In a bid to encourage lawyers and courtrooms to identify and eliminate inappropriate words that carry a gender bias, the Supreme Court of India has released a ‘Handbook on Combating Gender Stereotypes’.
“The handbook identifies common stereotypes by women, many of which have been utilised by courts in the past and demonstrates why they’re inaccurate and how they may distort the application of law,” CJI said.
“The Handbook…aims to assist judges and the legal community in identifying, understanding and combating stereotypes about women,” he noted in the foreword.
“The intention is not to criticize or cast doubts on judgements but merely to show how stereotypes may unwittingly be employed.”
The handbook includes tables that are divided into sections that include ‘Stereotype Promoting Language’ and ‘Alternative Language’.
Discouraging terms like ‘eve-teasing’, ‘child prostitute’, ‘hooker’, ‘whore’, the SC encourages using instead ‘street sexual harassment’, ‘child who has been trafficked’, ‘sex worker’ and ‘woman’ respectively.
The handbook also lists ‘stereotypes’ vs ‘reality’ to further streamline the usage of appropriate terminology.
For instance, it lists “Women are overly emotional, illogical, and cannot take decisions” as a stereotype, and compares it with the reality that “A person’s gender does not determine or influence their capacity for rational thought”.
“As guardians of the legal and constitutional system, it is incumbent that members of the judiciary avoid employing stereotypes and dispense justice impartially,” it notes.
“It is hoped that this Handbook will be a catalyst for change within the legal profession, inspiring the Indian judiciary to discharge its duties impartially with a recognition of the inherent dignity and unique nature of every individual.”