Context: A study of over 4 lakh FIRs in Haryana has found that not only are cases of violence against women, in which women are the primary complainants, less likely to be registered and more likely to be dismissed in court or result in acquittals. This is attributed to the limited presence of women in the legal process.
Key findings of the study
- The study matched over 2.5 lakh FIRs with judicial records found on the e-courts website and found that women’s complaints are less likely to go from the police station to the judiciary.
- There are fewer convictions about 5% for women and 17.9% for male complainants.
- The study also found that women complaining of violence (VAW cases) wait longer at the police station before an FIR can be registered. While this wait has been pegged at 7 hours for all complainants, for women complaining of violence, the wait is 9 hours.
- The study also found that on an average, women take more time to register an FIR.
Women’s participation in judiciary
- At global level: According to the International Bar Association, women lawyers make up 51% of the profession but only occupy 32% of senior roles. In the judiciary, women make up 43% of all judges and hold 26% of all senior positions.
- In India: According to India Justice Report (IJR) 2022, women make up approximately 35% of the total number of judges at the district court level, and around 13 at the high court level.
Importance of Women in the judiciary
- Female judges often bring a heightened sensitivity to gender-related cases, including those involving domestic violence, sexual harassment, and discrimination. Their presence can lead to fairer and more informed decisions in such cases.
- Women judges serve as role models for aspiring female lawyers and judges. They inspire and encourage more women to pursue legal careers and work towards breaking down gender barriers in the profession.
- Bringing different perspectives and diverse reasoning on the bench creates greater public trust and confidence because it is more reflective of the composition of society
- Women judges bring their unique life experiences and perspectives to the table. It integrates varied social contexts and experiences that need to be included, recognized and, most importantly, valued.
Reason for low participation of women in Judiciary
- Gender bias and stereotypes: Deep-rooted gender bias and stereotypes persist in many societies, which can influence perceptions of women’s abilities and roles. These biases may lead to skepticism about women’s competence and suitability for judicial roles.
- Lack of representation: When there are few women in leadership positions within the judiciary, it can be discouraging for women considering such careers. The absence of role models can make it difficult for women to envision themselves succeeding in these roles.
- Gendered division of labor: Cultural and societal expectations often place a heavier burden on women for caregiving and domestic responsibilities. This can make it challenging for women to pursue demanding legal careers.
- Discrimination and harassment: Some women in the legal profession may experience discrimination and sexual harassment, which can create a hostile work environment and deter them from pursuing judicial careers.
- Gender-blind policies: Policies fail to consider the unique challenges women face, such as work-life balance, and implicit bias in hiring and promotion, that do not provide the necessary support, training, and resources to address these issues, resulting in the underrepresentation of women in the judiciary.
- Lack of Women’s Reservation: While some states like Telangana, and Odisha etc. have implemented reservation policies to promote women’s representation in the lower judiciary, there is no such provision in the High Courts and Supreme Court.
- Inadequate judicial infrastructure: Like the absence of restroom facilities, and the lack of childcare services, overcrowded and cramped small courtrooms serves as a hindrance to women.
- Provide women lawyers with the tools and support they need to succeed in leadership roles, including:
- creating a positive work environment
- investing in measures directed at redistributing their care roles
- taking steps to dispel common myths and stereotypes based on grounds of sex, gender, and race
- Create formal processes and mechanisms to eliminate discrimination, violence, and harassment in the world of work such as:
- conducting audits to identify the prevalence of sexism and gendered violence and its risk factors
- introducing legal protections and measures to support victims of domestic violence at work
- creating formal reporting mechanisms
- preventing reprisals against those who report such incidents