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Stressing the need for greater gender sensitisation among members of the judiciary, Attorney General K K Venugopal said that “improving the representation of women in the judiciary could… go a long way towards a more balanced and empathetic approach in cases involving sexual violence”.
Venugopal was replying to a plea questioning the bail conditions imposed by the Madhya Pradesh (MP) High Court wherein an accused was asked to get a Rakhi tied by the victim as a condition for enlargement on bail.
What is the Background?
The petition filed by nine women lawyers led by Supreme Court advocate Aparna Bhat had cited orders from other High Courts to highlight the non-empathetic approach of judges while dealing with cases of sexual violence.
Venugopal, in his written submissions, said judges need to be trained to place themselves in the shoes of the victim of sexual violence while passing orders.
They need to assess the crime as if it had been committed on a member of their own family.
He pointed to the dearth of compulsory courses in gender sensitization in law schools.
The Supreme Court has only two women judges as against a sanctioned strength of 34 judges.
There has never been a female Chief Justice. This figure is consistently low across the higher judiciary.
There are only 80 women judges out of the sanctioned strength of 1,113 judges in the High Courts and the Supreme Court.
Only two of these 80 women judges are in the Supreme Court and the other 78 are in various High Courts, comprising only 7.2% of the number of judges.
There are six High Courts — Manipur, Meghalaya, Patna, Tripura, Telangana, and Uttarakhand — where there are no sitting women judges.
The entry of women judges into spaces from which they had historically been excluded has been a positive step in the direction of judiciaries being perceived as being more transparent, inclusive, and representative.
By their mere presence, women judges enhance the legitimacy of courts, sending a powerful signal that they are open and accessible to those who seek recourse to justice.
They could contribute far more to justice than improving its appearance: they also contribute significantly to the quality of decision-making, and thus to the quality of justice itself.
Women judges bring those lived experiences to their judicial actions, experiences that tend toward a more comprehensive and empathetic perspective.
By elucidating how laws and rulings can be based on gender stereotypes, or how they might have a different impact on women and men, a gender perspective enhances the fairness of the adjudication.
Improving the representation of women could go a long way towards a more balanced and empathetic approach in cases involving sexual violence.
Judges need to be trained to place themselves in the shoes of the victim of sexual violence while passing orders, said the AG.
There is a dearth of compulsory courses in gender sensitization in law schools.
Certain law schools have the subject either as a specialization or as an elective.