Sexual harassment and a lack of maternity leave and day care centres are among reasons cited for the high attrition rate amongst women lawyers in India
By Anuradha Nagaraj
CHENNAI, India, April 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - India's Supreme Court will set-up a daycare centre for its staff, which advocates said will increase the number of women in the workforce by setting an example for others to follow.
Female participation in India's workforce has been declining in recent years, according to the United Nations agency for gender equality, UN Women.
Only 22 percent of women work in the formal economy, well below the global average of 47 percent, UN Women said.
The Supreme Court crèche will be inaugurated on May 1 and open to both lawyers and court staff, said Anindita Pujari, who filed a petition for the court to provide care facilities.
"I have seen many of my colleagues who have left the profession, because there was no such facility available," said Pujari, a practicing lawyer and mother of a 7-year-old daughter.
India more than doubled maternity leave last year and required organisations with more than 50 employees to provide crèches.
"Even I have struggled, leaving my infant with the nanny in the lawns of the Supreme Court while I dashed in and out of hearings," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from New Delhi on Thursday.
"Many of my colleagues would sit in their cars in searing summer heat to feed their babies before going back to court."
Sexual harassment and a lack of maternity leave and day care centres are among reasons cited for the high attrition rate amongst women lawyers in India.
Only about 10 percent of lawyers are women, and only 3 percent are senior advocates in the Supreme Court, according to a February report by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, a New Delhi-based legal research organisation.
In its 68 years of existence, the Supreme Court has only elevated one woman from the bar to the bench, which happened earlier this year, the report stated.
In 2012, more than 100 Supreme Court advocates launched a signature campaign demanding a daycare facility.
"The court did allot some space for a crèche, but it was just a room with two mattresses on the floor and windows that wouldn't open," Pujari said.
The unsatisfactory response prompted her to file a petition in 2015 demanding a proper facility with trained staff.
In a Twitter post, Supreme Court advocate Indira Jaising described the court's decision to provide a crèche as "a stunning success", and said courts throughout the country should follow suit.
(Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Jared Ferrie
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