Indira Jaising, one of India’s leading human rights advocates penned an open letter to Ranjan Gogoi, the Chief Justice of India, on 8th March. Through the letter, she demands the elimination of sexist language in Indian courts. For those who don’t know her, Jaising was the first woman in India to be appointed as an Additional Solicitor General in 2009.
In her letter to the CJI, Jaising wrote,” The profession of advocacy relies heavily on the power of language, its interpretation, and its socio-political baggage. Language is our weapon and shield, we agitate with our words, and we seek protection in our guaranteed rights.”
The letter comes following an exchange in court where Jaising, who is a senior Supreme Court advocate, asked Attorney General K K Venugopal to withdraw his comment where he referred to her as lawyer Anand Grover’s wife. “I am a person in my own right,” she retorted.
Mind your language in court https://t.co/sk6oaMJFBP
— Indira Jaising (@IJaising) March 7, 2019
In her letter, written on International Women’s Day, she urged CJI Rajan Gogoi to take active measures to ensure that advocates and judges across the country are mindful and checked for the gender sensitivity of their language, inside the courtrooms and outside. She pointed out how women are invisible from public discourse unless they are someone’s wife, sister, daughter, or politically connected to the powers.
Ms Jaising quotes Deborah Cameron in her letter, who says “Sexist language teaches us what those who use it and disseminate it think women’s place ought to be: second-class citizens, neither seen nor heard, eternal sex-objects and personifications of evil.”
Further, Jaising wrote, “In this way, sexist language is violent. It needs to be reminded to everyone in our profession that such power wielded by our words inside the courtrooms and outside should be eliminated so as to not manifest as violence.”
“In this way, sexist language is violent. It needs to be reminded to everyone in our profession that such power wielded by our words inside the courtrooms and outside should be eliminated so as to not manifest as violence.”
She also highlighted issues where people passed sexists remark on women, “Recently, I was referred as a ‘wife’ rather than by my name or as counsel, by a senior male lawyer in the courtroom, although immediate corrective action was taken by him upon my protest. It was left to counsel to point out ‘this is a sexist remark.’ The judge did not protest. In another event, a lawyer remarked to a fellow panelist on a national television debate that ‘if you are afraid, go wear petticoats and bangles,” she writes.
She also made some recommendations to the CJI in the letter.
First, she urged him to make active efforts to learn, if an advocate being appointed to a senior leadership position, or a judge being promoted, has condoned sexist behaviour or indulged in it inside the courtrooms or in public life. Such a person should not be given the position of a role model or a leader.
Second, to issue a circular to judges across the country to check the usage of sexist language by lawyers, litigants, and others in their courtrooms.
The lawyer ended her letter by wishing the CJI a happy International Women’s Day which is celebrated every year on 8th March.
Picture credits: indiatvnews.com
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Sonakshi Goel is an intern with SheThePeople.TV