Striking Down Gender Inequality, One Historical Judgment At A Time
September of 2018 will be remembered as the month when archaic social constructs were dealt three blows. All by the Supreme Court of India, which ruled that consensual homosexual sex is not a crime, decriminalised adultery and allowed women to enter the Sabarimala temple.
“Our courts have been ahead of our society,” said advocate Flavia Agnes, explaining that the verdicts will have a far-reaching impact. “Courts play a very important role in securing the rights of women and also changing social perspectives on many issues concerning women.”
By allowing women to enter the Sabarimala temple, the top court pushed India one step towards removing the stigma menstruating women face. Striking down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code—that blamed only men for adultery—challenged the notion that a woman is the property of her husband. And the judgment reading down Section 377 recognised the rights of the LGBT community.
“The social reality of India is changing dramatically,” said Ranjana Kumari, women’s rights activist and director at Center for Social Research. “When you go through all these judgments, you will see that it has upheld the spirit and letter of the constitution.”
In all the three cases, the legislative could have stepped forward and amended or done away with the archaic rules. Both Sections 377 and 497 are over 150 years old. But parliamentarians have often shied away from taking such decisions that could prove unpopular, admits Congress leader Shashi Tharoor
For politicians, it’s much easier to take shelter behind the decision of the Supreme Court, which after all is binding on everyone, rather than advocating it, campaigning for it or pushing it.Shashi Tharoor, MP, Thiruvananthapuram
Watch the full conversation here: