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Women's Day: Gender disparities in legal profession and the call for systemic change

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New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) The very profession that postulates ‘equality’ as a principle and way of life is itself deficient when it comes to a gender gap in the profession.

The legal profession has made great strides over the years in upholding rights and giving recognition to the most fundamental of our rights, however, gender inequality is an intrinsic problem that still awaits resolution.

There is a huge disparity which is evident from the fact that women constitute only 15 per cent of practicing lawyers. In the higher judiciary too, women are under-represented with only 6 per cent of the judges in the Supreme Court being women and only 11.5 per cent among the High Court judges.

These are not just statistics but is a topic that requires deep deliberation and change of mindset which is not an overnight task.

One cannot be ignorant of the reality where if a reference is made to a household chore the automatic presumption of its responsibility is attached to the woman.

Another reason for many females to drop the profession is marriage and the child rearing that follows.

While we take pride in wearing that collar band, stepping up on the dais and fighting for what is right, there is still a large segment of society especially in the rural areas, that scorns at women taking up this profession, thus reducing the prospects of marriage.

The institutional infrastructure of our courts is also not gender friendly. The most basic of things such as hygienic and clean toilets, be it for males or females, creches, etc. are absent.

The fight today is to establish an inclusive bar as well as bench devoid of caste, gender and class inequalities.

A gender-neutral bar and bench is not only for the sole purpose of equality, but also to provide a different perspective and perception in each case.

Speaking to IANS, Advocate Vediccaa Ramdanee said: “While there is a long journey ahead to achieve this goal, a more immediate solution would require the women in the legal profession to step forward and be more proactive. They should come together to tackle issues of gender inequality in the workplace at least.”

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She added: “There are many women lawyers who can lead such associations, and while it may not change things overnight, there is strength in numbers.”

It is also a suggestion and request to the more privileged lot of women to be more approachable for this cause.”

The fight for women empowerment has never been about individual women but has been about the community. More women in positions of power, for example, means more women with better insights into the plight of female litigants, more judges who can relate to and understand their concerns, their socio-economic challenges, and their motivations. Or at least that has been the dream.

Advocate Ishika Mittal said: “What we are often left with in action is that these women in positions of power struggle to survive in the ‘boys club’ and are forced to adopt the ideas of masculinity and power just so that they can continue to have a fighting chance of survival.”

Women in the judiciary are faced with a cruel irony — Officers of the law who are unsafe themselves and are denied justice on a regular basis.

How often does one come across news of female members of the judiciary in the lower courts being sexually harassed and abused? One may be forced to think about all the incidents that still remain unreported out of fear of being transferred, punished and abused for speaking up. It is saddening how often these women pay the price for their bravery with their career.

Women’s safety is somehow spoken about too much and not enough. Every conversation about women empowerment ends up also centering safety concerns as though that is at the core of their struggles and constitute the majority of it. While it undeniably is a major cause for concern, there are also several other minute ways in which the patriarchy materialises which cis-gendered, heterosexual men may not completely ever be able to fathom.

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“Judges who are women do not have the liberty to be playful like their male counterparts, lest they be taken lightly. They do not have the liberty to be strict and temperamental either, lest they be called stuck up and arrogant. It is as though they are constantly under a microscope, doomed no matter what,” Mittal said.

She added: “As a practicing litigant myself, I have seen way too many times female judges being denied the respect they deserve by the litigants, the advocates themselves and even their own court staff sometimes for that matter. Many male advocates, especially if they are older than the judge herself, are loath to take directions from them almost as if acknowledging a woman as their superior is beneath them. The judge no matter how ‘learned’ or superior in post, continues to be treated as “just a woman”.”

Being looked down upon, patronised, dismissed and belittled for being a woman is something every woman in this field would concur to have experienced, whether as an advocate or as a judicial member.

Advocate Akankshya Misra also told us how the struggle intensifies in the lower judiciary, despite comparatively better representation.

“Women judges, face not only the challenges of a male-dominated profession but also grapple with issues such as sexual harassment. Recently the poignant account of a woman judge in UP seeking euthanasia due to the systemic dismissal of her grievances sheds light on the harsh realities we face as women in this legal fraternity,” Misra said.

She went on to say that as a female litigating lawyer in Delhi NCR, the battleground extends beyond courtrooms.

The quest for connections becomes a delicate balancing act, where approaching people for professional networking raises questions about favour-seeking.

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This challenge is not exclusive to the legal profession but resonates across industries.

“Being a female lawyer carries no inherent advantage before the court, and for first-generation advocates like myself, the additional hurdle of building connections without compromising professional integrity is palpable,” Misra said.

Beyond the court’s confines, the struggles persist in the professional realm. This unfolds as a ‘professional’ in the making, where the ratio of women lawyers remains disproportionately low compared to our male counterparts.

“We deserve more than merely filling a gender imbalance; we merit meritorious recognition and elevated positions. The path to achieving this involves consistent courtroom presence, enabling a collegium to choose from a pool of competent candidates rather than a limited selection,” she said.

Misra added: “My journey as an advocate, especially as a woman, is not a conventional 9 to 5 job. It requires assuming roles as diverse as an entrepreneur, professional, administrator, and leader. Overcoming the challenges of toxic work environments, meager remuneration, and a demanding work-life, we strive for a sense of accomplishment, power, and position. However, as I candidly acknowledge, not everyone may be ready for this challenging expedition.”

As a young advocate, Misra said, her personal experiences shed light on the stark gender disparities within legal offices.

“From the lack of female washrooms to the struggle for inclusion in a male-dominated atmosphere, the challenges faced by women in the legal profession go beyond courtroom battles. This clearly calls for a re-evaluation of basic facilities and challenges the status quo, where women are forced to make compromising choices to be part of the ‘boys’ club,” she said.

In essence, the battles fought within and outside the courtroom reveal a pressing need for systemic change, emphasising that the legal profession should not be a realm where gender determines success but a platform where merit and talent flourish, irrespective of gender.

–IANS

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Karnataka govt orders probe into MUDA land scam ahead of monsoon session

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Bengaluru, July 15 (IANS) The Karnataka government has ordered a probe into the Mysuru Urban Development Authority (MUDA) land case by a single-member commission headed by retired Justice of the High Court P. N. Desai, allegedly involving Chief Minister Siddaramaiah,

The government announcement has come ahead of the monsoon session which will begin from Monday and has asked the committee to submit its findings within six months after completing the probe.

The order said that the allegations regarding the allotment of sites have come to the government’s attention and have been reported by the media.

“The decision was made under Sub-rule 1 of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952. The inquiry commission is empowered to investigate under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952, and the Code of Civil Procedure,” the government order reads.

The opposition has been demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and to handover the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

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“The Urban Development Department and MUDA are directed to provide all documents and information to the commission and also to provide the services of technical, economic, and administrative experts,” the order reads.

It further underlines that the concerned officers attached to the Urban Development Department and MUDA must be present during the investigation and provide all documents, files, and other required materials, ensuring full cooperation.

Union Minister for Heavy Industries and Steel H.D. Kumaraswamy has made an appeal to the legal fraternity to seek consent for the prosecution of Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah from Governor T.C. Gehlot in connection with the alleged irregularities in Mysuru Urban Development Authority (MUDA) and the tribal welfare Board.

Union Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Pralhad Joshi had accused Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of being “directly involved” in the Mysuru Urban Development Authority (MUDA) land scam.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had said that he is being targeted regarding the MUDA land case as he hails from a backward class.

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“I am being targeted as I hail from the backward class. The agitation against me is political but I am capable of countering it,” the Chief Minister had said.

The MUDA controversy is primarily over the purchase, de-notification, gifting, encroachment, and awarding of alternative sites in connection with 3.16 acres of land owned by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s wife B.M. Parvathi.

The BJP has alleged a loss of about Rs 4,000 crore to the government by alleged fraudulent allotments.

–IANS

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Telangana launches distribution of safety kits for toddy tappers

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Hyderabad, July 14 (IANS) The Telangana government on Sunday launched the distribution of safety kits for toddy tappers from the Goud community.

Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy launched the distribution of the ‘Katamayya Raksha Kavacham’ or safety kits at Lashkarguda village at Abdullapurmet on the outskirts of Hyderabad.

As many toddy tappers are losing lives or sustaining serious injuries after falling from trees while extracting toddy, the government has come out with a scheme to distribute safety kits.

Under the initiative by the Telangana State BC Corporation, specialised safety kits have been designed specifically for toddy tappers. These kits, developed in collaboration with IIT Hyderabad and a private company, integrate modern technologies to prevent accidents. With advanced safety features tailored to the specific needs of rope climbers, each kit includes six essential devices: ropes, clips, handles, a sling bag, and leg loops.

Revanth Reddy said that the government is committed to extending assistance to people who rely on traditional occupations. He claimed that the Goud community supported and campaigned for Congress to come to power in the elections. “Goud brothers also propagated that the respect of weaker sections will be enhanced only if the Congress comes to power in Telangana. Gouds are known for their fighting spirit and their robustness,” he said.

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The Chief Minister also said that the government will not object to growing palm and Indian date palm trees on the government lands.

He suggested to Excise Minister Jupally Krishna Rao to take up the plantation of palm and Indian Date plam under the Vanamahotsavam programme. An initiative is also proposed to plant such trees on the banks of water bodies, roads, ponds, and canals.

The Chief Minister claimed that the Congress government is striving for the upliftment of the weaker sections. “YSR regime introduced the fee reimbursement scheme for weaker sections. Our government is committed to continuing the fee reimbursement scheme,” he said, adding that the government is committed to protecting the culture of the Goud community.

Appealing to the community to provide higher studies to their children to make them reach higher levels, he said: “They should also participate in rebuilding the Telangana state. Your children should grow as lawmakers. Education is the only weapon for weaker sections to become rulers.”

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The Chief Minister, Assembly Speaker G. Prasad, and ministers also participated in a community lunch with the Goud community.

–IANS

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Coast Guard recovers body of missing fisherman from Bay of Bengal

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Kolkata, July 14 (IANS) The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has carried out a successful operation and recovered the mortal remains of a fisherman who recently went missing from a trawler in the deep seas off the West Bengal coast.

Fisherman Mohan Majhi (50) was on board the Indian Fishing Boat (IFB) ‘Jai Baba Lokenath’ that is registered at Diamond Harbour in the South 24-Parganas district of West Bengal.

He went missing on Thursday before the trawler returned to the harbour. The boat owner approached the ICG District Headquarters in Haldia around 7:30 p.m. on that day and requested officials to carry out a search for Majhi.

ICG Ship (ICGS) Kamla Devi was immediately deployed to the area where the fisherman went missing.

Braving rough seas, ICGS Kamla Devi carried out a sustained search operation in the area and sighted Majhi’s decomposed body. The body was taken on board the Coast Guard vessel where a medical team inspected it, officials said on Sunday.

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The ship then left for Haldia. After berthing there, the body was handed over to the local police on Saturday in the presence of family members and the boat owner, they added.

The recovery of the body will bring closure to the case for the bereaved family and allow them to overcome several legal hurdles regarding insurance claims and compensation.

–IANS

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Maha issues notification on free travelling facility to senior citizens

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Mumbai, July 14 (IANS) The Maharashtra government on Sunday issued a notification on free travelling facilities to important pilgrimage sites across India by senior citizens of all faiths.

Chief Minister Eknath Shinde recently announced that the Mukhyamantri Teerth Darshan Yojana will be implemented for the senior citizens of the state to visit various pilgrimage sites across the country.

The scheme includes 73 pilgrimage sites in India and 66 from Maharashtra state. Nearly all the important pilgrimage sites are included in the scheme.

The eligible senior citizens will get the benefit of this scheme to visit one of the pilgrimage sites mentioned under this scheme. Similarly, the maximum amount per head towards travelling allowance will be Rs 30,000. This will include actual travelling, meals, lodging and other important expenses.

The annual income of the beneficiary should be less than 2.50 lakh and the beneficiary should be a resident of Maharashtra state and should be a senior citizen above 60 years of age.

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For taking the benefit of the scheme the applicant will have to apply online.

The beneficiaries will be selected by the committees appointed at the district level. The quota will be decided on the basis of the population of the district and the beneficiaries will be selected by a lottery method from the applications received. Beneficiaries who are above 75 years of age will be permitted to travel with their spouse or any assistant.

A 17-member committee led by the Social Justice Minister had been formed to monitor and review the scheme at the state level.

A seven-member committee under the chairmanship of the guardian minister will be looking into the matter at the district level.

The Assistant Commissioner of the Social Welfare Department will be the member secretary, whereas at the state level, the Social Welfare Commissioner will be working as the Nodal Officer.

“The state government is leaving no stone unturned for fulfilling the dreams of the poor, downtrodden and destitute citizens of the state. We are satisfied that we will be getting the blessings of the senior citizens. This will definitely provide energy and inspiration to the government,” the Chief Minister said.

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–IANS

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Assam slowly emerging out of flood crisis, two more deaths, 6 lakh people still affected

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Guwahati, July 14 (IANS) With waters receding, the overall flood situation in Assam improved on Sunday even as two more deaths were reported from the Karimganj district and over 6 lakh people remain affected in 18, or over half, of the state’s 35 districts, Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) officials said.

According to ASDMA officials, with the two fresh deaths, as of Sunday, at least 93 people died due to the current flood in 23 districts and around 10 more people died due to landslides and other calamities after the monsoon rain started early last month.

The highest number of deaths (22) were reported from Cachar district in southern Assam.

According to the ASDMA officials, the number of flood-affected people has sharply come down from over 24.20 lakh in 30 districts as of July 5.

Flood water is still submerging 5,367 hectares of crop area in 1,342 villages in 18 districts while over 2.83 lakh domestic animals have also been badly affected.

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Of the 18 flood-affected districts, Dhubri, Cachar, Dhemaji, Darrang, Goalpara, and Golaghat are still badly hit.

The Brahmaputra is flowing above the danger level at Neamatighat, Tezpur, and Dhubri, while Burhidihing and Disang rivers are also flowing above the danger level in a few areas.

ASDMA officials said over 30,000 people are sheltered in the 172 relief camps set up by the district administrations, while 32 relief distribution centres are functioning in different districts.

The flood water also submerged the vast areas of Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR). The Forest and Wildlife Department workers have so far rescued 143 wild animals while more than 196 animals, including deer, rhinos, and hog deer, have drowned in flood waters.

–IANS

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