Avoid using phrases like ‘sl*t’, ‘bast**d’, ‘chaste woman’ in legal matters, advises SC
Announcing the 'Combating Gender Stereotypes' handbook, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said use of stereotypes should be avoided in legal proceedings
Lawyers and judges often use inappropriate stereotypes to describe women and men while presenting arguments or writing judgments, reflecting old prejudices which are no longer valid, said Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud on Wednesday.
The CJI observed that it is not the responsibility of women alone, for instance, to look after elderly in-laws. It is wrong to assume that all women want to have children; similarly, it is wrong to assume that working women do not take care of their children. Courts have generally been open to stereotypes that women are "overly emotional, illogical and cannot take decisions".
Chandrachud was speaking in open court to announce the publication of a 30-page Supreme Court handbook titled 'Combating Gender Stereotypes'.
The phrase ‘woman with loose morals’ is inappropriate, says the handbook, and so is ‘wanton’ woman, or a woman of ‘easy virtue’. Expressions such as “dutiful wife/ faithful wife/ good wife/obedient wife” or “chaste woman” are clearly a construct of a patriarchal society. The adjective ‘fallen’ when applied to a woman is once again problematic, the glossary points out.
Similarly, men need not be described as ‘provider’ or ‘breadwinner’. Words such as 'employed' or 'earning' should suffice, the handbook points out.
The handbook of alternative words and phrases has been prepared by the social justice sub-committee of the e-committee of the Supreme Court. The CJI also thanked Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya of Calcutta High Court, Justice Pratibha Singh of Delhi High Court, and Professor Jhuma Sen in particular for their initial draft.
Here is a list of inappropriate words and phrases and the alternatives suggested by the glossary.
Adulteress: Woman who has engaged in sexual relations outside of marriage
Affair: Relationship outside of marriage
Bas***d: Non-marital child/ a child whose parents were not married
Biological sex/ biological male/ biological female: Sex assigned at birth
Born a girl/ boy: Assigned female/ male at birth
Career woman: Woman
Carnal intercourse: Sexual intercourse
Chaste woman: Woman
Child prostitute: Child who has been trafficked
Concubine/ keep: Woman with whom a man has had romantic or sexual relations outside of marriage
Dutiful wife/ Faithful wife/ Good wife/ Obedient wife: Wife
Woman of easy virtue: Woman
Effeminate (when used pejoratively): Accurately describe the characteristic using a gender-neutral term (such as 'confident' or 'responsible')
Eve teasing: Street sexual harassment
Fag**t: Accurately describe an individual’s sexual orientation (such as 'homosexual' or 'bisexual')
Fallen woman: Woman
Feminine hygiene products: Menstrual products
Forcible rape: Rape
Hooker: Sex worker
Hormonal (to describe a woman’s emotional state): Use a gender-neutral term to describe the emotion (such as 'compassionate' or 'enthusiastic')
Indian woman/ Western woman: Woman
Ladylike: Use a gender-neutral description of behaviour or characteristics (such as 'amusing' or 'assertive')
Layabout/ Shirker: Unemployed
Marriageable age: A woman who has attained the legal age required to marry
Mistress: Woman with whom a man has had romantic or sexual relations outside of marriage
Prostitute: Sex worker
Provider/ Breadwinner: Employed/ earning
Provocative clothing/ dress: Clothing/ dress
Ravished (such as 'she was ravished by him'): Sexually harassed/ assaulted/ raped
Sex change: Sex reassignment or gender transition
Spinster: Unmarried woman
Survivor/ Victim: An individual affected by sexual or other forms of abuse may identify as either 'survivor' or 'victim'. Both are applicable unless the individual has expressed a preference, in which case it should be respected
Woman of loose morals/ easy virtue/ promiscuous woman: Woman