The Supreme Court has launched a handbook that contains a glossary of gender unjust terms and suggests alternative words and phrases which may be used.
GS II: Government policies and Interventions
Dimensions of the Article:
- About the News SC Handbook
- Significance of Precise Language for Judges:
- Global Analogous Initiatives
About the News SC Handbook
Purpose and Content:
- The SC handbook is a concise 30-page booklet crafted with the intention of aiding judges and the legal community.
- Its primary objective is to facilitate the recognition, comprehension, and eradication of gender-related stereotypes, particularly concerning women.
Identification of Stereotypical Language:
- The handbook meticulously identifies recurring stereotypes in the form of words and phrases, frequently present in legal judgments.
- For instance, it highlights instances where words like “ravished” are employed as synonyms for “raped” in court verdicts, illustrating how such language perpetuates stereotypes.
Quotations from Judgments:
- The handbook draws on excerpts from past judgments to illustrate how judges inadvertently reinforce gender-based stereotypes through their choice of words.
- These citations serve to underline the importance of identifying and rectifying such language patterns.
Promotion of Alternative Language:
- The handbook not only flags instances of stereotypical language but also provides suggestions for alternative, unbiased expressions.
- For instance, it recommends substituting derogatory terms like “seductress,” “whore,” or “woman of loose morals” with the neutral term “woman.”
Transformation of Terminology:
- The handbook advocates for a transformation in legal discourse by discouraging the use of derogatory terms like “hooker” and “prostitute.”
- Instead, it advocates employing the term “sex worker” to engender respect and fairness in language.
Language Evolution and Empowerment:
- The handbook advocates for the replacement of terms such as “eve-teasing” with “street sexual harassment,” reflecting a shift towards acknowledging the seriousness of the offense.
- Furthermore, it proposes substituting “housewife” with “homemaker,” emphasizing the significance of domestic contributions.
Addressing False Assumptions:
- The handbook aims to dismantle and counteract erroneous assumptions that have become associated with women.
- It tackles stereotypes rooted in notions of women possessing inherent characteristics, including excessive emotions, irrationality, and an inability to make decisions.
- Contrary to these stereotypes, the handbook asserts that a person’s gender does not dictate their cognitive abilities or decision-making skills.
- The handbook identifies a prevalent stereotype that ties a woman’s character to her external choices, like clothing and sexual history.
- These assumptions can distort the way judicial assessments are made in cases of sexual violence, even undermining the concept of consent in such scenarios.
Significance of Precise Language for Judges:
- The language a judge employs is a reflection not only of their interpretation of the law but also of their understanding of societal norms.
- Stereotypical language, even if it doesn’t alter the case’s outcome, can inadvertently reinforce values that contradict the principles of the constitution.
- Language acts as a crucial conduit for transmitting legal values and intentions to the nation.
Global Analogous Initiatives:
- Similar initiatives have taken root in various countries, supported by both academics and legal practitioners.
- An example is the Women’s Court of Canada, comprising female lawyers, activists, and academics who compose “shadow judgments” focusing on equality law.
- These efforts serve as a mirror to the court system, reflecting upon its practices and encouraging a more just and unbiased legal approach.
-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express