No more usage of derogatory terms like whore, hooker, concubine, transexual etc. Yes! You heard it right. The Supreme Court has boldly taken the initiative to eradicate gender bias from judgments & court language.
Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud announced that the Supreme Court has prepared a "Handbook on combating Gender Stereotypes", in order to identify and remove the use of words and phrases which are filled with harmful gender stereotypes.
Let’s delve into this article to check the words that have been re-phrased and CJI’s stand in breaking the gender stereotype.
What is this SC’s Handbook combatting gender stereotypes?
The 30-page long handbook comprised a glossary of more than 100 terms that were used in the courts for years. And now, they have been replaced by phrases and words which no longer support gender stereotypes.
The handbook sheds light upon the binding decisions of the Supreme Court that have rejected the stereotypes. CJI Chandrachud said that using new terminology will prevent prejudices and cast aspersion on any judgment.
Here are the words which have been re-phrased:
In March 2023, CJI Chandrachud revealed that the handbook on gender stereotypes was in process.
CJI stated, “For instance, I have come across judgments which have referred to a woman as a ‘concubine’ when she is in a relationship. Women have been called 'keeps' in judgements where there were applications for quashing of FIRs under the Domestic Violence Act and Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code".
The list inside also addresses why thinking about women’s attire and habits, such as smoking or drinking, cannot contribute to sexual crimes and a defence for persons accused of such crimes. Stating such reality, the handbook explained, “The clothing or attire of a woman neither indicates that she wishes to engage in sexual relations nor is it an invitation to touch her.... their choice of clothing represents a form of self-expression that is independent of questions of sexual relations.”
This new glossary is changing harmful ideas about people who've experienced sexual assault. It states that survivors don't always have to cry or act a certain way. Reporting later doesn't mean lying. Also, it's not true that casual sex leads to violence. This is undoubtedly a huge step towards fairness and justice for everyone.
The book breaks the wrong idea that sex workers and transgenders can't be raped. It also calls out the belief that "good women" should rather die than be raped as "patriarchal."
The book also criticized the marriage of the victim with her rapist as a way to undo the rape offence; it was stated that “The marriage of the rapist to the survivor/victim does not restore honour. Rather, it intensifies the trauma faced by the survivor/victim and encourages the rapist to engage in further violence. Marriage is not a remedy to the violence of rape.”
Therefore, it’s important that these harmful stereotypes must be re-phrased before further being used in any judgment or in courts.
CJI’s stand in breaking gender stereotype
Let’s have a look at the CJI’s statements breaking the gender stereotypes:
Here’s what CJI stated;
"This is to assist judges and the legal community in identifying, understanding, and combating stereotypes about women in legal discourse. It contains a glossary of gender unjust terms and suggests alternative words and phrases that may be used while drafting pleadings, orders, and judgments. It is for lawyers as well as judges".
"This is about stereotypes about women in legal discourse. It identifies stereotypes used by courts and how they are unwittingly used. (It is) not to cast aspersion on judgments. It will help judges to avoid it by recognising language, which leads to stereotypes. It highlights binding decisions which have highlighted (sic) the same.”
What other measures did CJI take to break gender stereotypes?
Apparently, the tutorial for e-filing has been uploaded on the SC's website, and it will be followed by the handbook. The other measures are such that:
The CJI approved gender-neutral restrooms and online appearance slips at the Supreme Court.
Nine universal and gender-neutral restrooms are proposed to be constructed at separate locations in the main building and at the additional building complex of the premises.
CJI deliberated: "It helps judges identify and avoid such stereotypes by first- identifying language which promotes gender stereotypes and offering alternative words and phrases; two, identifying common reasoning patterns based on gender stereotypes, particularly about women. And three, highlighting binding judgements of the Supreme Court which have rejected these stereotypes".
Where do we find the handbook?
No sooner, the handbook will be uploaded to the Supreme Court website. However, it is now available here. Click on this link to download the entire handbook.
The legal glossary, Chief Justice Chandrachud had disclosed then, was prepared by a committee chaired by Calcutta High Court judge. Hence, this exhaustive compilation was possible due to the brainstorming done by a sub-committee of the Supreme Court’s e-Committee comprising two High Court judges – Justices Moushumi Bhattacharya & Pratibha Singh and Professor Jhuma Sen who helped with the initial draft. The CJI even thanked the committee along with other officers in the Supreme Court and his law clerks for their contributions.