Each time a woman stands for herself, she stands for all women – Maya Angelou
How wrong it is to judge people on the basis of what they look like, the colour of their skin, whether they are men or women? There is a lot of differentiation and discrimination in the name of gender as males and females. In the famous case Reed vs Reed, 404 U.S. 71, the U.S. Supreme Court, unanimously agreed and struck down the Idaho Statute and applied the equal protection clause to a law that discriminated on the basis of gender. Over the last century, women have made incredible progress in their struggle to claim their equal rights and humanity. From gaining a right to vote in 1920 under the 19 amendment in the constitution, right to equal education, owning property rights and having a job, The Indian judiciary has played a key role in framing and interpreting the law to uphold women’s rights and dignity, resulting in several landmark judgements. The progressive judgements delivered by the courts helped in the women’s new role in society and ensure the protection of women’s right and dignity.
Women are working alongside with men in all spheres. They profess an independent outlook, whether they are living inside their home or working outside. They are increasingly gaining control over their lives and taking their own decisions with regard to their education, career, profession and lifestyle. With equal opportunities to work, they are functioning with spirit teamwork to render all possible co-operation to their male counterparts in meeting the deadlines and targets set in their respective professions. The successive governments have implemented various constitutional and legal rights to help women lead purposeful and meaningful lives. There is an increasing awareness about women’s rights which is evident in the emergence of various NGOs and Self-Help groups. At the individual level too, women are now breaking the shackles of suppression and making their voices heard for their rights. The march of gender justice which began with the Mathura open letter in the late seventies, and bemoaned patriarchial culture even in the apex court in recent years extended the arc of the right to equality by a normative war against all forms of gender-based discrimination including the LGTBQ communities and trans peoples, the safety of women from sexual harassment at workplace, a landmark judgment on acid attacks, upholding the dignity of rape survivors, the ban of Triple Talaq, entry of women in Sabarimala temple and many more; brings a positive change in the society and the patriarchal system of society has been gradually eroding.
Justice Chandrachud also called for the need to deconstruct the stereotypes of gender roles and exercise that must be practised every passing day. He also added that “The fight for gender equality cannot be fought by women alone, men have a key role to play in demanding and supporting this societal shift by being a part of the conversation and of the movement”. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India showed what a constitutional culture of non-discrimination can achieve in demolishing obstinate structures of gender-based discrimination in state and civil society. Article 14 of the constitution has been pressed into service as prescribing ‘a right to rationality’ that forbids any blanket and absolute prohibition.
In the words of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time”.
~Adv Ankita Wadhwa