Women In Leadership: Achieving An Equal Future In A COVID-19 World by Shreya Sharma- CEO- Rest the case
Countries have slowly started to recover from a catastrophic pandemic, and hence this year’s International Women’s Day is like no other. And as we celebrate this day, we celebrate women’s efforts in the tremendous but unresolved progress towards gender equality along with their involvement and leadership in the COVID – 19 Pandemic.
Conversely, according to the facts, gender gaps are worsening because of the pandemic and its repercussions. Moreover, achievements in girls’ and women’s human capital, voice, agency, and economic empowerment, which have been punctiliously established over decades, are at the risk of being overturned.
The real kicker is that women, alongside men, are stepping up to both alleviate and counteract these impacts. They are putting women at the core of constructing more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient economies that can better survive future shocks, employing innovation and new knowledge.
Despite the challenges, women, particularly young women, are at the vanguard of varied and inclusive social change initiatives, both online and on the streets. This includes their leadership in standing up against climate change, promoting a green economy, and advocating for women's rights. More robust democracies, better governance, and more peaceful communities result from more inclusive leadership and representation.
Like in any other sector, women have, are, and will continue to play a remarkable role in the legal profession. While the country's overall female representation is among the lowest globally, women are treated equally in terms of representation, salary, and leadership in a highly elite bar segment.
I’d love to take this opportunity to mention Indian women's Superheroes of Justice. Given how the law in India is still predominantly a men's club, with few women are seen pulling on the black robe, Indian women lawyers at the vanguard of our justice system are few and far between.
The numbers speak for themselves. Despite the fact that women have been fighting for more representation in the legal profession, just 7.2 percent of key seats in the judiciary are held by women. Only one woman presently serves on the Supreme Court, which has a total of 27 judges. And no woman has ever been named the Chief Justice of India.
What does this mean in terms of gender diversity in positions of power that directly affect, lead, and route the progress and future of a country? While the fight for legal representation in courts continues, the several female lawyers who practice are paving the way for equality and justice on various fronts. Being in the legal space, I have derived inspiration from many women who are thriving to make the space inclusive. And hence, this Women’s Day, I would like to recognize today's Indian women lawyers who are leading the fight for gender justice with courage and spirit –
Who doesn’t know the disheartening story of India’s daughter, Nirbhaya! After the 2012 gang-rape case, Seema Samridhi became a leading voice in India's historical moment of legislative reform for sexual assault victims. Many people may be surprised to learn that this was her first case, given that she is best known as the attorney who persistently battled justice for Jyoti Singh for years until the criminals were hanged in 2020.
She began working on the case as a legal intern at the time, and when she became a Supreme Court lawyer in 2014, she took over as a lead lawyer. In an interview, Samridhi says that Nirbhaya can be anyone. It's a struggle for all women globally, and it is the reality. She also mentions that similar cases continue to come to her even after the offenders were hung.
Menaka Guruswamy, a senior Supreme Court lawyer, is known for leading several groundbreaking cases in India. Out of all, the most recent was the decriminalization of Section 377 in 2018. Guruswamy and lawyer Arundhati Katju, her partner, overturned a colonial-era rule prohibiting consensual same-sex relations.
The couple brought in legislation that would offer the LGBTQIA+ community the right to a life of greater dignity than earlier, which was a massive achievement for Guruswamy both personally and nationally.
Guruswamy is the first Indian and the second woman to have her portrait displayed at the prestigious Milner Hall at the University of Oxford.
Despite having handled several high-profile cases throughout her career, senior advocate Rebecca John's recent case, in which she led journalist Priya Ramani to victory in a defamation lawsuit brought against her by politician MJ Akbar, shines as a beacon of light for India's #MeToo movement. In the 2008 double murder case, John also represented Aarushi Talwar's parents.
She appeared on behalf of one of the Nirbhaya gangrape convicts, challenging the court's execution orders. She is a prominent advocate for humanizing rape proceedings and improving the experience of survivors (or victims' relatives).
Abha Singh, a practicing lawyer in the Bombay High Court of Judicature, has long been a champion for women's rights, serving as an inspiration for causes such as the #MeToo movement, LGBTQIA+ community, menstrual rights, and women's cyber-harassment. Her best-selling book Stree – Dasha Aur Disha, brings these concerns together in a written legal guide to empowering women in India.
Giving more powers to these amazing and all other women the world over, Happy Women’s Day!
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