SC’s views on Gender-Stereotypes

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

  • 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.
  • 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.
    SC against stereotyping
  • Some of the notable judgments which have lashed out at sex stereotyping include:
  • The framing of the Vishaka Guidelines on sexual harassment of women in working places, and
  • 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
  • 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
    o women are physically weak and need protection;
    o men are the “head” of the household and should take all the decisions relating to family;
    o women should be submissive and obedient according to our culture;
    o “good” women are sexually chaste;
    o motherhood is the duty and role of every woman and assumptions to the effect that she wants to
    be a mother;
    o being alone at night or wearing certain clothes make women responsible for being attacked;
    o lack of evidence of physical harm in sexual offence case leads to an inference of consent by the
  • 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.