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Supreme Court amends its handbook to substitute the term ‘sex worker’ with ‘trafficked survivor’

In a bid to break stereotypes and common assumptions about women and gender-based minorities, the Supreme Court had released a Handbook on Combating Gender Stereotypes in August this year.

The foreword to the Handbook penned by Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud dwelt on what the judiciary is required to do to set aside its own pre-conceived notions that reinforce harmful stereotypes.

In particular, reliance on stereotypes about women is liable to distort the law’s application to women in harmful ways…Where the language of judicial discourse reflects antiquated or incorrect ideas about women, it inhibits the transformative project of the law and the Constitution of India, which seek to secure equal rights to all persons, irrespective of gender,” it said.

While explaining the need to change the language in pleadings and rulings, the CJI pointed out that the Code of Civil Procedure was once amended to change the word ‘pauper to indigent’, not for a strictly legal reason, but to recognise the humanity of the people it referred to.

Similarly, the Handbook pointed out that the use of stereotyping language goes beyond the courtroom and documents as it reinforces a culture of apathy, bigotry and exclusion.

The Handbook asserted that assumptions ought not to be made about a woman’s character on her expressive choices (like the clothes she wears) and sexual history, making particular reference to a controversial order of a Kerala court.

The Handbook also aimed to bust stereotypes associated with women’s response to rape or sexual assault, stating that different people react differently to traumatic events.

It also decried the casting of a blanket assumption that women are very likely to make false allegations of sexual assault or rape, with reference to an order of the Allahabad High Court.

Source: Barandbench

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