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Challenges For Women Lawyers In India

It's not simple for a woman to practise law in India. The legal profession faces prejudice and gender bias, just as many other professions.

The legal profession in India is beset with structural hurdles, societal expectations, and systemic gender prejudices that present a variety of challenges for women lawyers. Women encounter numerous obstacles related to matters of safety and security. In addition, women are not always afforded an appropriate forum to speak their opinions in court. One of the main reasons why women do not choose litigation as their legal career is the politics of male advocates who want to silence the voices of women.

History of Women Lawyers in India

Cornelia Sorabji was the first female lawyer of India and Britain. She was the first woman to study law at Oxford University and the first to graduate from Bombay University. She was born in 1866. She put in a lot of effort to help Pardahnashin women, women living in seclusion get legal representation. But at first, because of existing legal restrictions, Sorabji was not permitted to practice law in India, even with her qualifications. Women in India were not allowed to practice law until 1923 when the Legal Practitioners (Women) Act was passed. This allowed Sorabji and subsequent generations to formally enter the field.

Though their numbers remained low, more women joined the legal field in the years that followed. Pioneering women like Mithan Tata Lam, the first woman to practice law before the Bombay High Court, and Anna Chandy, who became the first female judge in India in 1937, cleared the path for next generations.

The number of women judges and lawyers in India increased gradually but steadily after independence. To guarantee that the judiciary represents the variety of the society it serves, women such as Justice Fathima Beevi, who was appointed as the first female judge of the Supreme Court of India in 1989, and others who accomplished comparable firsts, have been instrumental.

Gender Bias and Discrimination:

  • Unequal Compensation: Women attorneys frequently receive lower compensation than their male colleagues.
  • Absence of Mentorship: Women in the legal industry may find it more difficult to advance their careers in the absence of strong mentoring.
  • Underrepresentation in Leadership Positions: In law companies and legal associations, women are still underrepresented in leadership roles.
  1. Managing Work and Family Responsibilities:
    • Women lawyers may find it especially difficult to balance their obligations to their families and their careers. There are frequently fewer chances for career progress because of this fight.
    • Maternity Leaves: The careers of women lawyers may be negatively impacted by maternity leaves. A sizable portion of women working in corporations, law firms, and litigation say that taking maternity absences affects their career paths.
  2. Barriers in Courtrooms:
    • Safety issues: Because of safety issues, women lawyers are under pressure to finish their work before dark. Their problems are made worse by the inadequate facilities, such as a dearth of restrooms.
    • Discrimination: In the male-dominated legal sector, women frequently face persistent discrimination. Sometimes, clients want male solicitors because they assume that women won't be able to attend court because of personal or family obligations.
    • Preference for Male Hires: Senior solicitors and legal firms frequently give preference to employing male candidates, which makes it harder for women lawyers to succeed. Even the nation's most senior judge recognizes the need for more women in the Higher Judiciary and the lack of inclusion in courtrooms.
  3. Evolving The Environment:
    • Even with the advancements over the last few decades, obstacles still face female solicitors. Although the proportion of male and female students in law schools has equalised, there is still a concern about the attrition rate among female practitioners. Only when women from many origins and beliefs are elevated to positions of leadership will the glass ceiling finally collapse.
Even with great progress made in the direction of gender equality, women are still underrepresented in senior positions in legal firms as well as in the judiciary. Speaking at a celebration honouring the centenary of Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar's legal profession, Chief Justice of India Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud expressed worries about the underrepresentation of women in the upper judicial sphere. Although women made up a sizable portion of new hires in some States, especially at the district level (typically between 70% and 80%), Justice Chandrachud pointed out that they were still underrepresented in the judiciary.

Moreover, women who work in litigation frequently face several unique difficulties that set them apart from their male colleagues. For example, individuals experience gender-based microaggressions, such as being talked over or interrupted during court proceedings, being yelled down, being written off as being too emotional, or even being the target of bullying and verbal and sexual harassment.

Indian women lawyers encounter a variety of difficulties, such as high expectations, restricted access to leadership positions, and gender bias. Balancing obligations at home and work is still difficult, but progress toward equality and inclusivity is essential for a more just legal profession.


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