New Delhi | The Supreme Court Wednesday said assumptions are often made about a woman's character based on her expressive choices like her clothes and sexual history, and distinguished between the stereotypes and the reality concerning sex and sexual violence.
The top court provided several details in tabular form in its handbook which was launched on Wednesday. It contains a glossary of gender unjust terms and phrases and suggests alternative words for being used in judicial discourses and decision making.
In one of the illustrative lists, it detailed the stereotypes that are often applied to men and women in the context of sex and sexual violence and explained as to why such assumptions are wrong.
Assumptions are often made about a woman's character based on her expressive choices (e.g., the clothes she wears) and sexual history. These assumptions may also impact how her actions and statements are assessed in judicial proceedings. Assumptions based on a woman's character or the clothes she wears diminish the importance of consent in sexual relationships as well as the agency and personhood of women, it said.
It is a stereotype that women who dress in clothes that are not considered to be traditional want to engage in sexual relations with men and if a man touches such a woman without her consent, it is her fault, the handbook said.
The reality is the clothing or attire of a woman neither indicates that she wishes to engage in sexual relations nor is it an invitation to touch her.
Women are capable of verbally communicating with others and their choice of clothing represents a form of self-expression that is independent of questions of sexual relations. A man who touches a woman without her consent must not be permitted to take the defence that the woman invited his touch by dressing in a particular way.
In another illustration of stereotype, the handbook said women who consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes want to engage in sexual relations with men and, if a man touches such a woman without her consent, it is her fault.
The reality is women, like all other people, may consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes for a variety of reasons including for recreation. The consumption of alcohol or use of tobacco is not an indication of their desire for sexual relations with a man. A man who touches a woman without her consent must not be permitted to take the defence that the woman invited his touch by drinking or smoking.
It termed as stereotype the assumption that men, who sexually assault or rape women, are typically strangers and are not known to the woman.
However the reality is very often men sexually assault or rape a woman known to them in some capacity. The woman may be a colleague, employer, employee, neighbour, family member, friend, former or present partner, teacher, or acquaintance.
The handbook said it is stereotype to assume that women, who are sexually assaulted or raped by men cry incessantly and are depressed or suicidal and if a woman's behaviour does not conform to this mould, she is lying about having been raped.
The reality is different people react differently to traumatic events, the handbook said.
In an illustration, the handbook said, For example, the death of a parent may cause one person to cry publicly whereas another person in a similar situation may not exhibit any emotion in public. Similarly, a woman's reaction to being sexually assaulted or raped by a man may vary based on her individual characteristics. There is no correct or appropriate way in which a survivor or victim behaves.
The handbook also provided several other examples of stereotypes against women concerning sex and sexual violence.