A few weeks ago, I saw the photo of the newly sculpted Lady Justice in our Supreme Court Premises, Dhaka. There is something different about the particular depiction of Lady Justice that stands in front of the Supreme Court. The universal picture of Lady Justice is imbedded into all our minds. Her gown-clad blindfolded statue holds a sword and a scale in her hands. The depiction is quintessentially Greek for it stands as the Greek goddess Themis, an allegorical embodiment of the moral force in judicial systems.
However, the statue in our court premises is Shari-clad, conveying her to be a Bangladeshi prototype of Themis. There is a bold message resonating within it and I am hopefully not reading too much into it. I would like to commend everyone involved in letting this statue go up in the same time when our education board was busy taking us backwards by responding to the demands from few religious groups. They are now protesting to get Lady Justice removed from the court premises. Some are questioning the rationality of a female representation of justice. Adding an ingenious point of need for gender equality in the justice system, they are asking why there would only be the statue of a female and not of a male too. It is well settled that the universal exemplification of morality in judicial system is done through a Lady named Justice and we simply have abided by that, if anything moulded it to personalise it.
There are currently less than seven percent female judges in the Supreme Court. The legal profession is highly arduous, the formative years require putting one's best to the seniors. It is quite logically perceived that female newcomers will be unable to put in the same amount of hours as her male counterpart due to familial and societal constraints. Therefore, given the choice between a qualified female newcomer and a less qualified male one, most chambers will probably go for the latter. The number of female law students who graduate never materialise in the same percentage in profession. But female representation is of extraordinary significance in the age of Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky whose too lenient rape sentence for Brock Turner created public outcry.
The US President has signed an executive order as to what women can do with their reproductive organ without any female representation. The defences to rape even in the UK, i.e. 'belief in consent' are carefully nurtured loopholes in a system run by men; the infamous Two Finger Test for rape identification in Bangladesh (recently declared illegal by the Supreme Court) used to put the victims under unnecessary physical violation after she has allegedly gone through the ordeal of rape.
This brings me back to our representation of Themis. She is the epitome of our own home-grown feminism which has never bothered about any waves, it has simply been based on pulling women up in the socio-economic and political hierarchy. So while I see a flicker of hope in the masterwork of Sculptor Mrinal Haque, it shakes the interest of few religious groups. They have had their way in injecting patriarchal norms in children's minds, now they are demanding to get the statue removed. To that I would like to say in the same manner as my favourite pop culture icon, The Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, I dissent.
Anupoma Joyeeta Joyee
Student of Law, University of London International Programmes.