Activist lawyer, Kamini Jaiswal, known for her strong views on human rights violations and women issues, is of the view that the allegations against former Supreme Court judge, AK Ganguly and Tehelka founder Tarun Tejpal are not a new thing and highlight the vulnerability of working women in India.
Have the incidents of sexual harassment allegedly involving Tarun Tejpal and Justice AK Ganguly shocked you?
Not at all. This is not something which is new. Working women have been facing this since decades in India and the only new development is that victims have started speaking out against this injustice, which is a welcome step.
Have these incidents lowered the prestige of legal profession and the media in the eyes of citizens?
In my view, both these professions are no longer looked at with respect by the people. I can tell you from my own experience that life is very tough for women taking up the legal profession. Unfortunately, what women go through, everything does not come out. Look at the case of this young intern, it will take years for her to overcome this trauma.
And what about the media?
Over the years, I had been hearing some horrific things about the media till this latest case brought it all out in the open. Of late, things in the media have taken a turn for the worse. Youngsters drawn to it for glamour are not aware of the darker side. It is so strange that the media, which should play a role of an educator for the society, does not have mechanisms for women safety.
Do you recall any other incident of a Supreme Court judge being accused of sexual harassment and what in your view should be the next course ?
Atleast no such case came to light or was reported. I am of the firm view that justice Ganguly’s act cannot be treated with kid gloves. The next logical course, which must follow is that an FIR should be registered and investigation should take place. Many people may not like what I am saying, but that is okay with me and I will not stop speaking against injustice, however high or mighty persons it might involve.
But the Chief Justice of India had set up a committee and won’t the next step depend on its report ?
How? A cognizable offence has taken place and it is now known. The committee had no powers, it was not even set up under the Vishakha guidelines. The CJI wanted to ascertain the factual position. The report is with him now and I strongly support the demand for a criminal investigation so that those in the position of power do not misuse it to exploit young and innocent girls entering the profession with lots of hope. All these years in courts have made me tough and given me the courage to fight on behalf of others.
How can workplaces be converted into places of dignity for women ?
I feel there are adequate laws to deal with the issue, what is needed is their effective implementation. Most important component is gender sensitisation of those in positions of power and authority. Men need to understand that equality for women is not charity but a right.