Not enough women in Indian justice system: UN Women official

By Azera Rahman, IANS,

New Delhi : There aren’t enough women in the Indian judicial system and police and that is “disappointing”, says UN Women assistant secretary general Lakshmi Puri calling for reform in these areas.

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“It is disappointing that there are not enough women in the frontline of the justice system and the police in India. That needs to be corrected,” Puri told IANS in an interview.

UN Women Wednesday released its flagship report, Progress of the World’s Women, which stated that women are grossly under-represented in the justice system. In South Asia, women make up just nine percent of judges, four percent prosecution staff and just three percent of police.

Globally, data from 57 countries shows that where women are present in police, reporting of sexual assault increases, the report said.

“But in India I think women comprise only three percent of the justice system,” said Puri, who is also the UN Women deputy executive director. She was in India for the formal launch of the UN Women report.

Calling for reform, she said there needs to be a change in the mindset of people.

“The challenge facing India is prejudice (against women). There is socio-cultural prejudice, including among those in the justice system and service providers,” Puri told IANS.

“So what is required is more training, more awareness, so that people are conditioned to cast away these prejudices,” she added.

Puri was formerly with the Indian Foreign Service where she held several posts in political and economic policymaking and bilateral and multilateral diplomacy.

Praising India’s progress over the last decade in coming out with strong laws – like the Domestic Violence Act – which protect the rights of women, Puri said implementation of the laws is an equally important aspect.

“Wherever there is a lacunae, legal reforms should be established and discriminatory laws must be repealed. But implementation of laws is very important,” she said.

She added that there should be specialised services for women to help them benefit from schemes and laws.

“You can’t have a generalised justice system. There is a huge number of women who are poor, illiterate and unaware of laws and schemes. Specialised services and amenities like transport or mobile courts is needed so that they can benefit,” Puri said.

In the political sphere, UN Women strongly advocates political empowerment of women and hopes that the 33 percent reservation of women in parliament in India becomes a reality soon.

“I hope the 33 percent reservation in parliament in India soon becomes a reality and we truly live up to the Gandhian belief of gender parity,” she said.

While she has great confidence on Indian women and believes they can be the engine of development of the country despite all challenges, Puri said it’s time women shed their image of “victimhood”.

“For transformation to take place, Indian women have to shed their image of victimhood. The media, films have far too long been showing women as victims of suffering and that needs to be cast away.”

“Women have to believe that they can be the mistress of their destiny,” she signed off.