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Critical Analysis on the need for Gender Neutral Laws in India

Gender is an essential part of human life. Our gender can have an impact on our life duties, rights, and responsibilities, as well as our decisions. These choices and actions are then limited by the laws that govern us, and laws play a significant role in pursuing our gender identity. Today, we live in a society where gender equality and civil rights are promoted by various cultures. To comprehend gender-related rights and legislation, however, one must first dismantle the gender idea. It is a socially and culturally constructed term that separates different qualities between men and women, as well as boys and girls, according to the United Nations. This has something to do with a person’s feminine and masculine qualities.

In fact, when determining gender, one must be aware of the differences in gender and sex definitions. Gender has a social dimension, but sex is a biological trait of a human being generated by the association of its chromosomes and hormones, as previously stated. Margaret Mead described the pioneering concept of separating sex and gender during ancient periods in her book Gender and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies. Gender equality is much more than just men and women. Gender-neutral policies are defined as laws and initiatives that have no unequal influence on multiple groups, whether negative or positive. However, if differences in the social and cultural settings of the groups are not taken into consideration when designing policy, gender equality might be reduced to gender discrimination. This could lead to a system that is useless and fruitless. In reality, the importance of gender equality is linked to civil rights. The United Nations supports a similar theory, stating that equality between men and women is required to uphold human rights.

Section 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal code, 1860. The author discusses the conviction of a man for the rape of a lady. Apart from rape laws, there has been a slew of other measures, such as the Domestic Violence Act of 2005, that are gender-specific and only affect women, such as sexual misconduct or non-consensual, where a perpetrator is invariably a man. Increased societal knowledge of these crimes reveals that the primary motivation for conducting a sexual assault or any form of violence may not only be to satisfy sexual cravings, but also to demonstrate the offenders’ power.

Before any positive outcome in society, we, as individuals, must comprehend the societal ramifications of various movements, society in general, and the backlash. As a result, in order to comprehend society and effect change, one must first grasp its history and evolution across time in order to tackle and address contemporary difficulties. It has been taken into account that, historically, the agenda of Indian women has always focused on improvements in the law concerning rape. Women have always struggled with the expanding concept of rape.

The Mathura rape case was one of the most well-known rulings in the world of law, and it was also the catalyst for numerous changes in criminal law. It is considered to be one of the most important instances in the realm of criminal law and the subject of rape. The Supreme Court ruled in this case that the young woman who had been raped by police officers had given her consent because there were no signs of wounds in the case and because the absence of wounds indicated agreement. Following this case, four law professors wrote an open letter to the Chief Justice of India, expressing their displeasure with the situation. This case sparked a trend in which the victim was no longer blamed and the guilt was shifted to the perpetrator. Another demand made by the protestors was for in-camera procedures and the non-disclosure of the identities of the rape victims.

Gender-neutrality is a nebulous term that has yet to be completely defined. So, what exactly does gender-neutrality entail?

To understand the preceding question, we must first comprehend the concept of “gender” The term “gender” has traditionally been defined as a person who falls into one of two categories: male or female. This concept, however, excludes the “transgender” third gender, which includes the “hijras” and “Kothi’s” as well as communities where people are born with both female and male organs or communities that do not define themselves as belonging to any gender.

The Binary Gender and Gender Neutrality

The fact that males and females are just two races is referred to as gender identity. It rejects the gender-sex divide as a concept. Furthermore, because it only believes in the existence of two genders, it argues that all human beings can act entirely in a feminine manner if they are female, and in a masculine manner if they are male. It completely rejects the idea of the third gender and implicitly criticizes the presence of LGBTQ people. The existence of these ideologies has a direct impact on the civil rights of persons from developing countries. Furthermore, it is particularly unjust to operate under the assumption that the LGBTQ culture does not exist. Only China has seen an increase in its LGBTQ population in recent years, with 3.5 percent of adults in the United States identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. In 2017, about 1.1 million individuals aged 16 and up identified as LGBT and only China has seen an increase in its LGBTQ population in recent years. As a result, before enacting gender-neutral laws and legislation, it is necessary to recognize the meaning of identity. This is critical to ensure that no country draughts a gender-neutral law that favors only two genders while rejecting the others, as is the case with the gender-binary delusion.

It’s crucial to remember that gender isn’t limited to two or more widely recognized ideas. Gender neutrality does not mean promoting policies that favor women and force us to believe that men cannot be raped. Gender neutrality, as the name implies, is a neutral concept that should not be slanted against any group in the country. “It’s time we all understood gender as a spectrum, rather than two sets of conflicting values” Emma Watson stated more eloquently.

Why laws should be gender-neutral?

The initial presumption that women can never be predators stems from the fact that, despite the fact that the laws’ definition of rape mentions multiple ways in which an action could be constituted rape, they would still be perceived as penile-vaginal intercourse by the general public. Because men are often constructed stronger than women in biological respects, this gives the general public the impression that only men can establish dominance.

The second presumption stems from the idea that males can never be raped because they are excited by any sexual act, meaning that they have given their consent. This is to imply that arousal in the male body can be produced by a variety of factors, including the desire to be a willing participant. However, studies have shown that arousal can be produced by a variety of factors, including fear, embarrassment, and anxiety, all of which can lead to erections. There is now an increasing acceptance of the idea that male exploitation does happen. There have also been a few industrialized countries, such as Canada, Finland, Australia, the Republic of Ireland, and the majority of the states in the United States of America, that have accepted unbiased and gender-neutral legislation.

Although the Preamble of India emphasizes ideas of equity and social justice, certain policies and regulations are in direct opposition to these objectives. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redress) Act of 2013 focuses on safeguarding women from all kinds of workplace harassment. It further states that the purpose of this act is to protect women’s fundamental rights to equality and dignity. The point of dispute, however, is that in India, fundamental rights to equality and dignity are not gender-specific, and then how sexual abuse occurs in the workplace. This Act reaffirms the notion that violence is confined to women and that males, or any other group, should never be subjected to it.

In fact, rape is defined as an act of non-consensual sexual activity perpetrated against a woman under section 375 of the Indian Penal Code. This section is also based on the assumption that only a man can rape and only a woman can be raped. The notion of gender equality is supported by a number of judgments and statutes. Iceland, for example, was the first country to establish an equal pay clause in 2018, promoting the idea of a gender-neutral policy. Businesses with 25 or more employees must now submit certifications demonstrating compliance with the fair pay provision. This aims to eliminate the significant salary disparity between men and women, promoting gender equity and equality. In the view of the law, Article 14 states that everyone has the right to equality. This article claims that everyone, nevertheless their gender, is equal.

Article 15 prohibits separation on the basis of gender, i.e., no one can discriminate on the basis of a person’s or a case’s sex, creed, or any other type of discrimination.

Despite the fact that male assaults are less common than female assaults, it is important to recognize that guys are not exempt from the need for legislation to protect them. Equal rights for men in cases of sexual assault does not mean that women are deprived of their rights. Giving males a platform to speak out about their assault and the ability to file complaints would, on the other hand, lessen the toxic masculinity of asserting dominance, hence reducing assault on women, as an assertion of dominance has been the major source of violence against women.

The fear of being judged by society and fearing a backlash from a society that maintains the stigma that “men cannot be victims of the attack” is one of the reasons why men do not open out about being victims of sexual assault against them.

References

  1. The Need for enacting Gender-Neutral Laws: A Critical Analysis – Lex Jura Law (wordpress.com)
  2. Need for Gender Neutral Laws in India – iPleaders

This article is written by Vidushi Joshi student at UPES, Dehradun.

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