In a virtual event to mark the celebration of the United Nations International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women, a diverse panel discussed the possible reasons for gender inequality in the society and how it percolates into violence..The panel consisted of Justice AK Sikri, former judge of Supreme Court, Senior Advocates Madhavi Divan and Meenakshi Arora, Bollywood actress Shabana Azmi and Baroness Verma, Member of the House of Lords, UK. .In his address, retired Justice AK Sikri elaborated on the Constitutional perspective of equality. He said, “When Constitution speaks of equality, it is based on dignity." .He added that there are three aspects to dignity, i.e.:respect for her capacity as an agent to make her own free choices.respect for the choices so made, andrespect for ones need to have contacts and conditions in which she can operate as a free and informed choice.He observed, "it is all aimed at empowerment. Inspite of that why do we have violence and how can men subjugate?”.As the only male member on the panel, he was asked on how men can ensure there is no violence against women. He suggested,“Boys should taught about respecting women. The mothers have to take very important role in bringing up their male children from the very beginning. Men should give helping hand to women. Glass ceiling which subjects women to discrimination must be shattered.”.He confessed that even he has wondered why have these discussions at all or the laws on domestic violence, on sexual harassment, anti-dowry laws etc. He opined that the existence of these laws reaffirmed the fact that there is sexual discrimination. He expressed hope that if the society can change its mindset to bring about gender equality, then they would no longer need such laws..Justice Sikri further opined that Judges need to be sensitised.“We have judicial academies. Judges, when they want to do justice, have to understand and have a feminist attitude.”.On being asked how important it is for the courts to interfere in cases where women have been deprived of equality or freedom, he remarked that judges will have to intervene, keeping in mind that the rights of women have to be considered as human rights..Bollywood actor, Shabana Azmi reasoned that violence against women is rooted in the gender inequality prevailing through social and cultural traditions that women face throughout their life. ."These deeply patriarchal values deeply entrenched, which privilege male child for just being born, leads to a whole series of discrimination that girl child faces right from her right to be born. … I have seen that patriarchy works in the way the male child is brought up feeling entitled and privileged. What we need to do is redefine masculinity. Why is it only about power or why is it only about wielding muscles? Why is it not about sympathy or gentleness?”.She opined that when women start earning their own money, their status quo in the family changes. This way, the woman not only earns money but also has the right how to spend that money. That changes her status, Azmi pointed out..Azmi also expressed that laws against sexual violence is not sufficient to tackle the problem. She remarked,“Just laws by themselves cannot make a difference.. How many women have access to those laws? How many women when they go in to report cases against violence, sexual violence is looked upon as the reason for that violence, you start blaming the victim, and so then perpetrate the violence.".She opined further that adding female staff in law enforcement agencies was also not enough."We have said very often, if we have more women in police force, then they will be more empathetic to the women, but my experience is unless they have gone through a process of socialising where they understand, they will tend to repeat all patriarchal values of the society.”.Azmi concluded by endorsing zero tolerance for violence. "If your daughter comes with a complaint to you, do not send her back into that marriage. Make sure you tell the man clearly and forcefully that if he raises his hand on the girl, he will land up in the police station", she said..Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan opined that violence was only the tip of the iceberg - a very obvious physical manifestation of something deeply embedded in our psyche including that of women. She said:.“Violence is a manifestation of a churn in the society at some level. But it is also men coming to terms with the fact that for the last 50-60 years, women have made enormous progress because they are asserting themselves - whether it comes to marital choices or career choices, competing for the same jobs. And it is not unnatural that men should feel threatened about that. And perhaps they respond in the way they know best which is an assertion of physical and sexual power.”.She expressed her surprise and concern over the patriarchal mindsets of higher authorities in the law enforcement agencies. She recollected an incident from a newspaper report pertaining to the various gatherings that Nirbhaya's parents addressed about the unfortunate incident on their daughter. .Divan was shocked to read that a former Director General of Police of Karnataka supposedly passed comments on Nirbhaya’s mother on the lines that ‘if the mother was so attractive, imagine how attractive the daughter would have been’..Remembering her days as a young counsel in the Bombay High Court, Divan remarked “... the attitude at the Bar especially for a female lawyer whose husband is reasonably well placed - the attitude of men was that 'It is our bread and butter, it is your jam.' A woman doesn’t really need to be there and whatever she gets is a bit of a bonus." .She said that such attitude prevails even today and that it would take much longer to dispel these thoughts..She proposed that the act of changing mindsets needs to start young. "It is easier to change mindset starting the age of 4, 5 or 6 because it is difficult to change mindset of people occupying the position of power”, she said..On being asked of the importance of women mentoring women in the legal profession, Divan confessed that most of her mentors had been men. .She candidly added that “most women have not been kind to other women in the field, possibly because they are adjusting for that little space that there might be for any women at the top. So it is very competitive in that little space.”.She concluded by referring to her bit to achieving gender parity by starting her own chambers. .She said, “it is important for young men to also see how women function.”.Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora began her address by stating that the day a gender equal society is created, violence will be eliminated automatically. .She proposed that “it is time for women to have proportionate political representation if we wish to create a society where gender is equal.”.She added:.“Various laws and legal instruments have been issued to grant women the rights. You make these documents to say you are granting these rights to women as if these are benefits conferred upon us. Given that these rights are inalienable, immutable, they are inherent within us - it is a pity that many of such legislations are in the form as though these are endowed upon us instead of being recognised as pre-existing rights.".She said that "these laws granting us rights often represent what the men’s version of what our rights and remedies ought to be and to what extent are we entitled to exercise them." .She reasoned that this lack of understanding and concern for women's issues was only because of limited female representation in the law making bodies..She referred to incidents globally where male dominated societies had taken slow and disinterested efforts to confirm the rights of women and failing to acknowledge that the rights already exisitng for the women had been unfairly taken away..She pondered, “... are women so unimportant that the elected representatives have no time to frame legislations significantly important to us to bring about gender equality? But it hit me like a brick on my head that our parliament is much more, like everywhere, an old boys’ club!” .Arora relied upon statistics of the sex ratio in parliaments over the world to prove how it will be faster to attain gender equality if parliaments begin reserving seats for women. She believed that eventually, the number of female representatives will grow beyond their reserved seats. .She relied on countries like Rwanda, Cuba, etc which had more than 50% females in the legislature and spoke of how they had managed to turn their governance around..“Legislative arena needs women participation because it needs a female perspective, which it is lacking”, she said..She reiterated Divan’s perspective that training of the mindset has to start early. .“Children are building blocks of the society sans any gender stereotypes. Those stereotypes come later when we grow up, but children do not recognise gender stereotypes.”.She added, “We should strive for a world where treating women as an equal subject is ingrained in the society rather than being an obligation of the law.”.Baroness Verma Member of House of Lords, UK commenced her speech by pointing out that the pandemic has managed to lift the lid on the disparity of access to services to girls and women. She added that these huge gaps need to be focused on..She observed, “We have looked at inequality in silos. Till we can get institutions wrapped around the idea that 51% population in the world are female... how will there be any change?”.Verma agreed to Arora’s address on the need for more women in politics because she believed it was the elected representatives who will have to ensure that gender equalising work gets effectuated into policy decisions. .She also stressed on the importance of diversity of women representatives in politics.It shouldn’t just be people who know people, she remarked..She pointed out that the representation of women on institutional boards was abysmal throughout the world, observing. .“If I look around other countries, the numbers are incredibly poor simply because it is convenient to keep in place the people who look like you, sound like you and agree with everything you do. We don’t have to then worry about how you work out a flexible working date, how do you work out safe spaces for women if they feel they are under threat.”.As she concluded her address, she also observed:"... the laws which exist are not implemented because the people who implement them cannot understand the law then there will be serious problems. No matter what the judges and barristers try to act on your behalf, institutional problems is where the gaps lie and those have to be remedied.”.Virendra Sharma, Chairman of of the Indo-British All Party Group rendered the welcome address and vote of thanks. Sanam Arora, Founder of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union, UK and Advocate Tanvi Dubey moderated the session.