top of page

Redesigning the Patriarchal Constitution

Language is the best reflector of society. Language powerfully reflects and influences attitudes, behaviour and perceptions.It holds even high importance when it comes to the language of the laws. Politics is no longer a man's world, but some state constitutions are still full of he's and him’s. When will the time come to make this change in the Constitutions of all countries in the world? Laws propose gender equality but neglect their own languages which are a strict promoter of patriarchy in today’s world. Here’s more on this by Tanvi Bansal.


Gender equality is a common term which we all talk about nowadays however when it comes to the gender of the laws, this same term becomes far from realism. The world has considered man as the historically default gender in all law documents and even the Constitution. The Constitution, the most sacred book of the law of land, which itself preaches of gender equality is biased in its language. The laws which are regarded as “man-made” are completely inclined towards men.This is quite relatable also as even in our day-to-day language, we use “man” to describe our species and “mankind” to unify us. It takes the next step in the ‘language of the laws’.The entire reason behind this is that society even in the 21st century is centered around ‘man’ and remains patriarchal in nature.

As per a report, out of the 48 countries in Asia, only four countries, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and South Korea have gender-neutral laws. Let's take India’s gender-biased constitution for an example. Rape under Section 375 in the Constitution of India begins by saying, “A man is said to commit rape, if he…”. According to this statement, the man has always been the culprit, placing the woman as the victim of the rapes. The most contradictory law is the ‘Right to Equality’ under Article 14 and 15 which says that a person is equal in the eyes of the law irrespective of ‘his’ caste, gender, sex and relion. The law establishes equality in terms of sex despite being gender biased in itself. This shows how the law is itself contradicting between men and women. Recently there was even a successful debate regarding the changing of the term ‘chairman’ to ‘chairperson’. In the recent amendment of ‘Consumer Protection Act of 2019’, the word chairperson was used as opposed to chairman. However in terms of pronouns the conditions still remain the same.

Many legal experts are against the opinion that gender neutral languages in laws should not take place. It is believed that, ‘It may be a nice gesture, but it has absolutely no legal reason’. This was stated by a professor of law in the USA. Most people are still of the opinion that gender should be biased towards the larger community. They believe that this is a minor issue in comparison to all the other issues of the world and should not be given much attention. If this is the opinion of the people then how can the world move towards a gender-neutral constitution. What is required is to change the mindset of these people. To understand why we must promote the use of gender neutral language in our laws, everyone must understand the drawbacks and perils of continuing to use male pronouns and male designations and descriptions. They need to understand the discrimination inherited in the generic languages, the stereotype which is being prompted and the negative impact which it haves on the culture and the social attitudes.

Karen Busby, a human right activist minced no words in her essay, ‘The maleness of legal language’, wherein she said, “legal discourse systematically excludes, devalues, trivialises and ignores women”. Whether the country is China or USA, the political system is capitalism or socialism, the gender biased laws prevail as they are ingrained in the mindset of the humans.The country or political system does not matter as male dominance exists everywhere whether this fact is accepted or not. This can be changed only by a change in the complete mindset of the people who think that this change is redundant.

The trend to move towards a gender neutral language was heralded by UNESCO when in 1987 it published the first edition of the “Guide to Non-Sexist Language”. This and subsequent efforts of UNESCO have concentrated on the use of gender neutral language with a view to promote inclusiveness and eliminate the inequality between the binary genders. However the major shortcomings of such articles include the fact that they neglect the non-binary genders and focus on just male and female. This is again a very big mistake on the part of comprehension of the gender neutral laws. They should be designed to not only include the women but also all the other communities of people. Only then can the laws be named as gender-neutral.

The gender-biased language has originated not from english but from latin. A language which is regarded as the oldest language and is probably dead right now. The language has changed, the people have changed and the time has changed now then why are we still stuck with the age-old generic laws? Is it not high-time when we should move towards a neutral gendered language in laws?

This definitely requires a policy change which can only be brought about by the government. We need to break away from a norm which has no good reason to be followed. Gender neutral language is more functional in as much as it is clear, precise, and unambiguous. When the law itself is expressed in a gender neutral tenor, it not only reflects the principle of equality enshrined in our constitution but reaffirms the sense of ownership in persons of all genders with regards to the laws made for them. Gender neutral language reinforces the belief that all genders are equal in the eyes of law. This will make the spirit of the constitution even stronger.Stepping away from the maleness of the language of laws will also assist in breaking down the male lens through which laws are viewed in our society. If this issue is not more important than pandemic or climatic change then it also does not hold less importance. The people who say “women can wait’ must be proven wrong and this is the time.

Written by Tanvi Bansal

Illustrated by Rishita Banerjee






17 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
Post: Blog2 Post
bottom of page