Beyond the courtroom

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CHATLINE Prabha Sridevan, the fifth woman to become a judge of the Madras High Court talks to APARNA KARTHIKEYAN about her profession, passions and pursuits

Why is a women suspected of lying when she says she was raped, asks Justice Prabha Sridevan, former judge, Madras High Court. “The defence asks her very inconvenient questions. It calls for a detoxification, of all the mental baggage of myths and stereotypes, so that women can get justice at home, at work, and especially in courts.” In this freewheeling conversation, Prabha Sridevan — the fifth woman to become a judge of the Madras High Court — talks about her profession, passions and pursuits.

We start with the Delhi rape incident, which had the nation clamouring for justice, demanding fast-track courts and women’s police stations. “But if the persons who occupy these places are not sensitive, the purpose is defeated,” says Prabha. “When I became a judge,” she recalls, “an NGO called Sakshi called women High Court judges in India to Delhi for an equality education programme. I went on to become a trainer, and have been to several high-courts in India to train judicial officers. And this equality education helped me as a judge,” she says, recommending that the police, judges and Government officers, at all levels, undergo this training.

Pausing to pick the right words — Prabha’s literature background shines through in her incisive choices — she explains that dignity is all about treating another as an equal human being. “Why is it that when a man makes coffee at home, he is asked ‘you make the coffee here?’ in an insulting way? It is actually a wonderful thing! Once we change our society to be equal, automatically, everything will fall into place, and we will have a sensitive and enabling justice delivery system.”

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