Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud on Saturday flagged the "abysmal" women-to-men ratio in the legal profession and called for ensuring equal opportunities for women, asserting that there was no dearth of young, talented women lawyers.
Recruiting chambers were being "skeptical" about employing women, assuming that their "familial" responsibilities would come in the way of their profession, he said.
Citing the "abysmal" women-to-men ratio in the legal profession, Justice Chandrachud said, "Statistics inform us that for 50,000 male enrolments in Tamil Nadu, there are only 5,000 female enrolments." "The legal profession is not an equal-opportunity provider for women, and the statistics are the same all over the country," he said.
"The phase is changing. In the recent recruitment in the district judiciary, over 50 percent are women. But we have to create equal opportunities for women so that they do not fall by the wayside because of the fact that they undertake multifold responsibilities as they progress in life."
He was speaking at an event here to mark the foundation-stone-laying ceremony for the Additional Court Buildings in the District Court campus and the inauguration of the District and Sessions Court and that of the Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate at Mayiladuthurai.
The event was attended by Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin, among others.
"Chambers are sceptical about recruiting young women advocates. The reason for that is not a lack of young talented women. There is no lack of talented young women," he said. "But (it is) rather because of our actions being a product of our stereotypes that we hold against women."
Stating that there were two prominent stereotypes against women that translated into women being denied opportunities, the CJI said, "firstly, recruiting chambers assume that women would be unable to put in long hours at work because of familial responsibilities. We should all firstly understand that childbearing and childcare is a choice and women should not be punished for taking up that responsibility." A young male lawyer may also choose to be actively involved in childcare and family care. "But as a society we force the responsibility of family care only on the women and then use that very bias against women that we hold, to deny them opportunities," he rued.
"If a woman wants to balance work with family care, it is our responsibility to provide institutional support. Setting up creche facilities in all court complexes across the country is an important step in that direction," CJI Chandrachud said.
"The Supreme Court of India and the Delhi High Court have already led the way on this front, and it is time the rest of the country follows suit." He requested the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court to take steps in setting up creche facilities at the High Court and all the district courts, saying this would go a long away in improving working conditions and providing substantive equal opportunities for women.
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