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We need to dramatically increase the representation of women in the judiciary, police, prisons and legal aid system. Here’s why.
Recently, the Times of India cited some startling findings from The India Justice Report, 2019, “Litigants lose nearly ₹50,000 crore annually in India.”
The report went on to say that all Indian states & Union Territories spend less than 1% of their GDP on the judiciary (in fact, an average of 0.8% across India). Delhi is the only state which spends 1.9% of its of GDP on the judiciary. The score by most states on the four pillars of justice namely legal aid, judiciary, police and prisons is equally pathetic.
As per the same report, the representation of women in the judiciary is slightly more than one fourth, at 26.5% whereas in the police it is merely 7% and for prisons, it is slightly better at 10%. Since the number of women lawyers is low, the empanelment of women is even lesser. Only Tamil Nadu, which had a good number of women in the judiciary and police, came out on top in terms of diversity.
The India Justice Report, 2019 says that vacancies in police, prison and the judiciary are the main cause of delays in justice; and denial of justice over long periods leads to economic loss and may lead to social unrest and instability. Prisons are overcrowded and legal aid looks like a cruel joke as it is pegged at only 75 paise on a per capita basis every year.
Women perform the role of caregivers and caretakers in most cases. So it makes sense to utilise their skills in areas such as prison reforms and even in the police and the judiciary. Women are a sensitised lot and are more responsive than men in cases of rapes of women, children, etc.
Even today, the POCSO act is rarely invoked to punish the accused in cases of rape of children. This would change if women are in charge. So, the need of the hour is more women in the workforce. A beginning can be made by increasing the number of women in the lower strata of the police, prisons and the judiciary. Over time, these ladies from the lowest ranks can move to higher ranks in their respective fields. Since women are fewer in the work force at present, appointing them at the higher levels without relevant experience would seem unfair and may be unworkable in practice.
The percentage of women in the Indian workforce is currently less than 25%. There are many reasons for this, including the norm that women are supposed to primarily manage home and hearth. Safety is another factor and because there are fewer women in the workforce, there is a lot of gender disparity in wages, in both informal and formal sectors.
Hence, more women need to be brought into the paid workforce. This will increase India’s GDP by 20 % as per one estimate.
In another study by two Harvard students, it was found that more women in the workplace would lead to a rise of nearly 27% in India’s GDP. Unfortunately, in India, women are leaving paid work to take care of family and housework, even as the country’s GDP rises. As women get better educated and get married into higher income families, they give up paid work because of socio-cultural reasons.
The Government wants women to take an increased role in the armed forces and yet, there’s a lot of resistance. A silver lining has been the commissioning of flight commander S. Dhami as Flight Commander in the officer cadre. Lieutenant Commander Karabi Gogoi has been selected as the Assistant Naval Attache at Russia. She is a naval engineer and at present is posted at Karwar naval base, Karnataka. Let’s trust that this is the beginning of a long line of female officers in the Armed Forces.
The government should enforce that more women are at work in the police, prisons and the judiciary by making it easy to hire women. Women in correctional services and Law & Order services would lead to a safer environment for all, but especially for women, children and the elderly.
As the number of women in the judiciary, the police and the prisons increases, legal aid will get utilised to help the underdogs. This will lead to a more equitable society, and stable environment in which India can prosper faster, leading to better living conditions for all.
Since vacancies in judiciary are more at the lower rungs, (as high as 52 % in Mizoram) it would even suffice if women are employed on contractual terms initially. Soon enough, women would surely set such a high bar, that they would earn their place in the aforesaid services.
The number of judges in subordinate courts needs to rise too. In India, there is currently one judge for 50,000 people. This needs to improve. We also need the courts need to work in shifts, as there are lakhs of cases pending in courts. Not only will this help clear the backlog, it will help in employing more women as well.
Just as in the local self governments, there is reservations for women, even at lower rungs in the judiciary, police and prisons, 50 percent or more jobs can be reserved for women .This is allowed by the Indian constitution under Fundamental Rights Article 15 ( 3 ) of the Constitution which allows reservation in favour of women. Moreover, India is a signatory to the Convention for Elimination of Discrimination Against Women . India has also signed the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights .
All women need for most such roles is to have a Bachelor’s degree in law. With this basic degree, they can dispense justice at lower rungs with some necessary training thrown in. A similar plan can be drawn up to employ more women in the police and prison services. The best among the women so employed, must be given chances to rise up in the services. Soon, there will be more and more women breaking the glass ceilings. Obviously, the percentage rise in India’s GDP will be the icing on the cake!
As more women participate in the labour market by doing paid work, gender parity in wages will improve. And gender equality will lead to better family life, less stress, better health and a society that does not judge people on their adherence to traditional masculine norms. In short, better living conditions for all!
First published at the author’s blog
Top image is a scene from Soni, a Netflix series around the life of two female cops
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