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Women In India Are Blessed, Our Scriptures Like Manusmriti Have Given Women Respectable Position : Justice Pratibha Singh

11 Aug 2022 3:52 PM GMT
IBC Pecuniary Jurisdiction

Justice Prathiba M. Singh

"I think we are a blessed lot of women in India and the reason for that is that our Scriptures have always given a very respectable position for women. As Manusmriti itself says that if you don't respect women and honour them, all the 'puja-paath' that you do has no meaning. I think our ancestors and the vedic Scriptures knew very well how to respect women and how to take care of women and my experience whether in India or in foreign countries has told me that. When you speak to your counterparts in different countries of the world, at a very personal level, whether it is my classmates from Cambridge or very close professionals from different countries, I can tell you that in fact the Asian countries do much better in respecting women- in household, in workplaces, and in society in general. That is because of the cultural and religious background that we have, what our Scriptures tell us", Justice Pratibha Singh has remarked.

The Delhi High Court judge was speaking at a conference organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) on the subject 'Facing the unseen barriers: Addressing Challenges faced by Women in Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship and Mathematics (STEM)'
"My grandmother was a business woman. She ensured that I went to Cambridge. And in 1991, and without my own parents by being there. She said 'nothing doing' and she sent me to Cambridge. My mother-in-law has taken care of my children. Without them, I would not have been able to achieve...Because of their heartedness, we have been able to be where we are. The women, and equally the men, play a very important role in our lives to be where we are, to achieve what we want to get here. I had authored a piece called 'Missing women in scientific research' a few years ago. That showed a very startling contrast. I want to give some facts and statistics to drive home the point I am trying to make. More than 50% of the undergraduate STEM students in India are girls. In B.Tech, it is 42%. M.Tech, 63%. Medicine and health related causes, 30 to 35%. In engineering, computer science, it is 19%. And these are from 2018-19. In India over all, the STEM graduates are 43% at the undergrad 1st degree level. Whereas in the US, it is 34%, 38% in the UK, 27% in Germany, France is 32%. This is a World Bank report. So India is 43%. That means we are educating our girls properly. In educational institutions, in fact I remember when I completed my 12th, I did my sciences in 11th and 12th, the natural subject and discipline for women was science- whether it is medicine, physics or chemistry. So you would do a B.Sc. or biotechnology or medicine. Engineering of course was more for boys. But the thing for women was science. If they didn't take science, it was like 'why are you not taking science?'. It was considered surprising why girls are not taking science. Biology, zoology, botany, etc- these subjects were a natural choice"
"If you look at research papers written in India, the number is appalling. Just 3.4% are women authors. So where have all the 40% women gone? It is just so contrasting. I was shocked myself that it was so startling. If you take joint authorship, then it is 47%. Somewhere down the line as a team, there are women. But as individual authors, they are unable to come out on their own. Out of 3.42 lakhs of R&D scientists, 56,000 were women. So that is about 1/6. Now let us look at filings of patents. A WIPO study shows that China has the largest number of female inventors in the last 20 years which is about 10 to 14%. France has the largest population of female inventors, around 16%. UK is about 8 to 11%. In measurement technology, the largest proportion of women, and biological materials is 34%, medical technology is 23%, otherwise consumer goods etc, it is only 7%. So if we see in PCT filings and patent filings globally, women are not much. In India, out of approximately three lakh patent applications, about 60,000 named women as inventors. Again it is about 1/6. In India, out of 1000 patent applications which are filed, 5% name women as inventors. Only 5%. So 95% did not have women as inventors...Contrast this with women in general by nature. Women are very, very invented. They are creative. It is quite intuitive for women to be inventive. Look at your own household. Do you measure the amount of salt and sugar that you put in any dish? You don't. Your mother, your grandmother, nobody ever measured it. But they do the right thing. Modern women, do they need to be told how much time the microwave needs to be switched on to heat up the chicken or a Dal. They go intuitively that 2 to 3 minutes is enough, or that for this much, 10 minutes is enough. Mentally, we are very inventive and creative. But why is it that we are not able to translate our own inventiveness, innovative mindset into actual material inventions which can be commercialised which can help women in making more progress in society and in their own business?"
"There is a bias- for example, there are articles written about how the nobel committee has ignored women inventors. For example, the discovery of principles of nuclear fusion, the Wu experiment, non-recognition of Rosalind Franklin for her discovery of structure of the DNA.These are path-breaking inventions but never won the Nobel prize. Why? Is there a bias globally, is there a bias in society? Closer home, I am very happy to say that India has recognised the contribution of women- for example, in the Mars mission, we all know that when the press conferences were held, we saw the large number of women engineers, women scientists, space engineers who were there on the stage, on the dias. So we are recognising them, it is happening. So I really think we are lucky to be in a country like India- India is actually much, much more progressive about women being in leadership roles. I am not saying we need to ignore the violence and the bad things that happen to women at a lower level. But at the higher level and the middle level, we are seeing women grow. We need to have that and perceive that really well. My best friend is an American, in the US, practising law, and now she has moved on to her own practice-she used to tell me when we were studying that it is almost impossible for a woman to dream to be a partner in a major Law Firm. That may be true even today. It has not changed. Any major Law Firm, if you find 50 men, you will find 2 women. The disparity is so big"
"So what are we doing about women and what should we do about women coming into innovation and in the stem field? Look at the amount of investment the system is making. While we educate all women in IITs, central universities, state-sponsored universities, 40 to 50% women are being educated in science. We talk about brain drain. Do we know that the hidden brain drain is in India because we have not allowed our women to come out and to contribute into the GDP? We are looking at hundred students coming out of stem background, 50 completely disappearing and out of the remaining 50, the best ones go off abroad. So out of hundred, we only have about 30% actually contributing to the GDP. Imagine that if from the 50 women, we could gradually scale it to 20, 30, 40%. So instead of 30, you are looking at 60-70% contributing to the GDP. Can you imagine what level of that contribution would be? Why we are ignoring it, cannot fathom the reason for it. I agree it is not about empowerment, it is about putting the best systems in place to ensure that the systems are women friendly, the systems are flexible enough to allow women to come up and use their educational qualifications to contribute to the country's progress...I remember there is one scheme which was launched by the Department of science and technology where women who are housewives and were not working, who have scientific qualifications, they are trained as patent agents. I have been associated with the scheme for the last 15 years. It is called Kiran IPR. Every year, I try to go to that event. There is a long program. I think that scheme is very good because all housewives get trained as patent agents and believe me, almost 90-100% are getting employment. There are various other schemes- Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions, Curie initiative started by the Department of science and technology, BioCARe, SERB, Indo-US fellowship for women in stem. But they need to be scaled up maybe 200 times. We are on the right path but we need to scale them up big time. Let us do that. A lot of women who are science graduates may have had children and now the children maybe in school, they might be wondering what we need to do, we don't want to just sit at home because the children are now independent. They can contribute a lot. It is forums like this that we need to use, tap the untapped potential and make sure that we provide the ecosystem for women coming to the main field and contributing"
"Let me tell you about law for a few minutes. Because we talk about women in Law a lot. There was this social taboo, I think it is there even now. When I used to have a large number of women who were my juniors and colleagues, by the time they used to finish 2 to 3 years of experience and reach marriageable age, their parents used to come and say that 'madam, please get them a job, if they work in the court, they will not be able to get married'. There was a taboo- it is there even now- that women in law, lawyers would keep arguing at home. In fact it is the contrary. I think women who are lawyers actually know the big problems in the courts and they know they don't want those problems for themselves in their homes. Lawyer women are the best wives because they behave and they know they don't want their case going to the court", she added in a lighter vein.
"There was a very interesting anecdote by Justice Leila Seth. She was one of the first women judges in the Delhi High Court. I repeat this in a number of forums but it is important for you to hear it. One day she was holding court in the Delhi High Court and she suddenly saw a large number of villagers, farmers coming to her court. They all sat at the back. She enquired from her Court Master as to why they all are here. She was told that all these farmers had come from different parts of the country on the invitation of the government to see Delhi and to see the capital sites. So they went to the zoo in Sunder Nagar and then they came to the High Court to see a woman judge. That was the case then. Today in almost all the High Courts (there are women judges). Here, in the Delhi High Court, we have 12 women judges. In Madras High Court, it is even higher- about 14", narrated Justice Singh.
"We are a big community of judges and lawyers who are women and what we have done is similar to what you are now planning. So there are forums that we have created where we have regular interactions with women lawyers, young budding lawyers who want to litigate. So we, the older women, encourage them to come into law and to do litigation. Almost all law firms have women groups. I think there is a huge opportunity in the field of innovation to do mentorship, we should create this as a permanent forum. For example, I know there is one forum in the US called 'Women in Innovation USA', WIN USA, where all the women involved in different scientific fields get together, they hold monthly meetings, annual meetings, women innovation awards. You have laid the seed, so keep scaling this up. We should have programmes in universities and colleges, encourage stem graduates to continue research and innovation and not to go into stock market and finance and equities. In fact it is really strange why all our engineers land up in the Pricewaterhouse's' and EY's'. I think engineers should stay in engineering and do more innovation. Also, the members of such forums should not be just scientists, you need funding people, you need IPR experts, you need bankers, you need youngsters in 20s and 30s who have the time to help these women", she explained
Continuing, Justice Singh canvassed, "I really believe we can do a lot for women, we are on the right path. I want to say from my personal experience that women should not seek sympathy at all ever. Don't ever go and say 'My child is ill, so I want to go home, I want to do this, I want to do that'. You can always take an off but never give the reason. You can just say it is a personal difficulty. The more you repeat the reason, the more it becomes a chronic thing that men keep mentioning all the time. So don't mention. When men take an off, do they give a reason? No. So why would you give a reason? Secondly, always engage enough domestic help. Keep domestic help, keep a driver, spend a little more. And don't keep one so that it does not become a point of tension for you when the domestic help is on an off. Keep 2. Spend a little more. You will be empowering them also. And then you don't need to take an off that day. Number three, the most important thing which our girls don't realise is living in joint families. That is our tradition and that tradition in our country should continue. It should continue because nuclear families are not the way to go for women. Joint families is what promotes women. It is the men in those joint families who promote women because they are older, wiser, whether it is the father or the fathers-in-law, the uncles, the husbands. Even our own sons. They feel proud that the women are doing well. They feel that the sisters and mothers are doing well. So please start encouraging and tuning yourself to live in the joint family system. That way we share our resources. We do not need to be selfish to say that I need my time, I need this etc. You can be a little more adjusting and compromising but the benefits of a joint family system are far more than what in a nuclear family. You will be less nagging if you are in a joint family system. The tension of raising children, running a family is a lot on women and on men. We don't want to be nagging people at home all the time. We should be caring, we should be stronger than that and when there are more people who can take away your tension, who can share your problems with you, the stress also reduces quite a bit. So a larger family is the way to go and especially for women who want to have careers, I think it really helps. Compromising and adjustment- we don't need to compromise on our basic values but adjust with your elders, with your in-laws, with your parents. I must tell you that recently I have seen a large number of men agreeing for their wife's parents to stay with them. It never used to happen 20 years ago. Now they are very happy. There are only one or two children that the parents have, so in their old age, if they can live with the family, if the husband's family is not there, why not the wife's family? There is nothing wrong in it. If the children grow up with the 'Nana Nani', there is nothing wrong with it. I think we need to strengthen our own core values of our family system which has evolved over centuries in our country and not break them and keep them together in order to ensure that women are able to achieve their dreams"
"And I think India is really well poised to achieve and to encourage its women; we do not have very backward thinking in that sense. Our Scriptures have given us the right way. For example, closer home, in the 'Gurubani', Guru Nanak said (Justice Singh quoted a teaching from the 'Gurubani' in Punjabi)...Wherever women are honoured, it makes it prosperous. India will also be 'abaad' (prosperous), if it respects its women and gives them the right systems", she signed off.

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