Making a point backed by law in the quest for justice is perhaps easier for women. Backing up this assertion this Women’s Day, HT finds that there has been an almost 50% increase in the number of women lawyers District Courts Complex in Sector-43 over three years.
From 250 women lawyers in 2013-14, the number has become 400 this year. The total strength of lawyers in the district courts is 1,950.
“Women have always been known as the fairer sex, not just because of the way they look but also because of their innate affinity for justice and truth,” says Neerja Kalsomn, additional district and sessions judge, Chandigarh.
She adds, “It’s not surprising that women would gravitate towards judiciary as it gives them a chance to help the underdog and to do good for society, all while giving them social security and status. The rise in the number of women judicial officers is promising and a sign of development.”
Advocate Inderjit Bassi recounts the days when there was palpable discrimination between men and women lawyers.
“Male colleagues would put forward the same point and walk away with the credit,” she says. “We called it credibility theft.”
Things have changed now, adds Bassi, a practising lawyer for 20 years. “If men can be criminal lawyers, it has been my area of expertise as well. Being a woman can’t be a deterrent in any way in any profession if you passionately work towards something,” she says.
The Punjab and Haryana high court has seen an even steeper jump in the number of women lawyers. From 800 women lawyers in 2014 (10% of the total), their number is now 1,900 (17% of the total).
Demand for women lawyers has been on the rise as well, with both law firms and other companies looking to hire more of them.
“The rising number of women lawyers and in judicial officers for family courts, POCSO Act cases, has helped as victims are comfortable in confiding in women judicial officers in such sensitive issues,” says Rabindra Pandit. A practicing lawyer for nearly 20 years, Sarabjit Kaur says, “I think law is gender-balanced profession and we have witnessed a growing interest among women in this field,” she says.
Sipping coffee in their chamber, her colleague Vijayata Sharma who has been a lawyer at the district court for a decade, says gender hasn’t ever come in their way. “It is a state of mind and how you choose to deal with it,” she says.
For many others, Avtar Kaur, the first female lawyer to join the bar at the district court complex in Sector 43, has also proved to be an inspiration.
A major concern is that the formation of a sexual harassment committee in the district courts has not been done. Aditi Shereon, joint secretary of the district bar association, says, “It is on our agenda to have it in place soon.” She claims to have got the DBA joint secretary post reserved after a signature campaign. “There is bias against women, but it can be overcome with tiny steps,” she said.