In a significant step toward gender sensitization in legal proceedings, the Supreme Court recently introduced a handbook titled "Combating Gender Stereotypes." Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud unveiled the handbook, emphasizing its aim to eradicate gender stereotypes and promote awareness among judges and the legal community.
Identifying and Addressing Harmful Language
The handbook contains a comprehensive glossary featuring over 100 terms previously used in the Indian judiciary that perpetuated gender stereotypes. These terms have now been replaced with neutral phrases and words, eliminating any attached stereotypes. The Chief Justice noted that adopting new terminology will prevent biases and unsubstantiated judgments.
Rejecting Prejudice, Recognizing Progress
CJI Chandrachud clarified that the handbook's purpose is not to criticize past judgments but rather to spotlight the inadvertent perpetuation of gender stereotypes in legal discourse. It underscores the importance of avoiding language that contributes to these stereotypes and highlights binding Supreme Court decisions that have rejected such biases.
“The intention is not to criticise or cast doubts on judgements but merely to show how stereotypes may unwittingly be employed. To raise awareness against the utilisation of harmful stereotypes, particularly those against women, the handbook aims to explain what stereotypes are", CJI said.
Championing Inclusivity Beyond the Handbook
Chief Justice Chandrachud has approved the establishment of universal and gender-neutral restrooms at the court premises. Additionally, online appearance slips are now available, streamlining court proceedings.
Legal experts and social activists have welcomed the handbook's release, hoping its guidance will resonate throughout Indian society. Vrinda Bhandari, a senior advocate at the Supreme Court, believes the handbook's influence will extend beyond the legal realm. Ranjana Kumari, head of the Centre for Social Research in Delhi, praised the long-awaited initiative, emphasizing the power of language in shaping perceptions and influencing outcomes.
Previously, the court had undertaken initiatives like translating judgments into regional languages, a step applauded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his recent Independence Day Speech.