The Sotomayor saga and gender justice

SONIA SOTOMAYOR: A symbol of gender power

SONIA SOTOMAYOR: A symbol of gender power   | Photo Credit: AP


Sonia Maria Sotomayor is a great Judge, and I salute her. Sworn in a Justice of the United States Supreme Court on August 8, she is the 111th Justice of that court, its first Hispanic Justice and only the third woman to hold the post.

She is a symbol of gender power, a fine paradigm of feminine title to judicial authority to dispense justice at the national level. The glory is not only for womanhood in the U.S., she is now a symbol of woman’s super-stature in gender performance across all of humanity. Sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court Bench, she will be an inspiration for women in all countries whose claims to office are often neglected because the masculine gender occupies an unjust majority in all the three great constitutional instrumentalities. Even among judges in Victorian England women were rarely elevated to the high bench.

This wise, graceful and egalitarian nomination made by President Barack Obama is a bold assertion of the equality of the sexes. It is proof of the women’s liberation movement which is part of a broad liberation movement initiated by women the world over to improve their social position by freeing themselves from the constraints and disadvantages of a society said to be dominated by men. The ‘women’s lib’ movement has strong roots in the U.S. and Europe.

Manmohan Singh’s whole structural ethos remains quite a distance from the socialist revolution in the USSR which could raise the status of both sexes: Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to go into outer space.

In India, there is a printed declaration of equality of sexes as a fundamental right, but only 0.5 per cent of judges are women. In C.B. Muthamma v. Union of India and Ors (1979 SCC (4) 260), women were found to be discriminated against in the foreign service rules even in the matter of right to matrimony. If a woman Indian Foreign Service officer married, she had to resign, while a man who wed conjugal life did not need to do so. There was no valid ground for this discrimination. As a Judge of the Supreme Court I stuck down this disparity in Ms Muthamma’s case. For the state it was argued by Soli Sorabjee, who fairly conceded the impropriety.

Only in a rare instance did India, a democracy, have a woman Prime Minister. Half of humanity comprises women, and yet no political party even in this democracy supports the cause of a third of the number of legislators being women.

The social revolution should begin with an equal share for women in constitutional instrumentalities and the learned professions sharing state power. Rama’s treatment of Sita was unfair, and he eventually submitted her to forest-life based on rumours.

In the cultural epics of India, polygamy was the privilege of the kings while monogamy was strictly enforced for women.

Sonia Sotomayor is indeed a majestic challenge to this discriminatory cosmic pathology. In India, the unconstitutionality between the sexes is rampant even in Parliament, notwithstanding Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. President Pratibha Patil became a ceremonial celebrity by chance — these are but exceptions. And none of this is anywhere near Queen Elizabeth or Queen Victoria in terms of power. Our socialist Republic has promises to keep and miles to go before it can claim to fulfil the spirit of even the Preamble to the Constitution.

Parliament has failed disgracefully in not approving a law to let women take one-third of the positions of MPs. In the next elections, any party that does not include this promise in its manifesto should be “de-voted” by women: they should instead vote for candidates who promise to support the cause.

This does not mean reservation without merit. Sonia Sotomayor was chosen by Mr. Obama because she met the standards as a highly qualified person and will surely be a luminous celebrity as a distinguished jurist. Justice Sotomayor has lived the American Dream. Born and raised in a South Bronx housing project, she distinguished herself in academia and then as a hard-charging New York District Attorney.

Justice Sotomayor has gone on to earn bipartisan acclaim as one of America’s finest legal minds. As a Supreme Court Justice, she will bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any Justice in a hundred years. She will show fidelity to the Constitution and draw on a commonsensical understanding of how the law affects day-to-day lives.

In India, too, if only the collegium, which has no constitutional status except a bizarre precedent with a narrow majority which binds nevertheless, adopted merit as a ground for selection! Many candidates, men and women, have been chosen on the basis of irrelevant personal affection, personal favouritism, party support and nepotism and close relationships. Many of the judges now selected can be replaced by better ones, but a weak executive itself lacking in merit of the highest order submits to a syndrome of dynastic and other unhappy considerations. Women of exceptional merit at the Bar and who have a record of academic excellence are available but miss the Bench since they are women.

Women should awake and arise. They should not stop till their equal status is secured.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 10:31:57 AM |

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