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Indira Jaising, lawyer and human right activist has written an open letter to the Chief Justice of India on the occasion of this Women's Day, which she has called out sexism in the judiciary.
Indira Jaising, lawyer and human right activist has written an open letter to the Chief Justice of India on the occasion of this Women’s Day, which she has called out sexism in the judiciary.
In an open letter that Indira Jaising write to the Chief Justice of India, she has pointed out that during various cases she has been harassed by the gender biased language used against her. She lists out how she has been humiliated or demeaned during court proceedings simply because she is a woman and has not received any support from the then presiding judges.
While I was arguing, a senior male lawyer referred to me as “that woman” while he was referring to all his male colleagues as “my learned friend”, and this, when I was the Additional Solicitor General and was representing the CBI. I expected the judge to immediately reprimand him, but he did not. Instead the judge was enjoying the spectacle and smiling I asked for protection from the use of such derogatory language and he said “Madam, you don’t need any protection, you are overprotected”.
Judges of the Apex Court in a judgment have referred to a woman in a live-in relationship as a “keep”. I had occasion to point out in my writings that only slaves and property can be “kept”. Words and phrases in judgments that connote a subordinate role to woman in a relationship, objectify them as property, and merely for the man’s sexual pleasure, should not only be condemned and expunged, but barred from being used. This is the only way of creating a gender sensitive bar and bench.
It is sad and distressing to realize that the house of justice is being discriminating and condescending towards women. There are numerous examples of court cases, proceedings, judgments that have used language which is derogatory towards women. Yet, there is no mechanism to check it and stop it once and for all.
This malpractice is not just present in the hallowed halls of justice but also permeates other cores of our lives. For eg., our media – news channels, ads, serials – all of them promote sexism in one way or another.
Most of our ads show women in the role of a home maker whose chief task is to cook healthy food and ensure that her house looks spotless clean. She may or may not be working, but household chores are her responsibility. Then there are other ads (mostly men’s perfumes or cars) that objectify women and portray them as brainless bimbos who would fall for a certain man simple because of the way he smells. Most of our Indian serials showcase women dressed in layers of clothes and jewellery, either cooking or scheming against others.
Our news channels, take it a step further by actually insulting women after calling them for an interview. A famous case that got the attention and invited the wrath of many personalities is the one where Sunny Leone was interviewed by Bhupendra Chaubey. Throughout the interview, Mr. Chaubey belittles her, tries to shame her and is unbearably pompous. His main agenda in the entire interview is to demean Sunny because she is a woman, a porn star and not ashamed of her choices.
Sexism in language and tone is not harmless or inconsequential. Its impact is far reaching and expansive. If we want the mindsets to change, our society to change then we have to change every aspect that moulds it.
Judicial system is the foundation that is responsible for upholding law, for providing equal rights to all its citizens and it cannot be sexist and gender biased. Similarly media which has a wide presence can’t afford to not be gender sensitive. Let’s hope this letter of Indira Jaising is taken seriously, and women are given the respect they deserve everywhere.
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