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7 - India, Sex Equality, and Constitutional Law

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 January 2010

Martha C. Nussbaum
Affiliation:
Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, University of Chicago
Beverley Baines
Affiliation:
Queen's University, Ontario
Ruth Rubio-Marin
Affiliation:
Universidad de Sevilla
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Summary

Whatever else Hindu society may adopt it will never give up its social structure — the enslavement of the Shudra and the enslavement of women. It is for this reason that law must come to the rescue in order that society may move on.

– B. R. Ambedkar, The Statesman, September 21, 1951

An increasing number of women on the Bench will hopefully change the perception of women from being passive recipients of rights and in need of protection to being fully autonomous in their decision-making and equal participants in public life. This millenium should belong to the woman. Let us hope this great institution will take the lead in ensuring that it does.

– Indira Jaising, feminist legal scholar and Supreme Court Advocate, in a volume of essays celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Indian Supreme Court, 2000

India's Constitution is in some ways very attuned to issues of sex equality, which were prominently debated when the Constitution was adopted in 1950. The framers of the Constitution were very conscious of deeply entrenched inequalities, both those based on caste and those based on sex, and they made their removal one of their central goals. The text of the Constitution remains in many ways exemplary in its treatment of issues of gender and sex. Traditions of interpretation have been more uneven: sex equality has enjoyed some important victories, but discriminatory perceptions of women still exercise a reactionary influence.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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References

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