Gender Stereotypes: The Supreme Court’s Guide

  • By issuing a special guide, the Supreme Court of India has made a big step towards challenging old views, particularly those hurting women.
  • In order to combat harmful attitudes, this guide proposes new phrases for lawyers and judges to use in court.

Combating Gender Stereotypes: A Handbook

  • The manual includes a list of biassed terminology as well as suggestions for better alternatives in legal papers.
  • Its primary goal is to provide legal professionals with the tools they need to “identify, understand, and challenge stereotypes about women.”
  • It comprises a list of terminology that encourage gender bias as well as alternative, more equitable terms for use in legal documents.

The Handbook’s Goal and Scope

  • Challenging Old Beliefs: The Supreme Court’s project, the ‘Handbook on Combating Gender preconceptions,’ attempts to eliminate outdated and harmful preconceptions, particularly those connected to women.
  • The Vision of the CJI: Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud introduces the booklet and describes its purpose: to assist legal professionals in recognising and combating gender stereotypes.
  • Language Transformation: The guidebook offers a glossary of phrases that contribute to gender prejudice in legal texts and suggests better alternatives.

Why such a move?

[A] Language inflicting Stereotypes

  • The handbook identifies legal words that cause gender bias and makes recommendations for change.
  • Change Examples: Instead of “adulteress,” the handbook suggests “woman who has engaged in sexual relations outside of marriage” to avoid using derogatory words.
  • Getting Rid of Biases: The guideline recommends using basic phrases such as “woman” and “wife” rather than prefixes such as “chaste” or “obedient.”
  • Employing Neutral Language: Instead of using the pejorative term “effeminate,” the manual recommends adopting neutral terms such as “confident” or “responsible.”

[B] Avoiding labelling

  • Empowering Language: The guideline advocates using the terms “survivor” or “victim” to describe people who have experienced sexual violence.
  • Preferences Should Be Respected: The choice between “survivor” and “victim” should be based on the individual’s preference.

[C] Conscious Reporting of Cases

  • Separating Attire from Consent: The guidebook emphasises that a person’s attire should never be used to justify inappropriate touching; consent is still required.
  • Breaking Stereotypes: The manual opposes the notion that failure to report sexual assault means it did not occur.
  • Encouraging Reporting: Due to cultural constraints, the guidebook recognises the fortitude required to report sexual offences.

Gender Stereotypes Have Negative Effects

  • Gender stereotypes cause exclusion and bias in companies, schools, and public areas.
  • Example in Education: The guidebook shows how stereotypes affect students from marginalised backgrounds, increasing stress during exams.
  • Government Data: As an example, Minister Subhas Sarkar’s data on dropout rates among marginalised pupils is provided.

Legal Reforms to Combat Gender Stereotypes

  • Instances for Equality: The Supreme Court cites instances that challenge preconceptions, such as Joseph Shine vs. Union of India, which overturned the “adultery” legislation.
  • Example Rulings: The decisions of the Supreme Court in cases such as State of Jharkhand vs. Shailendra Kumar Rai and State of Punjab vs. Gurmit Singh are explained.
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