Gender neutrality is the concept of eliminating gender-based discrimination
and bias and promoting gender equality by treating all individuals, regardless
of their gender identity, in the same way. In recent years, there has been a
growing awareness of gender identity and rights in India, leading to the
introduction of several initiatives towards gender neutrality.
One significant development in this regard is the legal recognition of the third
gender or transgender people. In 2014, the Supreme Court of India recognized the
transgender community as a third gender and directed the government to take
affirmative action to provide equal opportunities and rights to transgender
Additionally, various government policies and programs have been implemented to
promote gender equality and eliminate discrimination. For instance, the Beti
Bachao Beti Padhao campaign was launched in 2015 to address the declining trend
of the girl child ratio in India and promote gender equality. Similarly, the
Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana scheme was launched to encourage parents to save money
for the education and future of their daughters.
Moreover, several private organizations and individuals have also been
advocating for gender neutrality and inclusivity. For example, some companies
have implemented gender-neutral dress codes, restrooms, and policies to provide
equal opportunities and benefits to their employees. However, despite these
efforts, there is still a long way to go towards achieving true gender
neutrality in India.
Discrimination and biases based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and
gender expression continue to be prevalent in many aspects of Indian society. It
is crucial to continue promoting awareness, education, and advocacy towards
gender neutrality and equality to create a more inclusive and just society.
The main objective of the research paper is to focus on the gender neutrality in
law and the problems relating thereto.
The specific objectives are:
- To find out the gender neutrality in law
- To discover out challenges before neutrality in law.
- To enumerate the initiatives that must be taken by the government to
increase gender neutrality in law.
To address the gender neutrality in law the research paper adopted a
pre-dominantly review approach. The study has been conducted mainly on the basis
of secondary information. Various journals and research papers, diagnostic study
and survey reports, newspaper articles and books have been surveyed in this
Judiciary on Gender neutrality in law:
The issue of gender neutrality in Indian law has been a contentious one. While
there have been some positive legal developments, there is still a long way to
go in recognizing gender neutrality in Indian law. One of the landmark cases in
this area is National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India (2014),
commonly known as the NALSA case. In this case, the Supreme Court recognized the
right of transgender individuals to self-identify their gender and directed the
government to provide them with legal recognition as a third gender.
held that gender identity is an integral part of a person's personality and the
right to self-identification is an inherent part of personal autonomy and
self-expression. However, despite this progressive judgment, there are still
several laws that remain gender-specific and discriminate against transgender
individuals. For example, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalized
homosexual conduct until it was struck down by the Supreme Court in Navtej Singh
Johar v. Union of India
(2018). Similarly, the Indian adoption laws only allow
married couples to adopt a child, effectively excluding single individuals and
same-sex couples from adopting.
There have been other cases where the judiciary has failed to recognize gender
neutrality in law. For example, in Anuj Garg v. Hotel Association of India
(2008), the Supreme Court held that a woman cannot be accused of sexual
harassment, as the definition of sexual harassment in the law at the time only
applied to men harassing women. It was only in 2013 that the definition of
sexual harassment was amended to include gender-neutral language.
case, Yusuf Abdul Aziz v. State of Bombay
(1954), the Supreme Court held that
only men could be charged with adultery, effectively treating women as property
of their husbands. It was only in 2018 that the Supreme Court struck down this
archaic law and recognized the right of women to equality in marriage. while
there have been some positive legal developments in recognizing gender
neutrality in Indian law, there is still a long way to go in ensuring that all
laws are gender-neutral and do not discriminate against any individual on the
basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Indian constitution on gender neutrality in law:
India's constitution does not explicitly mention gender neutrality, but it does
have provisions that aim to eliminate discrimination based on gender and promote
- Article 15 of the Indian Constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. This means that discrimination based on gender is not allowed.
- Article 16 guarantees equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. This means that women are entitled to equal opportunities in employment and cannot be discriminated against on the basis of gender.
- Article 39(a) of the Indian Constitution mandates that the State shall direct its policy towards securing men and women equal right to an adequate means of livelihood.
- Article 42 directs the State to make provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief for women.
In addition to these constitutional provisions, India has also enacted several
laws and policies that aim to promote gender equality and eliminate
discrimination based on gender. For instance, the Protection of Women from
Domestic Violence Act, 2005 provides for the protection of women from domestic
violence and abuse.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention,
Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 makes it mandatory for all workplaces to
have policies and procedures in place to prevent sexual harassment of women.
while India's constitution may not explicitly mention gender neutrality, it does
contain provisions that promote gender equality and aim to eliminate
discrimination based on gender.
India has made some recent developments in promoting gender neutrality in law.
Here are some notable developments:
Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019:
In November 2019, the Indian government passed the Transgender Persons
(Protection of Rights) Act, which recognizes the rights of transgender persons
and prohibits discrimination against them. The Act provides for the
establishment of a National Council for Transgender Persons, which will advise
the government on transgender issues.
In India, personal laws govern matters such as marriage, divorce, and
inheritance. Recently, there have been efforts to reform these laws to make them
more gender-neutral. For example, the Indian government has passed laws that
allow Hindu women to be the legal guardians of their children, regardless of
whether they are married or divorced. The government has also proposed a Uniform
Civil Code, which would replace the existing personal laws with a single,
secular code that would apply to all citizens.
In 2013, the Indian government passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at
Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, which requires all
employers to establish mechanisms to prevent and redress sexual harassment at
the workplace. The Act is gender-neutral and protects both men and women.
Right to inherit property:
The Indian government has passed laws that grant women equal rights to inherit
property, which was not the case in the past. For example, the Hindu Succession
Act, 1956 was amended in 2005 to grant daughters equal rights to inherit
Role of POCSO in gender neutral law in India:
POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, 2012 is a
gender-neutral law in India that is designed to protect children below the age
of 18 from sexual abuse and exploitation. The law covers a wide range of
offenses, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography. The
POCSO Act, being gender-neutral, applies equally to both male and female
It recognizes that children of all genders are vulnerable to sexual
abuse and aims to provide equal protection to all children. This is a
significant step towards promoting gender equality and protecting the rights of
all children. Section 2(d) of the act explains "child" means any person below
the age of eighteen years. Which means the act deals with sexual offences
against child.There is no differential between a girl child or boy child, act
only deal with child includes boy child and girl child.
Social institutions working for gender neutrality in law in India:
In India, there are several social institutions working towards promoting gender
neutrality in law. Here are a few notable ones:
- Lawyers Collective:
Lawyers Collective is a legal advocacy group that works towards advancing human
rights, especially the rights of women and marginalized groups. They have been
instrumental in pushing for progressive legislative reforms and judicial
pronouncements related to gender equality.
- Centre for Social Research (CSR):
The Centre for Social Research is a non-governmental organization that works
towards gender equality and women's empowerment. They have been working towards
gender-neutral laws and policies in India, particularly in areas such as
domestic violence and sexual harassment.
- All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA):
The All India Democratic Women's Association is a feminist organization that
aims to promote women's rights and gender equality in India. They have been
actively campaigning for gender-neutral laws and policies in the country,
particularly in the areas of marriage and inheritance.
- Human Rights Law Network (HRLN):
The Human Rights Law Network is a network of lawyers and activists who provide
legal assistance and representation to marginalized communities. They have been
working towards gender neutrality in laws related to marriage, adoption, and
- National Commission for Women (NCW):
The National Commission for Women is a statutory body established by the Indian
government to promote and protect the rights of women in the country. They have
been advocating for gender-neutral laws and policies in India and have made
several recommendations to the government in this regard.
These are just a few examples of the social institutions working towards gender
neutrality in law in India. There are several other organizations and
individuals who are working towards this cause, and their efforts are crucial
for achieving gender equality in the country.
- Social aspects:
Gender neutrality in law in India refers to the concept of removing gender-based
discrimination and biases in laws, policies, and practices. The social aspects
of gender neutrality in law in India are complex and multifaceted, as they
relate to the ways in which gender is constructed, experienced, and represented
in Indian society.
One of the primary social aspects of gender neutrality in law
in India is the promotion of gender equality and the elimination of gender-based
discrimination. This can include addressing issues such as unequal pay, domestic
violence, and access to education and employment opportunities, among others. By
removing legal barriers that discriminate against individuals on the basis of
gender, gender-neutral laws can help to create a more equitable and just
However, gender neutrality in law in India also faces resistance and challenges
from various social groups and communities, who may hold conservative or
traditional views regarding gender roles and identities. For example, there has
been opposition to gender-neutral laws related to marriage, divorce, and
inheritance, which are seen as challenging traditional patriarchal norms and
values. Moreover, the implementation of gender-neutral laws in India can also be
hindered by the lack of awareness and understanding among the general
population, as well as by the limited resources and capacity of the legal system
to enforce such laws effectively.
Thus, addressing the social aspects of gender
neutrality in law in India requires a comprehensive approach that involves
education, awareness-raising, and capacity-building efforts, as well as
collaboration between various stakeholders, including government, civil society,
and the private sector.
India has made progress towards gender equality in recent years, but there are
still significant challenges in achieving gender neutrality in law. One major
issue is the persistence of gender-based discrimination and bias, which can be
reinforced by outdated laws and legal processes that fail to adequately protect
the rights of women and members of marginalized gender identities. In
particular, there are several areas where gender neutrality in law remains a
challenge in India. These include:
- Family Law:
India's family laws continue to be rooted in patriarchal traditions and often
reinforce gender stereotypes. For example, the Hindu Succession Act of 1956,
which governs the inheritance rights of Hindus, gives preferential treatment to
male heirs. Similarly, the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of
1937, which governs Muslim personal law, also contains provisions that
discriminate against women, particularly in the areas of marriage, divorce, and
- Criminal Law:
Although India has enacted a number of laws to address gender-based violence,
including the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act and the Sexual
Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act,
there are still gaps in the legal framework that make it difficult to hold
perpetrators accountable. For example, the Indian Penal Code still does not
recognize marital rape as a crime.
- Employment Law:
Despite constitutional guarantees of gender equality, women still face
significant discrimination in the workplace. Laws such as the Equal Remuneration
Act, which requires equal pay for equal work, are not always enforced, and women
are often denied opportunities for promotion and advancement.
- LGBTQ+ Rights:
India has made significant strides in recent years in recognizing the rights of
LGBTQ+ individuals, including the landmark 2018 Supreme Court decision that
decriminalized consensual same-sex relations. However, there are still no
explicit protections for LGBTQ+ individuals in Indian law, and discrimination
and violence against this community remain widespread.
To address these challenges, India needs to adopt a more inclusive and
gender-neutral legal framework that protects the rights of all individuals,
regardless of their gender identity. This will require not only changes to
existing laws but also a cultural shift towards greater gender equality and a
more inclusive society.
While these developments are positive steps towards promoting gender neutrality
in law, there is still a long way to go. Gender-based discrimination and
violence continue to be major issues in India, and more needs to be done to
ensure that all individuals are treated equally under the law.
Many laws and policies continue to reinforce traditional gender roles and
stereotypes. Furthermore, discrimination and violence against individuals based
on their gender identity or sexual orientation remain pervasive. There is a need
for continued efforts to promote gender equality and eliminate all forms of
discrimination based on gender.
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- 4: Avni Bhayani, Role of Indian legal system in protecting gender equality in India, The mikus quriae, (Accessed: May 4, 2023), 5:38, Available at: https://theamikusqriae.com/role-of-indian-legal-system-in-protecting-gender-equality-in-india/
- 5: The Indian constitution, Allahabad Law Publications, 2020
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