Senior Advocate Indira Jaising has written a letter to Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, addressing the issue of sexist behavior faced by women lawyers at the Bar and in law offices. Jaising has commended the publication of the ‘Handbook on Combating Gender Stereotypes’ by the E-Committee of the Supreme Court of India, but has emphasized that gender stereotyping still persists in legal proceedings and interactions.

In her letter, Jaising provides examples of subtle gender biases she has experienced in courtroom interactions with her male counterparts, such as patronizing remarks and being referred to informally. She mentions that as she grew older and more experienced, she faced more gender stereotyping from her male colleagues, suggesting that they struggle to deal with an “empowered woman.” Jaising also highlights instances where she has been asked to not raise her voice in court and referred to as ‘she’ instead of ‘my learned friend,’ which is the convention.

To address this issue, Jaising urges the Supreme Court to develop a handbook specifically targeting gender stereotyping of women lawyers. This handbook would provide guidelines for male colleagues on how to treat women fairly in court and law offices.

Jaising also raises concerns about the issue of sexual harassment faced by women lawyers in courtrooms and law offices. She points out that despite a Supreme Court directive, institutions like the Bar Council of India have yet to declare sexual harassment by lawyers as professional misconduct.

In addition to these concerns, Jaising suggests practical measures to combat gender stereotyping. She proposes the creation of a list of proscribed words that should not be used in advocacy, pleadings, and judgments, similar to the list published by the Indian Parliament containing unparliamentary expressions. She also calls for alternatives to derogatory terms like ‘prostitute’ that exist in statutes.

Furthermore, Jaising highlights the prevalence of gender stereotyping in legal pleadings and oral arguments, particularly in matrimonial cases and rape trials. She recommends the creation of a model handbook on practice guidelines for pleadings that can be adopted by high courts and district courts to ensure that gender biases and stereotyping are avoided from the beginning of legal proceedings.

Jaising concludes her letter by raising attention to a recent Calcutta High Court judgment that labeled women’s misuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code as ‘legal terrorism.’ She argues that such labeling perpetuates gender stereotyping and requests that these issues be addressed through a model handbook on practice guidelines.

In summary, Senior Advocate Indira Jaising has called for a handbook on gender stereotyping specifically addressing the behavior of male colleagues towards women lawyers. She has also highlighted the issue of sexual harassment and suggested practical measures to combat gender stereotyping in legal proceedings.

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