Gender Gap in Judiciary

The issue of a gender gap in judiciary is in the spotlight after a plea filed by the Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association in Supreme Court (SC). The plea advocated for increasing women’s participation in the judicial setup in order to augment gender justice.

Current Gender Gap in Judiciary

Gender Gap in Judiciary
  • Almost 70 years have passed since the independence, but, the Supreme Court could witness the appointment of only 8 women judges so far.
  • Justice Fathima Beevi became the first woman to be appointed as SC judge in 1989.
  • Currently, one woman judge is present in the SC.
  • No women Judge has held the position of the Chief Justice of India.
  • In 25 High Courts, only 81 women judges are present out of 1078.
  • Similarly, women represent 48 per cent of our population, but they constitute only 28 per cent of district court judges

The participation of women in the judiciary so far has remained minuscule, especially at higher levels. Therefore, an attitudinal change, along with a strong will to attain gender equality is needed amongst the male judges, in order to curb the gender gap in the judiciary. 

Reason behind the Gender Gap

  • The government appointed only one woman judge till 1989, while hundreds of males got appointed to SC.
  • After 1993, the collegium became the ultimate authority to recommend names to SC. But this group also missed the opportunity to recommend more women judges. So far only 7 women judges have been appointed to the SC based on the recommendation of the Collegium.

Need to bridge the gender gap in Judiciary

  • There has to be more women judges as they constitute almost 50% of the Indian population, but are highly underrepresented in the judiciary.
  • Judiciary is the protector of fundamental rights and it gives various judgements for enhancing inclusive participation and equality in society. If the institution itself lacks these principles, then the worth of its judgements/ advisories/ directives will get diminished.
  • More women will bring diversified perspectives that would improve fairness in decision-making.
  • Sustainable Development Goal 5 of UN calls for attaining gender equality. Greater participation of women in the judiciary will act as a prudent step in this direction.

Lack of Gender sensitivity in the Court Judgements

  • There are cases in which marital rape was not acknowledged as a crime. Few For example, SC recently granted bail to a government servant who is accused of repeated rape and torture of a 16-year-old child.
  • Apart from that, there are other instances as well when women protection laws are diluted without considering the sensitivity of the issue. Such as the intervention of the court against the right of a woman to marry according to her will. For example, The infamous Hadiya (2017) case.

Challenges in bridging the gender gap in the judiciary

Strict adherence to Seniority Principle also discourages more women appointments.

Insensitive attitude of male judges

Suggestions to improve Gender Gap in Judiciary

  • The willpower towards women empowerment needs to be enhanced in the judicial branch through sensitization workshops and gender-sensitive training.
  • The government and Judiciary can provide relaxation to the seniority principle. This will ensure gender balance on the bench of the top court.
  • The collegium should diversify the appointment process in order to bridge the humongous gender gap.
  • Both the government and the Bar Council of India has to take adequate steps to include more women to take up the Lawyer profession. This will improve the quality of women lawyers in the long run.

The collegium should now take a liberal stance towards women judges and must ensure at least 5-6 women judges are present in SC at least within a decade to ensure gender parity and give India its first female chief justice.

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