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Removing Gender Stereotypes from The Law 

The Supreme Court has released a new handbook to guide the judiciary, Removing gender stereotypes from the law ...


The Supreme Court has released a new handbook to guide the judiciary and the legal community on how to avoid using gender-unjust terms that are prevalent in Indian courts.

More information the news

  • Aim of the handbook: Handbook on Combating Gender Stereotypes aims to free the judiciary and the legal community from the mechanical application of gender stereotypical language in judgments, orders, and court pleadings.
    • It “aims to assist judges and the legal community in identifying, understanding and combating stereotypes about women”.
  • Handbook contains: It contains a glossary of gender-unjust terms and suggests alternative words or phrases which may be used while drafting pleadings as well as orders and judgments.
    • Some of the other terms that the handbook wants courts to avoid using are adulteress, bastard, career woman, carnal intercourse, concubine/keep, housewife, mistress, prostitute,  transsexual and unwed mother.

Issues with stereotypes

  • On a micro-level, stereotypes lead to exclusion and discrimination in workplaces, educational institutions, and public places.
  • They may also have an adverse impact on the mental health or professional performance of the members of the stereotyped group because they are aware that they are being viewed in a particular manner.
  • The use of stereotypes by judges also has the effect of entrenching and perpetuating stereotypes, creating a vicious cycle of injustice.

What is the significance?

  • Combats Gender Stereotypes: It aims to combat gender stereotypes in language used within the judiciary and legal community.
  • The Supreme Court suggests using more neutral and respectful terms like “woman,” “wife,” “street sexual harassment,” and “intersex” instead.
  • Promoting Equity and Justice: Promoting a more just and equitable society. He mentioned that relying on predetermined stereotypes in judicial decision-making goes against the duty of judges to decide cases impartially, based on their merits.
  • Addresses false assumptions: The handbook addresses false assumptions about women’s characteristics, such as the stereotype that women are overly emotional, illogical, and unable to make rational decisions.
  • It emphasizes that a person’s gender should not determine their capacity for rational thought.
  • Addresses Prejudices: The handbook discusses assumptions made about a woman’s character based on her clothing choices and sexual history.
  • These assumptions can influence how the court assesses her actions, particularly in cases involving sexual violence, and may undermine the importance of consent in such cases.
  • Significance of language: The Chief Justice pointed out that language used by judges reflects not only their interpretation of the law but also their perception of society.
  • The example of changing the term “pauper” to “indigent” in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 was cited to demonstrate how language can impact the dignity and humanity attributed to individuals.
  • The handbook aims to raise awareness about the role of language in perpetuating gender stereotypes within the legal system and provides guidance on using more respectful and neutral terms to promote fairness and equality.

Way Forward

  • Comprehensive Education: Revising educational curricula to challenge gender stereotypes and promote gender equality from an early age is crucial. Schools can play a pivotal role in shaping young minds and instilling values of respect, equality, and inclusion.
  • Media Representation: Encouraging the media to portray diverse and realistic gender roles and stories can help shape more accurate perceptions of individuals and their capabilities. Balanced and inclusive media representation can challenge stereotypes and expand people’s understanding of gender diversity.
  • Empowerment Programs: Implementing targeted empowerment programs for women that focus on economic, social, and political empowerment can help break down barriers and provide women with the tools they need to participate fully in society.
  • Legal Reforms: Strengthening and enforcing laws against gender-based discrimination and violence is essential. Effective legal frameworks provide a safety net for individuals facing discrimination and harassment, and they also send a strong message that such behaviours will not be tolerated.
  • Community Engagement: Involving communities in awareness campaigns, discussions, and workshops on gender equality can create a bottom-up movement for change. Engaging with local communities ensures that efforts are contextually relevant and have grassroots support.
  • Role Models: Highlighting stories of individuals who have successfully broken gender stereotypes can inspire others to challenge societal norms and pursue their aspirations without limitations.
  • Men’s Involvement: Engaging men and boys in discussions about dismantling stereotypes and promoting gender equality is crucial. Men can play a vital role in challenging and changing harmful attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate gender discrimination.

Read also:- Gender Gap Report 2023

Removing gender stereotypes from the law ,Removing gender stereotypes from the law 

Manasvi Patidar

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