when I joined the profession, it was tough, as there was not even a single law officer
Apparently, like any other male dominated fields, there is an obtrusive gender gap in judiciary. Being a woman in the same field with her persevarance and capabilities Priya Hingorani is a renowned lawyer and human rights champion who has argued several landmark cases dealing with crime and various issues concerning women. For almost three decades this senior lawyer has been fighting for justice in the field of Human Rights, crime and pivotal issues related to women. In a special interview with Sulabh Swachh Bharat, Priya Hingorani shed light on society and justice. Here are some excerpts:
You have been in this profession since 26-27 years. What are the challenges you had to face in this male dominated field?
No doubt, it has always been a men dominated field. When i joined in 1990, we had to double our efforts to prove ourselves. I reckon those were the days when there was not even a single lady law officer.Judges were also less in number. During those days acceptance was apparent. But there was an urge to prove ourselves equal to men, thatwe can also excel in this field. However, in the year 1961 when my mother Kapila Hingorani joined Supreme Court there were only four women in the court. During that time the survival was tough. It is a matter of relief that women don’t have to face such issues now. But still challenges prevail. I have been advocatingwomen’s rights since a long time. These days i am imparting training on sexual harrasment issues to women in MNC’s of Hyderabad,Bengaluru, Gurugram and many other places. I am also giving advice to women on surrogacy.
You have been advocating for women rights since a long time. There are many stringent laws protecting women. But in cases of eveteasing and molestation, the laxity in attitude of police is quite challenging.
The laws are quite strict for women as Justice Verma Committee report and various amendments have changed the situation to a major extent. Under IPC, new sections have been added for eve teasing, molestation, and stalking. A new act has been formulated for sexual harassment. If those who are in power exploit women, there are separate provisions for that. After Tarun Tejpal’s case a new section was incorporated. Women can register Zero FIR in any police station on any crime against them. Action will be taken immediately.
As compared to big cities women still face trouble in registering FIR in small cities as the police ask a plethora of such questions that deters them from registering the case. What will be apposite to do in this arena?
If a police official denies registering FIR or asks unsuitable questions, in that case one can complain in the women’s cell of the police and call on the women helpline. In every city there is a vigilance cell. One can complain about the same police official by his name in that cell. Within 24 hours, proceeding will begin against the police official.
Do you think the present laws regarding women are appropriate or are there still a need of amendment according to you?
The provisions are appropriate as per the present scenario, as in many cases women misuse their rights. Especially in consensual relationships (live in as per mutual decision) women misuse it. Because when a man refuses to marry due to mutual differences or any reason,women file false rape cases. In this case, the law is more often misused than used as intended. But all other laws are empowering women.
Since the last few decades there have been a large number of divorce cases. What do you think are the reasons behind that?
There are many reasons.Youngsters and elite families lack patience. Their economic independence makes them fearless. Whereas, in middleclass families, after several years of marriage,they request for divorce. Violence and extramarital relations are major reasons and now there is no stigma attached to divorce, which makes it easier.
Be it the fear of unsuccessful marriage or any other reason, these youngsters prefer to live single these days. What are your views?
I am also single and am still enjoying my life. But that certainly does not mean that I amagainst marriage. Infact, I believe marriage is a beautiful institution. According to me, if you get the right life partner youshould surely get married. In our country, especially for our parents, marriage is their ultimate goal. However, wrong marriages lead to divorce.
It is often seen that it takes a long time in court to concluded a divorce petition. Why is it so?
After filing divorce petition both the parties are made to meet a counselor in the family court. At each stage there is anattempt for settlement. They try to resolve the issues through mutual understanding. In many cases people come opt for settlement. But if one side is not ready the case may take 4-5 years in court. If both parties are ready for mutual divorce, it is resolved in shorter time.
According to Hindu Law, a couple can get a divorce with mutual understanding and judicial assistance. But what are your views on the triple talaq in Muslim law, and its potential changes?
There is no problem in the Muslim law as long as the actual procedure of divorce is followed. According to the Muslim law, when ‘talaq’ is said for the first time, the couple is supposed to consult a councillor. Both partners are given time to think it over. If ‘talaq’ is uttered again, the same procedure is to be repeated. The couple can get divorced if they still want to be separated after the counselling and reconciliation period. However, in reality the procedures and stages are almost never followed. Without the women’s consent, men end the relationship byrepeating ‘talaq’ three times. Muslim law board says the procedure is followed, hence the practice is fine. But IsratBano and many more women like her say nothing of that sort happens. Triple talaq is declared and they are evicted out of their own houses. In Hindu law, a couple can re-marry their spouse after divorce. But in Muslim law, in order to re-marry the ex-husband, the woman has to follow ‘Iddat’, according to which, the women has to marry another man and divorce them, only then can they get back with their former husband. It’s outright wrong. All the rules are made for women, not for men. This is the reason the triple talaqsystem needs review. Anyway, we will look for the solutions through the Supreme Court hearings.
Along with human rights and women’s rights, these days you are also spreading awareness amongst the women about surrogacy. What are your thoughts on the surrogacy laws in India?
Presently, there is no law regarding surrogacy in India.However, we are trying. The bill is pending in the parliament, but there are some issues. Surrogacy has become a huge market these days. We are also opposing the commercialisation of surrogacy. That is because, as of now, the surrogate’s healthcare is not taken care of, neither is there any post pregnancy compensation for them. They don’t even avail proper medical facility. These days fertility clinics have made a package, they give a part of the total money to the surrogate mother while they keep the rest of it, or they hire a middleman. The agreement is highly secretive. The agreement between the couple and surrogate mother doesn’t mention the amount of money involved. This requires transparency, and it’s important to avail post delivery compensation for the surrogate mother.
Certainly you have done a lot of good work over the last three decades, but what would you have chosen for a career if not advocacy?
This is actually my family profession. Both my parents, father NH Hingorani and mother KapilHingorani, were well known advocates in the Supreme Court. I have grown up listening to lawyer’s rants and words like law, advocacy and justice. So, it was inevitable for me to join the practice. But if I hadn’t joined advocacy, I would have certainly joined the police force, because I love
You are fighting for rights fearlessly.In this era, what message would you like to give to your fellow women?
Be strong, fight for your rights. Women should be aware. Create awareness for each other. Help each other. I for one want all women to be self sufficient, live on their own and give good morals to their kids. I never fear, all I want is no women should fear anything.
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