In an Interview with G20, Advocate Ishanee Sharma, Managing Partner, Ishanee Sharma Law Offices, talks about gender justice and challenges faced by the women & children, who are subjected to the offences of domestic violence or abuse.
Q. You are a writer & lawyer & for one so young. You have developed a niche & brand for yourself. With your focus being freedom of speech & gender justice. Share this storyline with us & how you have developed it?
A. In a ‘Shakti Poojak’ society, where all forms of power and all the manifestations of energy are identified as a female being. Our biggest struggle today is female emancipation, such irony.
Research, all around the world has reiterated the fact that females are a stronger gender. We tend to live more, have better immune systems and are lesser prone to cardiovascular illnesses. So much so, the female premature baby has better chances of survival than a male baby in the exact same circumstances. If you think of it, this might be the reason for the longing for a male child. The principle of ‘survival of the fittest’ has been favouring the female embryo. And hence the numbers could initially have been skewed. This lopsided ratio might have been the reason for longing which finally became preference for the male child.
I feel there is an innate connection of these empirical observations that have come to the fore today to the fact that strength, dynamic energy of creation, maintenance and destruction was referred to as ‘Shakti’, since the Vedic era.
The ‘Shakti’ of all these girls was systematically diminished over a period of time. Decades of objectification, exploitation, and subjugation are to be blamed.
So much so today we are convinced as a majority, of them being powerless. For centuries together they have been given delicate toys to play with, have been introduced to softer games, trained to believe they are meant for jobs that require lesser strength. On the other side the instinctive power of boys is harnessed through games of power, toys like cars and guns. The female strength has been strategically domesticated. Their numbers have been reduced through human intervention in the form of foeticide and infanticides. The Rani of Jhansi , Jhalkari bai, Begum Hazrat Mahal are the exception as female warriors. That should have been the norm. The civilisation which prays to the female goddess Saraswati for ‘VidyaVardaan’, denied education to its girl child for the longest period. We don’t have a male counterpart as the God of Education. The state of nature and the culture, both don’t stand with the society’s view of subjugation of women. It was done by very shrewd men scared of being overpowered and ruled by a superior gender.
It’s time to break this cycle. The girls being trained in strength are doing as good, if not better than boys. We can say the same about those being trained in academics. There is so much of injustice still at so many levels. It’s infuriating.
All the rights and all the freedoms can be talked about only when 50 per cent of the population has been empowered and brought to the same level as the remaining 50 percent. Financially independent or not, every girl should have a right to take her own decisions, work towards her own upliftment. I know this can’t be done in a day. But I have vowed to do all that I can, in the process.
Q. You practice in the high court & are a counsel for the State of Uttar Pradesh in the Supreme Court of India. What are the issues at hand you are adopting & focused on?
A. There is so much to be worked on. Discrimination based on caste, class and creed. The plight of the under trials. They are entitled to free legal aid by the Government but still how do we ensure the quality of the aid provided. The compassion needed to deal with their issues.
I see so many cases of violence and abuse, specifically the woman victims who don’t even know their rights. Who don’t know that they don’t need ‘somewhere to go’ to be able to stand up for themselves. And what they need from the justice delivery mechanism is their basic right to live, to breathe, to eat, to survive which has been held captive under the claws of the society and ‘log kya kahenge’.
The legislative & administrative framework is though necessary but not sufficient to overcome the challenges faced by the women & children, who are subjected to the offences of domestic violence or abuse. It is time to speak out against all forms of violence, question gender roles and assumptions, respect and embraces diversity. Respect a person’s-even a child’s- right to say no, It is time. Anything that appeals to me. Anything that I feel should be spoken about. Is spoken about. Law , to me, is an essential enforcer.
Q. You are an eminent advocacy in Political Neutrality, at a time when democracy. In our country is being tested. How are you involved & in what way?
A. As citizens of one of the biggest democracies in the world, we all should stay aware and ask questions. Asking questions does not make us less patriotic.
The purpose of democracy is foiled if its people don’t ask questions. The government and the opposition will keep misleading citizens by engaging them in trivial issues. The ignorance of the masses will be used to further their own goals. The public will become puppets at the hands of the political class if they do not have the wisdom to judge the moves and work ethic of the political class.
The advent of different forms of media and their widespread access with almost no training and accountability, has made the discourse stoop to an all time low. We don›t hesitate once in mocking at our present leaders, we don›t think twice before defaming eminent people of the present and past, with no proof whatsoever. The partisanship in politics has forced the debate to go down to discussing people and their acts than policies and their implications.
Q. What is interesting is that you have dedicated your young life to your law practice. Doing a lot of probono work. How so & how much impact have you had on the narrative of truth & justice in our great nation?
A. I feel my role as a lawyer remains incomplete, if my services don’t reach those in need. Too small to make a big difference but would reiterate that access and affordability should not be a concern for victims of injustice.
The idea of Justice is intertwined with Freedom. John Rawls in a ‘A Theory of Justice’ identifies two “principles of justice” that should “apply to the basic structure of society and govern the assignments of rights and duties and regulate the distribution of social and economic advantages”. First, “each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all”; second, “social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle, and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity”.
Liberal and social democracies are built upon such principles, though the relative emphasis placed on the second principle varies widely, and the nature of the critical link between the two principles is perceived differently in individual contexts. Principles of justice are the theoretical foundations of society; they are ideals that are never completely or everlastingly achieved but must nonetheless be pursued by Governments and citizens.
Q. In the covid era how have you adapted. How do you see yourself forging ahead as well.
A. In these unprecedented times, what we need is an indefatigable spirit . We need to lend a helping hand. Be socially available to each other while physically distancing ourselves. The legal profession has undergone a tectonic shift. Technology has come to the rescue with majority of virtual court hearings . In a post-pandemic world, we will rely more heavily on technology, which is where the next generation of legal professionals will excel.