India Supreme Court directs courts to avoid referencing stereotypes against women in gender-related crimes
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India Supreme Court directs courts to avoid referencing stereotypes against women in gender-related crimes

The Indian Supreme Court on Thursday directed lower courts to avoid expressing any stereotypical or patriarchal opinions on women and their place in society such as “women are physically weak, should be submissive and obedient, good women are sexually chaste” in court orders relating to crimes against women, especially for verdicts on bail.

The directions were issued in a judgment setting aside the Madhya Pradesh High Court’s July decision that had granted bail to a man accused of outraging the modesty of his neighbor on the condition that he request the survivor to tie a rakhi on his wrist.

A rakhi is a thread bracelet that a sister ties on her brother’s wrist during the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan, which celebrates the bond between a brother and a sister or any similar relationship.

The order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court was challenged by lawyer Aparna Bhat and eight other women for “trivialising such heinous offence” and having the potential to “result in normalising what is essentially a crime and has been recognised to be so by the law”.

The bench, comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and S Ravindra, also directed that courts should not suggest, entertain or encourage marriage between the survivor and the accused, or mandate mediation between them, as these forms of compromises are beyond the power and jurisdiction of the court.

It further emphasised the need for displaying sensitivity towards the survivor and directed judges to note use any words that would “undermine or shake the confidence of the survivor in the fairness or impartiality of the court.”

The Attorney General, KK Venugopal, had suggested gender sensitization for judges who have an “old school” and “patriarchal” outlook in December of last year, and in line with the same, the Supreme Court bench also suggested gender-sensitization training for judges and public prosecutors.