Gender stereotypes are everywhere in the country irrespective of religion and any other factor. Contrary to the general misconception, it is not just with women but also with men. Irrespective of gender, it violates every person’s fundamental human rights. In a general sense, a stereotype is a common or general viewpoint of the society or a person on the characteristics or the roles which are to be performed by a specific social group. the term gender stereotype in that sense includes men and women in the said definition. Gender stereotypes arise out of gender socialization as people tend to gain exposure and socialize with different sects of the society and know about societal beliefs which may affect them. If any person (man or woman) does not behave as they are expected to, they will be discouraged and criticized by their peers and society.
It is a known fact that women are the victims of such stereotyping, but it can’t be denied that men are also equally victimized by such stereotypes. Just like the fact that men are not equal to women in the laws (Rape laws especially). Some provisions are women-centric. Critics still argue that the laws favour men because the framers are men but in reality, some laws favour women most of the time as a result of certain stereotypes. Female genital mutilation Is one such activity done in major parts of India due to some personal beliefs of the people. The fundamental rights and basic human rights are being violated when it is done to a person with or without consent. Similarly, having no gender-neutral rape laws is another such example of the misconception that only a woman can be a victim of rape and a man is always the offender. In recent times, many reports and surveys proved that men are majorly being sexually harassed and raped by women. This paper will further focus on such stereotypes which are directly violating the fundamental rights of the people and also basic human rights.
As per the basic understanding given, “Gender Stereotypes” mean a generalized view or a belief about the characteristics, attitudes, or norms differentiating men and women based on societal perception. These stereotypes can affect society and an individual positively or negatively. It not only imbues such conceptions in the minds of people but also tries to apply them to an individual with or without consent. This will therefore result in the violation of rights. Also, such stereotyping will turn out to be harmful when it limits the capacity of an individual (man or woman) to advance their capabilities and evolve their personal and professional lives.
From traditional to modern times, there are gender-based stereotypes in simple to complex matters. From the simple societal image that “girls like pink and blue are for boys” to the complex issues like “women will only be the victims of sexual offences and men are the accused” stereotypes exist everywhere. We believe just like all others that women are discriminated against or treated to be inferior to men due to many reasons but that does not set aside the fact that men are also being abused by women and they also go through domestic violence, sexual harassment, and many more. But the fact is that these issues are suppressed again due to the stereotypes. A man does not have an open stage like women to file their problems nor are there any laws to seriously deal with it. Any stereotypical belief which differentiates a person on gender, religion, caste, or any other unreasonable factor is a violation of fundamental rights under Articles 14, 15, and 21, and therefore a violation of the law. The major societal issues are being suppressed due to the misconceptions and beliefs that the society creates itself and in the minds of generations. Groundless stereotyping will affect the rights of every individual in society despite the fact of gender.
Such unreasonable gender stereotypes violate the most important rights of an individual as the right to life, health, education, marriage, decent standard of living, and freedom of movement, expression, participation, representation, effective remedy, and against gender-based violence. It’s inconceivable that in some places women still do not have the right to vote and there is still no adequate representation in employment and also sports for no good reason but because of the stereotypes and standards created by society itself. Like such, there are numerous reasons to fight against these odds and for gender equality and gender-neutral laws to end these stereotypes and the suppression of human rights.
Apart from what’s discussed above, some stereotypes are unbelievable in modern times. A few such examples are Female genital mutilation (FGM) and killings against inter-caste or inter-religious marriages. In a society where feminism is evident everywhere and the shout for equality is desired, we still do not have gender-neutral rape laws and this is questionable. With the preconception that marriage gives every right to a man upon a woman to treat her as property, marital rape is not criminalized. There are many other loopholes in the system which violate the fundamental rights of an individual like the above, which are yet to be addressed and resolved.
Female Genital Mutilation is done in many states in India with a belief that a woman should be pure to her husband and not attract any other male. It is the act of cutting the genital part of a female. As per the UNICEF and WHO reports, around a 200million girls have undergone this procedure. It is illegal yet persistent in many parts of the world. It is known to the world that it violates the fundamental rights of an individual especially women and children rights but there is no voice against the same. This is one such act that takes place with several unreasonable beliefs and stereotypes. Therefore, Law against the same is the need of the hour.
Any developing nation needs to maintain equality among the citizens irrespective of any differences. It is irrelevant to assume that women are the victim of rapes and not men or that the men are the offenders. Violate against men, be it domestic or sexual is often taking place and not reported due to societal limitations. The unreasonable assumption that only men use power against women for exploitation is baseless and makes men more vulnerable to false cases as well. This result in gender-based discrimination and violates Article 14 and 21 of the constitution. Therefore, it is important to have gender-neutral laws including those which are inclined to protect women should realize the need to protect the male and other gender victims. The above-mentioned and various other issues result from gender stereotyping. This makes us understand the need to overcome such stereotypes which violate fundamental rights and protect an individual from any exploitation that happens in light of the stereotypes.
- In the case of Air India v. Nergesh Meerza & Ors, Air India enacted a regulation that the air hostess has to be given retirement immediately after she becomes pregnant within four years from the starting date of her job. The court held this regulation to be arbitrary and unreasonable and violating Article 14 of the constitution. The regulation clearly shows the typical viewpoint and the view of the Supreme Court is a positive step to overcome gender stereotypes.
- In the case of Sunita Tiwari v. Union of India, the practice of FGM was challenged for being violative of human rights, especially against women. The court upheld the contention and banned the practice as it is violative of the dignity, equality, and human rights of women who are victims.
- In the case of Priya Patel v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the court took a typical view stating that “women cannot have the intention of rape”. It is evident that the stereotypical ideologies are so inherent in society and it is in cases observed in the judiciary as well. It is the stereotypical belief that women are only victims and the same is upheld in the case as well.
- Similarly, in the case of Meenavathi v. Senthamarai Selvi, despite reporting many false cases against men, the court held that any accusations against women in the matter of domestic violence will not be entertained by the court under the act of 2005.
- In the landmark decision of the court in the case of Vishaka v. the State of Rajasthan, it enacted the legislation, Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace, 2013, yet, the act completely excludes men in the purview of the act assuming that men cannot be victims under the said act for the said offence.
All the above cases and decisions of the court reflect the stereotypical view and violate the rights of an individual directly or indirectly.
Fundamental Rights are the most valued part of the Indian Constitution. It guarantees the basic rights of an individual in society. But when these rights are violated in light of any preconceptions or gender stereotypic standards set by society, it results in grave injustice. To overcome these violations is as important as having such rights embedded in the constitution and only then the law of the land will prevail. Better education, and voicing out the injustices paired with stricter sanctions against such violence will provide aid to overcome such hurdles.
Author(s) Name: Sakhamuri Poornasindhu (Presidency University, Bangalore)