The representation of women in the judiciary has been rather glum with the Supreme Court having only two women judges as against a sanctioned strength of 34. Our country has never had a female chief justice. There are 80 women against the sanctioned 1113 judges in the High Court and Supreme Court. This makes only 7.2% of female judges.
In the High Courts of Manipur, Meghalaya, Patna, Tripura, Telangana and Uttarakhand, there are no sitting women judges. The first female Judge appointed to the Supreme Court was Justice M. Fathima Beevi from Kerala in 1987. Currently, Justice R. Banumati from Tamil Nadu is the only woman judge in the Supreme Court.
The entry of women judges into spaces from which they had been historically excluded is a step towards judiciaries being perceived as transparent, inclusive and representative. Women judges enhance the legitimacy of courts by signalling they are open and accessible to those who seek recourse to justice. They also significantly contribute to quality of decision making and thus to the quality of justice itself.
Women judges bring lived experiences to judicial actions and tend to have a more comprehensive and empathetic approach. By elucidating how laws can be based on gender stereotypes, or how their impact on men and women differ, the overall gender perspective enhances the fairness of the adjudication.
Improving the representation of women could go a long way towards a more balanced and empathetic perspective to cases involving sexual violence as well.
This article has been written by Riya Rajayyan for The Paradigm.
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