By Asif Kalam
The Supreme Court Women Lawyers’ Association (SCWLA) was in the news last year when it moved the Supreme Court to be made a party in a controversial PIL filed by lawyer Kamlesh Vaswani calling for a ban on porn. This week the SCWLA kicked up a storm when in an affidavit filed in connection with this PIL, Prerna Kumari, senior advocate and General Secretary of the SCWLA, suggested that the Government levy a fee on users to access porn, and said, “Also people like auto-drivers and people belonging to similar strata of the society will have restricted access to online pornography. Also, it can be a great revenue generating model for the government.”
We asked Kumari about the PIL, the SCWLA, and its activities. Kumari has, since her startling classist remarks, become cagey about talking about porn. However, we did get a sense of how representative the association is of women lawyers in the Supreme Court. Edited excerpts of the interview.
You and SCWLA are in the news after a comment made in connection with the PIL for banning porn.
The bytes that appeared in the media are misrepresented. We have decided we won’t comment on the PIL as it is sub judice until 23rd August, when it will be heard. The PIL was originally filed by Kamlesh Vaswani, and the SCWLA joined as a party later. While the original PIL wanted a complete ban on porn, we have suggested to the government that they implement some kind of filtering, and want some conditions enforced on accessing porn.
When was the Supreme Court Women Lawyers’ Association first set up? What are its goals?
The SCWLA is an association of women lawyers, founded in 2013. Our aim is to protect the rights of women and children all across India. We also want to stand up for the rights of women lawyers in the country.
Membership is open to women lawyers from all over India, provided they are registered with a state bar council. But office bearers of the SCWLA will be always from the Supreme Court. We have about 300 members, out of which around 100 are from the Supreme Court, and the rest from other bars.
How many women lawyers are there in the Supreme Court?
Around 500 to 600.
Is there any other association of women lawyers of the Supreme Court?
No. There is the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Supreme Court Advocates-On-Record Association, but we are the only association of women lawyers in the Supreme Court.
We want more people to know about us and reach out to us for help. We have put up a website for SCWLA.
What kind of work does the SCWLA do?
We are working with victims of domestic violence and sexual harassment. We also work on the issue of child beggars. While following up on it we were shocked to discover that there is a serious nexus of human trafficking involving some very powerful people.
Among other things, we have filed a PIL against the lawyer M.L. Sharma for making derogatory remarks against women in the documentary India’s Daughter. It is up for hearing on 8th August.
You’ve also been part of a PIL asking the Kerala Government to lift the ban on the entry of women aged between 10 and 50 to the Sabarimala temple.
It is not associated with SCWLA. It was filed in 2006, with five of us as individual petitioners. It has been through a few hearings and now it is waiting to be heard before a larger bench.