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Supreme Court launches handbook to avoid gender-based stereotypes during judicial proceedings

Released on Wednesday, the handbook is called Combating Gender Stereotypes

R. Balaji New Delhi Published 17.08.23, 05:45 AM
Supreme Court of India.

Supreme Court of India. File Photo

A glossary of alternative words and phrases has been released by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud for preferred use by judges and lawyers to avoid gender stereotypes during judicial proceedings.

Released on Wednesday, the handbook is called Combating Gender Stereotypes. The following words or phrases in bold are sought to be replaced by the alternatives listed after the colon.


Adulteress: Woman who has engaged in sexual relations outside of marriage

Affair: Relationship outside of marriage

Bastard: Non-marital child or, 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

Faggot: Accurately describe the individual’s sexual orientation (such as “homosexual” or “bisexual”)

Fallen woman: Woman

Feminine hygiene products: Menstrual products

Forcible rape: Rape

Harlot: Woman

Hermaphrodite: Intersex

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”)

Housewife: Homemaker

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 or earning

Provocative clothing/ dress: Clothing/ dress

Ravished (such as “she was ‘ravished’ by him”): Sexually harassed/ assaulted or raped.

Seductress: Woman

Sex change: Sex reassignment or gender transition

Slut: Woman

Spinster: Unmarried woman

Survivor or Victim: An individual who has been affected by sexual violence may identify themselves as either a “survivor” or “victim”. Both terms are applicable unless the individual has expressed a preference, in which case the individual’s preference should be respected.

Transsexual: Transgender

Transvestite: Cross-dresser

Whore: Woman

Woman of loose morals/ easy virtue/ promiscuous woman: Woman.

In his foreword to the handbook, CJI Chandrachud said that reliance on stereotypes about women was liable to distort the law’s application to women in harmful ways.

The CJI thanked the social justice sub-committee of the e-committee (Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya of Calcutta High Court, Justice Prathiba Singh of Delhi High Court and Professor Jhuma Sen, in particular) for their initial draft.

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