Supreme Court releases handbook for judges for using gender-just language, avoid patriarchal stereotypes

The Supreme Court in India has released a handbook for judges to be used as a guide to gender-just language, barring the judicial system from relying on some patriarchal stereotypes, media reports said.

The Supreme Court handbook is meant to avoid patriarchal stereotypes in the language used in judicial verdicts. Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

Among the replacements of words are "unmarried woman" in place of "spinster", "woman with whom a man has had romantic or sexual relations outside of marriage" in place of "mistress", "sex worker" in place of "prostitute", "street sexual harassment" in place of "eve teasing".

The draft of the handbook was prepared by Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya of Calcutta High Court, Justice Pratibha Singh of Delhi High Court and Professor Jhuma Sen.

Gender identity is not limited to a binary (girl/woman and boy/man) but rather exists on a spectrum and can evolve over  time. Further, gender is a social construct and includes norms, behaviours and roles associated with a particular gender identity," the handbook reads.

On sexual assaults, the guide noted, "Dominant caste men do not want to engage in sexual relations with women from oppressed castes. Therefore, any allegation of sexual assault or rape by an oppressed caste woman against a dominant caste man is false."

"Rape and sexual violence have long been used as a tool of social control. Dominant caste men have historically used sexual violence as a tool to reinforce and maintain caste hierarchies."

Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said as quoted by Times of India, "It is vital that judges not only avoid relying on stereotypes in their decision making and writing, but also actively challenge and dispel harmful stereotypes.

"If harmful stereotypes are relied upon by judges, it can lead to distortion of the objective and impartial application of the law. This will perpetuate discrimination and exclusion."