Gender diversity widens the range of skills and backgrounds available to handle specific legal difficulties in any professional situation. Diversity serves a greater function in the legal profession: it lends legitimacy to the impression that the law system is equal and just, and that everyone’s views are represented and acknowledged within it.
Lawyers (also known as advocates, barristers, attorneys, solicitors, or legal counselors), paralegals, legal scholars (including feminist legal theorists), prosecutors (also known as Crown Prosecutors or District Attorneys), judges, law professors, and law school deans are among the women who work in the legal profession.
In recent years, the importance of women in professional fields has been emphasized in order for the economy and society to reach their full potential. Gender equality became a standard for development and prosperity around the world. Women have shown themselves and are leading the way in their drive for financial independence, equal rights, and opportunity in a variety of sectors.
In India, an increasing number of women are graduating with a law degree, despite the fact that few appear to pursue the field after a short – term at a law firm. Many women leave the field because of gender prejudice and seek work in fields that are more tolerant of women. Nonetheless, there are success stories in the country’s legal profession, where women have indeed been tenacious and stubborn in attaining their goals and becoming respected professionals despite all odds.
In India, men have long dominated the legal profession. Women’s admittance into the courts was only possible after long and drawn-out legal fights, but even then, female participation in the courts was minor until the late twentieth century. However, in the twenty-first century, the concept of globalization has created greater chances for Indian women in law education and training. Modernism has also tempered the courtroom environment but has also put a stop to medieval masculine chauvinism in the field.
In independent India, the Indian Constitution guaranteed citizens the right to equality including protection from discrimination based on gender in getting an education or practicing whatever career of their choosing. Despite this privilege, the legal profession has not become a common choice for women, primarily because women must have a basic degree of education in order to be informed of these rights. And for a female population that was largely illiterate due to a variety of factors including poverty, restrictive social customs, strict caste restrictions, cultural practices prohibiting women from working outside their homes, and so on, higher education and pursuing a profession were dreams that the Independence era had managed to ignite, even if only in the shape of an awareness of being a downtrodden and suppressed part of the society largely contributing to the country’s development. Interestingly, in Western nations where the journey and naval enterprise had brought about tremendous change in housing conditions, in which feminism and modern feminist movements were started by educated women, and which nations had such a literate female population, at the very least, women entered the legal profession in 1917. By the 1860s, the British had created schools, colleges, even universities for women in India, but many women couldn’t even imagine going to school or graduating until the 1920s. Though a few fortunate educated women, including doctors and authors, earned notoriety in the feminist movements of the time, it is clear that they faced a new foe in the European and British feminists that opted to define and, by definition, silence them. It became critical for them (educated Indian women, that is) to understand how and where to empower themselves in order to prevent continued oppression.
As a result, the women of India set out to cross a gulf that was bigger than that which their western counterparts had set out to cross. In such a diversified country like India, the arduous process of expanding literacy and raising awareness of women’s rights took a solid twenty years. Meanwhile, even the Indian judiciary was proactive in encouraging women to enter the legal profession, appointing the very first woman judge to the Kerala High Court, Hon’ble Justice Anna Chandy. Justice Anna Chandy began her legal career as an advocate in 1929 and was promoted to Munsiff in 1937, making her the very first woman judge in pre-independence India.
During these two decades, two distinguished lawyers, Hon’ble Justice Fathima Beevi Honble and Hon’ble Justice Leila Seth, joined the legal profession and went on to become Chief Justices of the Himachal Pradesh and Kerala High Courts, respectively. For more than 15 years, the first had been an active practicing lawyer in the Delhi, Kolkata, and Patna High Courts, while the latter had climbed from the post of Munsiff to eventually retire as a Supreme Court Judge. Surprisingly, women’s representation in the judiciary has not increased significantly compared to the original number of female judges. The situation has deteriorated to the point where a demand for a 33 percent reservation for women in the judicial system has been made in order to achieve parity in the number of male and female judges.
WOMEN IN LAW
Journalism, academia, and medicine were among the first occupations to be influenced by feminism. In later years, feminism began to have an impact on professions previously controlled by men, such as surgery, civil service, law, management, entrepreneurship, and politics.
In recent years, every family, especially those from the orthodox, backward, and traditional sectors, has been under severe economic strain. The battle is no longer focused on external challenges. In addition, public opinion is no longer antagonistic, and women now have a plethora of options. Psychological issues and the tussle between family and job, on the other hand, persist throughout their lives.
Women’s admittance into and increasing participation in the legal industry has become one of the most notable societal transformations in recent times, often referred to as “revolutionary. This inflow of women has sparked a lot of discussion among scholars and political activists concerning the changes that women will bring to the structure and management of substantive law, and also the manner law is practiced. India was a British colony until 1947, and the British modified the administrative structure and organizations as they saw fit. The Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Criminal Penal Code (Cr PC), and the Civil Procedure Code (CPC), as well as the foundation of the Rule of Law and the Indian Civil Services, are just a few examples.
For the first time in India, Dr. Hari Sigh Gaur, a pioneer in the struggle for women’s admittance into the legal profession, moved the following amendment to the Central Legislative Assembly of India’s resolution to abolish the sex disqualification against women.
Women are increasingly represented in the legal profession around the world, but their success varies greatly by culture and country.
Women began to flood into the legal industry globally in the 2000s, per a 2013 report of 86 countries (covering 80% of the world’s population). Women’s representation in the law is lowest in India and China, while it is highest in the former Soviet Bloc countries, Latin America, and Europe.
According to the survey, 52 countries had greater than 30% representation among employed lawyers, which is considered a significant societal shift. Venezuela and Uruguay were early adopters, exceeding the threshold in the early 1980s. Women made up at least 50% of lawyers in Bulgaria, Latvia, Poland, and Romania by the mid-to-late 2000s—some of the greatest participation in the world—while Denmark, Norway, the United States, and Germany, were latecomers, crossing the 30% threshold at the same time. Meanwhile, the world’s two biggest countries are among the slowest to incorporate women: India has a 5% female representation in the practice of law, while China has a 20% female representation.
In 2021, CJI Ramana confessed that the legal profession has yet to accept women into its fold, as the bulk of them struggle inside the profession, during a valedictory ceremony sorted by the Bar Council of India (BCI).
“Following 75 years of freedom, one would expect to see at least 50% female representation at any and all levels, but I’m afraid I have to say that we’ve only managed to get to 11% female representation on the Supreme Court bench. Because of the reserve policy, some states may have a higher representation. However, the reality is that the law must continue to embrace women into its ranks “The Chief Justice stated.
Many law companies are also biased against women for the same reasons: she may take time off to raise a family, she cannot be entrusted with “serious” briefs, and if she requires a while off to start families, she is perceived as less capable and devoted. When a woman re-enters the workforce, she is frequently at a disadvantage.
Increasing women judges don’t really inevitably contribute to better results for women’s causes, according to a feminist judgment study conducted in the United Kingdom in 2010. However, if the judge has been a feminist, the story would be different, and the outcome would be different in many circumstances. As a result, India requires not only more female judges but also more gender-sensitive judges.
Women are likewise pressured to do better than their male counterparts, and women lawyers or judges who struggle to get their views heard are frequently referred to as aggressive. However, in male legal practitioners, this feature is viewed as a strength. Then there’s the issue of workplace harassment, which is mostly unaddressed. Because of the opaque character of our higher judiciary, this type of intimidation and harassment is widely overlooked. While arguing cases, there have been countless incidents of women lawyers being verbally harassed by their male peers. There are some states, like Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, and Himachal Pradesh, that do not even have a single woman judge in the high courts. Only approximately 15% of the 1.7 million advocates registered with the bar councils are women.
The Indian legal system is indeed not the same as before a decade ago, and the numerous developments occurring inside it as a result of technological advancements and changes in working styles would necessitate a period of absorption before further advancements can be recognized. Developing e-courts in India would growth improve the justice delivery method, and the ease of being willing to debate online from the Advocate’s office may entice Indian women advocates to begin practicing or teaching over the internet. The desire to become a judge continues to entice Advocates and lawyers, however, the number of female Justices has not grown in comparison to male Judges throughout the years.
Women in the practice of law, on the other hand, must be more active. They should get together to address workplace challenges of gender discrimination. There are many female lawyers who may lead such organizations, and while numbers alone may not be enough to make a difference, there is power in numbers. Several gender-friendly adjustments to the law have been enacted in recent years by the courts. However, it must now look internally and embrace the gender disparities in the profession, as well as the fact that as a result, it’s really clearly losing the expertise of many outstanding women.
This article is written by Tingjin Marak, a BA/LLB student at Ajeenkya DY Patil University Pune.