Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Corrective voice from Supreme Court against stereotyping of women

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Gender sensitization of Judiciary

A judgment by the Supreme Court forbidding judges from making gender-stereotypical comments came as a corrective voice from within the highest judiciary.

Q.Discuss the need for gender sensitization of the judicial institutions.

What is the news?

  • The judgment came days after the CJI, during a virtual hearing reportedly asked an alleged rapist’s lawyer to enquire whether his client would marry the survivor.
  • His statement coincided with International Women’s Day.
  • Days later, a Bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and S. Ravindra Bhat urged courts to avoid using reasoning/language which diminished a sexual offence and tended to trivialize the survivor.

What did the Court say?

  • The greatest extent of sensitivity is to be displayed in the judicial approach, language and reasoning adopted by the judge.
  • Even a solitary instance of such order or utterance in court, reflects adversely on the entire judicial system of the country, undermining the guarantee to fair justice to all, and especially to victims of sexual violence.
  • This judgment is one among a series of interventions with which the apex court has clamped down on abuse and sex stereotyping of women.

No institution is mightier than the modesty of a woman.

SC against stereotyping

Some of the notable judgments which have lashed out at sex stereotyping include:

  1. The framing of the Vishaka Guidelines on sexual harassment of women in working places, and
  2. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud’s historic judgment giving women Armed Forces officers’ equal access to Permanent Commission while debunking the establishment’s claim that women were physiologically weaker than men
  3. In the Anuj Garg case, the Supreme Court had rebuked “the notion of romantic paternalism”, which, “in practical effect, put women, not on a pedestal, but in a cage”

Avoid gender stereotypes such as:

The courts should desist from expressing any stereotype opinion, in words spoken during proceedings, or in the course of a judicial order, to the effect that

  • women are physically weak and need protection;
  • men are the “head” of the household and should take all the decisions relating to family;
  • women should be submissive and obedient according to our culture;
  • “good” women are sexually chaste;
  • motherhood is the duty and role of every woman and assumptions to the effect that she wants to be a mother;
  • being alone at night or wearing certain clothes make women responsible for being attacked;
  • lack of evidence of physical harm in sexual offence case leads to an inference of consent by the woman.

Conclusion

  • Stereotyping compromises the impartiality and integrity of the justice system, which can, in turn, lead to miscarriages of justice, including the re-victimization of complainants.
  • Often judges adopt rigid standards about what they consider to be appropriate behaviour for women and penalize those who do not conform to these stereotypes.

There should be gender sensitization

  • The court-mandated that a module on gender sensitization is included, as part of the foundational training of every judge.
  • This module must aim at imparting techniques for judges to be more sensitive in hearing and deciding cases of sexual assault, and eliminating entrenched social bias, especially misogyny.
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