India has banned evaluative statements in courts regarding women
The Supreme Court of India has recently issued guidelines for judges, aiming to discourage the use of derogatory terms such as "temptress," "virgin," "harlot," and others. As reported by The Guardian, it has come to light that archaic language that undermines the dignity of women and perpetuates gender stereotypes is still prevalent in Indian courts, despite its abandonment in other countries.
The guidelines, known as "Guidelines for Combating Gender Stereotypes," have been put forth to ensure that legal reasoning and written works are devoid of harmful biases towards women. Chief Justice of India, Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud, highlighted the importance of avoiding such stereotypes, as they can distort the fair and impartial application of the law, thereby perpetuating discrimination and exclusion.
In addition, Chief Justice Chandrachud expressed concern about stereotypes that assume all women desire motherhood and are more emotional than men. It is reassuring that Indian authorities have responded positively to these guidelines, reflecting a step towards progressive change.
Ranjana Kumari, the director of the Centre for Social Research in Delhi, emphasized that language plays a significant role in shaping society's perceptions and behaviors. She aptly pointed out that when lawyers employ derogatory terms like "whore" or "slut," it not only shames the victim but also impacts the legal outcomes for women.
This serves as a reminder of a troubling incident that occurred in 2018, where a judge in Kerala referred to a 24-year-old woman, who married against her parents' wishes, as "weak and vulnerable, capable of various tricks." Shockingly, the judge ruled in favor of her parents, thereby returning her to their custody and control. Similarly, in 2020, a judge in Karnataka made an appalling statement suggesting that a woman shouldn't sleep after being raped.
The issuance of these guidelines by the Supreme Court signals a significant step in promoting fairness and respect for women within the Indian judicial system. It is crucial to challenge and eradicate harmful stereotypes to foster a more equitable and just society.