talented women.

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The opinions expressed are personal.

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