The fact that women have been ill-treated in our society for ages in India cannot be denied. The irony being we are a country that worships women but at the same time, women have to face atrocities and discrimination in all sections of their life. With the growth in the society, the condition of women has also improved but the real picture or mind-set of people still is that of hundred years old[1]. The number of women in different professions has been growing due to the constant efforts of the government but does this imply that they are getting equal treatment and respect in their profession. This blog is written with the view to locating the real condition of women in courts in India.

In the initial years when the concept of feminism started to take shape, the effects of this were seen in professions like journalism, medicine, and academics. In later years influence of feminism was seen in professions largely dominated by men, for example, surgery, civil services, management, politics, and law. Even today most working women have to face real-life problems but the struggle today is no longer concentrated against external obstacles. There are many options for women now, and public opinion is no longer unfriendly. Nevertheless, the psychological issues and the struggle between family and career persist throughout their lives. Women have to face disrespect and tolerate indecent remarks by male colleagues on the premises of the court. The way a male lawyer addresses a female lawyer at incidences is seen to be disrespectful to the woman.

The initial entry of women into the profession was difficult, Dr. Hari Singh Gaur, a lawyer, and advocate for women proposed that the government should abolish the sex ban, which prevented women from becoming attorneys in Indian courts. After several women were rejected to practice in courts, Ms. Cornelia Sorabji, a female law graduate, applied to the Allahabad High Court, which had given the judgment to accept her as a fully qualified legal practitioner. On 21st March 1923, the Government of India passed the bill to eliminate any obstacles women would have while applying to join the legal profession in the future, providing they had the requisite educational credentials. Following this, several female attorneys were enrolled with the High Court of Allahabad. The registrations, meanwhile, were still few and far between the likelihood of women succeeding in the field, which had been competitive and male-dominated for decades, and obtaining a respectable job was indeed grim[2].The position for female attorneys in the nation is not much better. Only 15% of the 1.7 million registered advocates are women[3].As of March 2020, the Meghalayan Indian states had roughly 55% female panel attorneys. In comparison, just 7% of panel layers in the state of Uttar Pradesh were female.[4] Representation of women in the lower judiciary constitutes only around 30% of the judges[5].  Only 11.5 percent of judges in high courts are female, and out of the 33 judges now serving on the Supreme Court, four are female.

While there are many woman judges in certain areas, the representation of women judges in other places is appalling. Women’s rights activists assert that sexism takes both overt and subtle forms. In the history of justice, sexism has been seen in many forms, from mansplaining and infantilism to outright sexual harassment. Women lawyers strategize and navigate sexism daily in encounters with other attorneys, judges, court administration personnel, and clients[6].The admission of a woman into the Indian legal system has been hampered by numerous problems with gender discrimination, including not being given a secure environment to practice in, constantly being thought to be incompetent, biases around their marital status, and not being taken seriously, and many others. Despite holding honorary positions, gender discrimination still exists in ways that require female attorneys to struggle for their identity[7]. Even today in courts women are generally seen to be less qualified to present arguments before the judge. To be taken seriously while speaking with a court’s administrative personnel, a woman must be forceful to make their point.

Even when it comes to engaging with clients’ women face disparity and discrimination. Clients hesitate to engage women lawyers. Faith is not reposted in their competence. The bar for women is higher in general when women are persistent and prove one’s mettle eventually getting them due respect in the field. As stated above there is a vast gender gap in the courts, in contrast to the 403 male senior counsel designations, there are 17 female senior counsel designates. There are 229 males and 8 women designated as senior counsel in the Delhi High Court. The Bombay High Court has 157 males designated and six women. Advocates don’t get acknowledged and aren’t classified as senior counsels unless they have testified in high-stakes cases. Women stay invisible because they aren’t trusted with important tasks. Despite having 20 to 30 years of expertise, they are nonetheless treated as juniors or assigned to menial chores like requesting an adjournment[8]. Problems women face in the field are numerous and need an urgent solution.

Stress should be made on greater gender sensitization among members of the judiciary to improve women’s representation in the courts. Mandatory training of all the lawyers and judges to change the ‘old school’ and ‘patriarchal’ outlook of the society. The aim must be to achieve 50% women representation at least in all leadership positions. Equal representation of women at all levels of the judiciary is important not only because it would be beneficial to the women but also because it would lead to the achievement of a more just rule of law. It increases the legitimacy of courts, sending a powerful signal that they are open and accessible to those who seek recourse to justice[9]. Therefore, it can be reliably said that the working condition of women is not equal in society and needs urgent action. The change is possible only when the grassroots problems are addressed. Change is an urgent requirement in the legal field as well as in others. Collective and- individual efforts should be taken to change the situation.

Author(s) Name: Aparna Tiwari (Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University, Lucknow)


[1] Vijay Pal Singh ‘Gender Justice in India’ (Legal Service India) <https://www.legalserviceindia.com/articles/gen_j.htm> accessed 20 June 2022

[2]‘Women in Indian Courts of Law A Study of Women Legal Professionals in the District Court of Lucknow Uttar Pradesh, India’ (Open Edition Journals) <https://journals.openedition.org/eces/1976?lang=en#tocfrom1n4> accessed 19 June 2022

[3] ‘Representation of Women in Judiciary’ (Drishti IAS, 11 March 2022) <https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-analysis/representation-of-women-in-judiciary#:~:text=What%20is%20the%20State%20of,%2C%20only%2015%25%20are%20women.> accessed 20 June 2022

[4]Sanyukta Kanwal ‘Share of women employed as panel lawyers in India 2020, by the state’ (Statista, 18 May 2022) <https://www.statista.com/statistics/1209536/india-share-of-women-employed-as-panel-lawyers-bystate/#:~:text=Share%20of%20women%20employed%20as%20panel%20lawyers%20in%20India%202020%2C%20by%20state&text=The%20Indian%20states%20of%20Meghalaya,percent%20of%20women%20panel%20layers.>accessed 21 June 2022

[5]‘CJI Ramana Rues ‘Quite Low’ Representation of Women in Judiciary’ (The Wire, 15 December 2021) <https://thewire.in/law/cji-ramana-rues-quite-low-representation-of-women-in-judiciary> accessed 21 June 2022

[6]Pragati K B ‘Skewed Corridors of Justice: Women Continue to Face Sexism in Courts’ (The Wire, 21 April 2022) <https://thewire.in/women/sexism-courts-women-lawyers-judges) accessed 21 June 2022

[7] ‘11 Indian Female Lawyers: Female Lawyers In India Who Is Super Advocates’ (Her, 7 April 2022) <https://hercircle.in/engage/get-inspired/achievers/11-indian-female-lawyers-in-india-who-are-super-advocates-2581.html> accessed 21 June 2022

[8]Pragati K B (n 6)

[9] ‘The Role of Women Judges and a Gender Perspective in Ensuring Judicial Independence and Integrity’ (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) <https://www.unodc.org/dohadeclaration/en/news/2019/01/the-role-of-women-judges-and-a-gender-perspective-in-ensuring-judicial-independence-and-integrity.html> accessed 22June 2022