Kashmir: Gender discrimination in law

Views from Srinagar

Afsha Basheer Advocate

LEGAL profession is an honourable and noble profession. Its nobility lies in the fact that it is associated with a sacred and dynamic purpose of doing justice between the parties by applying the law of the land and other alternate methods of resolving a dispute.
The intrinsic and innate part of this profession is a lawyer. A lawyer constitutes the nitty-gritty of this profession. It is a lawyer, who by rendering his valuable services and assistance to his clients obtains appropriate remedy for their grievances from the court of law.
Thus the magnanimity of the legal profession demands that the lawyer should be a man of prominent character, integrity, dignity, decorum, discipline and charisma. In fact lawyers are regarded as the custodians of civilization. It is said that a counsel has a tripartite relationship: one with the public, other with his client and the third with court.
Legal profession is different from other profession in that what the lawyers do, affects not only an individual but the administration of justice which is the foundation of a civilized society.
The Indian legal profession is one of the largest in the world with over 1.4 million enrolled advocates nationwide. Since the independence of India the legal world has undergone several major changes.
The number of lawyers has more than doubled. The nature and organization of legal work have also changed. Law firms have greatly increased in size and most importantly the no. of women lawyers has mushroomed. Women and legal profession: Like every other profession, women also marked their entry into this profession with great zeal and enthusiasm. The commitment and sincerity shown by a woman in the field of law have earned profuse plaudits from all quarters of the Society.
This profession has produced some eminent and illustrious women lawyers and Judges, who have significantly contributed in every aspect of this profession.
Women now comprise more than a quarter of the legal profession, but their numerical gains have not yielded equivalent increases in power and opportunities. We say we live in a modern civilized society but the civilization has not progressed enough to acknowledge and recognize the ability and aptness of a women. We are still overwhelmed by that traditional and narrow ideology that woman is inferior in ability, potential and aptitude to that of a man.
This antediluvian thinking has resulted in the subservient position of a woman in every profession including law.
Women in the legal profession remain under represented in positions of greatest status, influence and economic reward. Though the number of women is growing in private law firms as well as the judiciary but they don’t have equal access to their senior positions.
The same scenario is prevalent in the State of Jammu Kashmir. The legal profession in Jammu Kashmir like any other profession is dominated by male lawyers. We have some prominent and renowned male lawyers but to figure out the name of a renowned female lawyer is difficult to perceive.
There are many reasons for such a disproportionate disparity. There are various stumbling blocks for women to be prominent and exceptionally good in this profession.
Gender discrimination in the field of law is not a new phenomenon and has assumed potent dynamics. A woman lawyer has to combat various challenging circumstances in order to carve out a place for herself in this profession.
From family to society, peers to clients, she has to overcome every hurdle to become prominent in this profession. They often assume that this profession is not right or appropriate for a woman. They opine that various complex aspects associated with this profession may not be managed effectively by a female lawyer.
The fragile and frail nature of a woman makes her unsuited for this profession. Such a reprehensible perception has reduced the prestige and position of women as compared to men in the legal profession. A woman does not command the admiration and veneration, which she unequivocally deserves.
The answer to this problem is as complex as the problem itself. Women have to confront all these circumstances valiantly in order to sustain themselves in this highly vexed profession. Though the legal profession has witnessed a few sweeping changes over time, there is still a lot more left to do.
There must be a joint commitment towards the realization of change and improvement in the situation of female lawyers in the legal profession worldwide. A gender diverse legal profession will strengthen the standards of social justice and serve as a benchmark for other professions.
Although, there are barriers faced by female lawyers in this profession but still no one can deny the fact that women lawyers have achieved significant progress in this profession.
The law firms have started now providing a friendly working environment for the women lawyers by promoting their work as well as diversifying the work. Women lawyers are making their places to serve as judges, attorneys, law officers etc. Although, this is the beginning there is a hope for tremendous changes in the future.

—Courtesy: RK

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