Women are neither subordinate to men nor do they need to be submissive to anybody, as the Constitution guarantees equal rights to individuals of all genders, the Supreme Court has said in its 'Handbook on Combating Gender Stereotypes' while terming as "incorrect" some common stereotypes about the gender roles ascribed to men and women.
The handbook, which contains a glossary of gender unjust terms and suggests alternative words and phrases which may be used, was launched on Wednesday.
On the stereotypes based on gender roles, the handbook contains a table outlining some common stereotypes and gives reasons as to why they are incorrect.
On the stereotype that "women should be submissive or subordinate to men", the handbook said, "The Constitution of India guarantees equal rights to individuals of all genders. Women are neither subordinate to men nor do they need to be submissive to anybody."
Dealing with the stereotype that "women should do all the household chores", it said the reality is that "people of all genders are equally capable of doing house chores. Men are often conditioned to believe that only women do household chores".
Another incorrect stereotype which the handbook highlights is -- "wives should take care of their husband's parents."
It said the reality is that the responsibility of taking care of elderly individuals in the family falls equally on individuals of all genders and this is not the "sole remit of women".
The handbook also dealt with the common stereotype that women who work outside of the home do not care about their children.
It said working outside of the home has no correlation with a woman's love or concern for her children and parents of all genders may work outside of the home while also caring for their children.
It said the common stereotype that "women who are also mothers are less competent in the office because they are distracted by childcare" is incorrect as females who have "double duty", that is work outside the home and raise children, are not less competent in the workplace.
The handbook dealt with another stereotype that "women who do not work outside the home do not contribute to the household or contribute very little in comparison to their husbands".
It said women who are homemakers perform "unpaid domestic labour", such as cooking, cleaning, washing, household management, accounts, and work like caring for the elderly and children, helping kids with their homework and extra-curricular activities.
"The unpaid labour performed by women not only contributes to the household's quality of life but also results in monetary savings. Women who are homemakers contribute to the household to an equal (or greater) extent. Their contributions are often overlooked because men are conditioned to believe that such work is of limited value," the handbook said.
It also dealt with stereotypes based on the so-called "inherent characteristics" of women and contains a table listing assumptions about the traits of women and explains why such notions are incorrect.
Dealing with the stereotype that women are overly emotional, illogical, and cannot take decisions, the handbook said the reality is that a person's gender does not determine or influence their capacity for rational thought.
Regarding another stereotype that women are physically weaker than men, it said, "While men and women are physiologically different, it is not true that all women are physically weaker than all men. A person's strength does not depend solely on their gender but also on factors such as their profession, genetics, nutrition, and physical activity."
It also dealt with the stereotype that unmarried women (or young women) are incapable of taking important decisions about their life.
"Marriage has no bearing on an individual's ability to take decisions. The law defines specific ages for persons to consent to certain activities, e.g., marriage or consuming alcohol, and all individuals of or above this age are deemed to be capable of taking such decisions irrespective of marriage," the handbook said.
Dealing with the stereotype that all women want to have children, it said, "All women do not want to have children. Deciding to become a parent is an individual choice that every person takes based on a variety of circumstances."
It said society ascribes specific roles to specific genders, most often seen in the context of men and women, and these gender roles are products of social construction and social understandings.
"For example, men are often believed to be more suited to professional jobs whereas women are believed to be more suited to care for their families. Even when women pursue professional careers, the social behaviour and characteristics expected of them in the private sphere (e.g., performing domestic tasks such as cooking or cleaning) continues to be expected of them," the handbook said.
It said women are also often expected to behave, dress, and speak in a manner that is compliant with the so-called 'inherent characteristics' of women and the corresponding gender roles and any deviation from these gendered roles leads to "social stigmatisation".
The handbook said it must be remembered that every individual has a unique set of characteristics and women and gender justice movements across the world have worked hard to fight these stereotypes and secure justice for themselves, in the courtroom as well as outside of it.
"It is important to dispel these stereotypes and foster an environment that cultivates equal respect for individuals of all genders," it said.
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