Can A Justice System Without Women Bring Justice to Women?

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Can A Justice System Without Women Bring Justice to Women? Blog Image

Why in News?

  • Diversity is a crucial element in the effectiveness of institutions worldwide, with gender inclusion being a key indicator of commitment to this value.
  • On International Women’s Day, it is crucial to look into the state of gender diversity within India's justice delivery system, as highlighted in the latest India Justice Report (IJR).
  • The data highlights a glaring gender gap across various subsystems, raising questions about the commitment of justice institutions to fostering inclusivity.

Disparities Highlighted by India Justice Report (IJR) Within the Justice Delivery System

  • Subsystem Disparities
    • The IJR highlights that the gender gap extends its reach into each subsystem of the justice delivery system, including the police, judiciary, prisons, legal aid, and human rights commissions.
    • This comprehensive report highlighted the systemic nature of the issue, suggesting that the problem is not isolated but pervasive across all facets of the justice system.
  • Quotas and Limited Progress
    • While quotas have been instrumental in facilitating the inclusion of women, their impact seems to be concentrated in lower echelons of the justice delivery system.
    • The report's data indicates that despite these affirmative action measures, women are not proportionately represented in higher-ranking positions.
  • Numerical Underrepresentation
    • A quick estimation in the IJR exposes the stark reality that there are approximately only three lakh women in the justice delivery system.
    • The numbers not only reflect an inadequate representation but also hint at deeper structural issues inhibiting the full participation of women in the justice system.
  • Judiciary's Gender Disparity
    • Within the judiciary, the data reveals a concerning trend where, despite the presence of women in the lower ranks, their numbers drastically diminish as one ascends the hierarchy.
    • For instance, while 35% of subordinate judges are women, this percentage plummets to a mere 13% in the high courts.
    • The glaring lack of women in the Supreme Court, with only three women judges, raises questions about the accessibility and inclusivity of the highest echelons of the justice system.
  • Leadership Void
    • The most glaring is the absence of a woman Chief Justice of India, a position that has remained elusive to women despite decades of existence.
    • Even in high courts, where the glass ceiling should have been shattered over the years, only 16 women have held the position of chief justice in over seven decades.
    • This leadership void underscores the entrenched barriers preventing women from reaching the pinnacle of the judicial hierarchy.
  • NHRC's Gender Imbalance and Limited Women Representation
    • The NHRC, envisioned as an exemplar of fairness and justice, has failed in embodying these principles concerning gender representation.
    • The IJR reveals that, throughout its existence, the NHRC has never had a woman commissioner.
    • This absence of women at the highest levels of decision-making within a commission tasked with safeguarding human rights is a stark illustration of institutional apathy towards gender diversity.
    • The IJR's findings extend beyond the NHRC, encompassing state commissions as well.
    • Across the country, these institutions exhibit a striking lack of concern for gender diversity. As of 2022, only six commissions had women serving as members or secretaries.
    • The absence of women chairpersons, with only Kerala, Meghalaya, and Punjab having a lone woman member each, emphasises the entrenched nature of gender imbalance in these pivotal bodies.

Possible Reasons Behind the Disparity

  • Lack of Initiative: Institutional Apathy
    • The dearth of women in key roles within these commissions reflects not only a numerical deficiency but also a lack of initiative to actively address and rectify this imbalance.
    • The IJR findings suggest a notable apathy within these institutions, where the imperative to foster gender diversity is either overlooked or deemed a secondary concern.
  • Complacency
    • The state commissions, mirroring the NHRC's deficiencies, fail to serve as beacons of gender inclusivity.
    • The IJR's data presents a disheartening picture, with only a handful of commissions exhibiting a willingness to appoint women to decision-making positions.
    • The absence of proactive measures to rectify this imbalance perpetuates an institutional culture indifferent to the benefits of diverse perspectives and experiences.
  • Deflection of Responsibility
    • Instead of addressing the root causes of gender disparity, decision-makers within these institutions often resort to deflecting responsibility.
    • The excuse of "difficulties" in "accommodating" more women is a common deflection tactic, diverting attention from the pressing need to challenge existing institutional structures and cultures that inhibit the entry and retention of women.

Potential Benefits of Creating Diversity Within the Justice Delivery System

  • Global Research Findings
    • Across the world, research consistently underscores the positive impact of diverse and inclusive workplaces.
    • The IJR aligns with this global perspective, emphasising that the inclusion of women, along with other diversities, has the potential to reshape institutional culture within the justice system.
    • It challenges the status quo by introducing fresh perspectives, experiences, and approaches that contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of complex issues.
  • Internal Dynamic Transformation
    • The inclusion of women within traditionally male-dominated institutions alters internal dynamics by challenging entrenched norms and fostering a culture of openness.
    • This transformation extends beyond mere numerical representation; it involves the integration of diverse viewpoints, communication styles, and problem-solving approaches.
    • Women, as integral contributors, can catalyse a shift towards more collaborative, empathetic, and innovative decision-making processes.
  • Enhanced Public Perception
    • Inclusive institutions not only benefit internally but also enhance public trust and perception.
    • The justice delivery system, when reflective of the diverse population it serves, becomes more responsive, credible, and representative of societal values.
    • This alignment between the institution and the public it serves strengthens the legitimacy and effectiveness of the justice system, fostering a sense of trust and inclusivity.

Way Forward

  • Institutional Preparedness
    • The call for institutional change begins with a demand for preparedness. Justice administrators are urged to proactively address the systemic challenges hindering the inclusion of women.
    • This involves a comprehensive assessment of existing structures, policies, and practices to identify and dismantle barriers that hinder the full and equitable participation of women at all levels of the justice system.
  • Leadership by Example
    • The absence of a woman Chief Justice of India and the scarcity of women in leadership roles within the judiciary underscore the need for a paradigm shift.
    • Institutions must actively promote and support the rise of women to leadership positions, challenging preconceived notions and dismantling the glass ceiling that has historically restricted their upward mobility.
  • Re-examination of Recruitment and Retention Practices
    • There is a need for a critical re-examination of recruitment and retention practices within the justice delivery system.
    • This entails a thorough review of hiring practices, promotion criteria, and measures to ensure the equitable treatment of men and women throughout their careers.


  • Achieving justice requires dismantling barriers, ensuring equal opportunities, and acknowledging that gender imbalance perpetuates sub-par institutional cultures but the gender gap within India's justice delivery system reflects embedded institutional bias.
  • To live up to the core values of equality and equity, justice institutions must move beyond superficial measures and address the systemic challenges hindering the inclusion of women.
  • The onus lies on decision-makers to lead by example, re-evaluate existing practices, and implement measures that create gender balance and inclusivity within the justice system.

Q1) What is the current status of gender disparity in India?

The current status of gender disparity in India reflects a complex landscape. While progress has been made in areas such as education and employment opportunities for women, significant challenges persist. Disparities can be observed in various aspects, including wage gaps, limited representation in leadership roles, and cultural norms that perpetuate gender stereotypes. Efforts are underway to address these issues, but there is still work to be done to achieve true gender equality.

Q2) How can India overcome gender disparity and promote equality?

Overcoming gender disparity in India requires a multifaceted approach. First, there is a need for comprehensive educational reforms to encourage equal access and opportunities for girls. Additionally, promoting awareness campaigns to challenge stereotypes and discriminatory practices is crucial. Legislation and policies supporting gender equality, such as equal pay measures and anti-discrimination laws, need to be enforced effectively. Encouraging women's participation in decision-making processes, both in the public and private sectors, is another key aspect. Ultimately, fostering a societal mindset shift towards equality and empowering women economically and socially will contribute to bridging the gender gap in India.

Source: The Indian Express