Feminist Jurisprudence & Gender Justice

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSLGC2LP2124

Semester and Year Offered: 3rd Semester for 2nd year students of MA in Law, Politics and Society (Monsoon Semester 2018)

Course Coordinator and Team: Saumya Uma

Email of course coordinator: saumya[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: Laws related to violence against, harassment of and discrimination of women, are currently subjects of intense debate, deliberations and discourse. The efficacy and effective implementation of laws and legal initiatives such as the Muslim family law reform, Uniform Civil Code, rape law and law prohibiting sexual harassment have predominantly remained focus areas for such discourses. Feminist jurisprudence, as a philosophy of law based on the social, economic and political equality of the sexes, exerts a considerable influence on debates and discourses around the formulation, interpretation and implementation of laws related to gender based violence and discrimination. It is dedicated to changing women’s status through a re-working of the law and its approach to gender. Against this backdrop, this course aims at critically ‘unpacking’ the law and exploring the potential for and limits of legal transformation in order to achieve gender justice and equality.

A brief description of the Course:

The course offers to examine the potential of law for delivering gender justice, empowerment and equality. It juxtaposes the myriad laws that claim to protect rights of women, within a Constitutional framework of right to life with dignity, equality and non-discrimination, with ground realities of gender-based violence and discrimination, institutional bias and apathy, and impunity embedded in law. By developing a foundational understanding of feminist theories, principles and politics, as well as the engagement of the Indian women’s movement with law, an analysis of the current Indian context is discussed through scholarly writings, an examination of statutes, judgments, law reform initiatives and discourses on law. While critically examining normative standards set by law, the course also acknowledges the limits of law and explores feminist re-imaginations of gender justice through non-state laws.

Although gender is socially constructed, and gender-based violence and discrimination impacts all genders, this course would largely focus on women. The course is divided into five modules:

Module 1: Introduction to feminist jurisprudence

Module 2: Gender equality and the law

Module 3: Feminist doctrines and their application to laws on violence against women in India

Module 4: Gender-based harassment and discrimination

Module 5: Limits of law and re-imagining gender justice

Course Objectives

  • To introduce students to key writings, concepts, principles and discourses in feminist jurisprudence;
  • To enable the students to critically examine statutes and judgments through the feminist lens; and
  • To facilitate informed discussions and deliberations among students on law and gender justice in India.



Syllabus with list of readings


Judgments for Reference during the Course (Indicative list)


  1. Air India and Others v. Nargesh Meerza 1982 SCR (1) 438
  2. Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A.K.Chopra AIR 1999 SC 625
  3. Arumugam Servai v. State of Tamil Nadu (2011) 6 SCC 405
  4. C.B. Muthamma v. Union of India 1979(4)SCC 260
  5. Javed and Others v. State of Haryana2003 (8) SCC 369
  6. Lata Singh v. State of UP AIR 2006 SC 2522
  7. Mahmood Farooqui v. State (judgment of Delhi High Court on Sep. 25, 2017, available at
  8. Nyaydhar v. Union of India Ministry of Home Affairs and Others (judgment of the Supreme Court on Nov. 29, 2017)
  9. P.Geetha v. Kerela Livestock Development Board (2015) SCC Online Ker 71
  10. Rajesh Sharma v. State of Uttar Pradesh and Another2017 SCC OnLine SC 821
  11. Saroj Rani v. Sudarshan Kumar Chadha AIR 1984 SC 1562
  12. Shiv Kumar v. Union of India (Karnataka High Court judgment of 3 February 2014)
  13. Smt. Harvinder Kaur v. Harmander Singh Choudhry AIR 1984 Del 66
  14. T.Sareetha v. T. Venkata Subbaiah AIR 1983 AP 356
  15. Vasantha R v. Union of India and Others 2001 II LLJ 843(Mad) 99
  16. Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan (1997) 6 SCC 241
  17. Vishwa Lochan Madan v. Union of India (2014) 7 SCC 70
  18. V.Revathi v. Union of India and Others (1988) 2 SCC 72



Statutes for Reference during the Course (Indicative list)


  1. Constitution of India, 1950 (Jan. 26, 1950)
  2. Criminal Law (Amendment) Act (2013), No. 13 of 2013 (Apr. 2, 2013)
  3. Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance (2018), No. 2 of 2018 (Apr. 21, 2018)
  4. Criminal Procedure Code (1973), No. 2 Of 1974 (Jan. 25, 1974)
  5. Dissolution Of Muslim Marriages Act (1939), No. VIII of 1939 (Mar. 17, 1939)
  6. Equal Remuneration Act (1976), No. 25 of 1976 (Feb. 11, 1976) along with its amendments
  7. Guardian and Wards Act (1890), No. 8 of 1890 (Mar. 21, 1890)
  8. Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (1956), No. 104 of 1956 (Dec. 30, 1956)
  9. Indian Evidence Act (1872), No. 1 Of 1872 (Sep. 1, 1872)
  10. Indian Penal Code (1860), No. 45 Of 1860 (Oct. 6, 1860)
  11. Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act (1986), No. 25 of 1996 (May 19, 1986)
  12. Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (1994), No. 57 of 1994 (Sep. 20, 1994) along with its amendments
  13. Protection Of Children From Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act (2012), No. 32 of 2012 (June 19, 2012)
  14. The Family Courts Act (1984), No. 66 of 1984 (Sep. 14, 1986)
  15. The Hindu Marriage Act (1955), No. 25 of 1955 (May 18, 1955)
  16. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act (2015), No. 2 of 2016 (Dec. 31, 2015)
  17. The Maternity Benefit Act (1961), No. 53 of 1961 (Dec. 12, 1961) along with its amendments
  18. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1971), No. 34 of 1971 (Aug. 10, 1971)
  19. The Mental Healthcare Act (2017), No. 10 of 2017 (Apr. 7, 2017)
  20. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006), No. 6 of 2007 (Jan. 10, 2007)
  21. The Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act (2005), Act No. 43 Of 2005 (Sep. 13, 2005)
  22. The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities Act (2016), Act No. 49 Of 2016 (Dec. 27, 2016).
  23. The Scheduled Castes and The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act (1989), No. 33 Of 1989 (Sep. 11, 1989)
  24. The Scheduled Castes and The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Amendment Act, (2015), No. 1 Of 2016 (Dec. 31, 2015)
  25. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (2013), No. 14 of 2013 (Apr. 22, 2013)






(Weeks 1,2 & 3)


The first module introduces the students to feminist theory, politics and jurisprudence.  It familiarizes them with basic concepts, major schools of feminism, classical and contemporary feminist discourses, and their linkages with law.  The module provides for a close reading of selected aspects of classical and path breaking feminist scholarly writings.  It also discusses feminist critique of important institutions.



  • Introduction to gender, patriarchy and feminism
  • Overview on schools of feminism: liberal, radical, socialist, post-colonial, Dalit
  • Classical and contemporary feminist discourses: neo-liberal, governance & carceral
  • Feminist critique of the State, family, marriage, religion and the market



Essential Readings:


  1. Alison M Jaggar, Feminist Politics And Human Nature (Rowman & Allanheld 1983), Chapters 3-6
  2. Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman: With Strictures On Political And Moral Subjects
  3. Simone De Beauvoir, The Second Sex 813-847 (trans. Constance Borde & Sheila Malovany Chevallier, First Vintage Books Edition May 2011) (1949).
  4. Kate Millet, Sexual Politics 61-87 (University of Illinois Press 1969, reprinted 2000).
  5. Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women, And Rape 256-282 (Bantam Books 1975).
  6. Catherine MacKinnon, Difference and Dominance, in Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law (1987).
  7. Sharmila Rege, A Dalit Feminist Standpoint, in Gender and Caste 90-101 (Anupama Rao ed. 2005).
  8. Nancy Fraser, How Feminism became Capitalism’s Handmaiden- and How to Reclaim it, in The Guardian, Oct. 14, 2013, available at



Recommended Readings:


  1. Chandra Talpade Mohanty, “Under Western Eyes” Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles, 28 Signs 499-535 (2003).
  2. Prabha Kotiswaran, Á Bittersweet Moment’: Indian Governance Feminism and the 2013 Rape Law Reforms’ inEconomic & Political Weekly, Vol. 52, Issue 25-26, 24 June, 2017.
  3. Pratiksha Baxi, Çarceral Feminism as Judicial Bias: The Discontents Around State vs. Mahmood Farooqui, Interdisciplinary Law, Issue 3, October 2016
  4. Catherine Rottenberg, The Rise of Neoliberal Feminism” in Cultural Studies, Nov. 18, 2013.  1-20, available at





 (Weeks 4 & 5)


Very often, terms such as ‘gender inclusion’, ‘gender blindness’, ‘gender neutrality’, ‘gender sensitivity’ and ‘gender mainstreaming’ are used without a clear understanding of the distinction between the same.  This module begins by unpacking these terms.  A discussion on the concept of gender justice, and types of and approaches to gender equality seeks to provide a lens through which both international and Indian normative standards are examined. 


This module would also examine women’s movements’ engagement with the law in India, thereby providing the student with an understanding of the context in which conversations and initiatives for law reform around gender justice have taken place in India.  It then provides an overview of India’s obligations to gender justice under international law and the Indian Constitution.





  • Understanding gender terminologies
  • Concept of gender justice and gender equality
  • Approaches to gender equality
  • Women in India: A situational analysis
  • Indian women’s movements & their engagement with the law
  • India’s obligation to gender justice: Constitutional and international




Essential Readings:


  1. Anca Gheaus , Gender Justice, in Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, Vol. 6, No. 1, Jan. 2012, 1-25, available at
  2. Shampa Dev, ‘Gender Justice in India: A Feminist Jurisprudential Perspective’, Tattwa Journal of Philosophy, 2018, Vol. 10, 69-88, available
  3. Marie Powell, ‘A Rights Based Approach to Gender Equality and Women’s Rights’, Canadian Journal of Development Studies, Vol. 26, 2005 – Issue sup 1: Gender and Development, 605-617
  4. ‘Towards Equality’ – Report of the Committee on the Status of Women in India, Government of India, 1974, available at, and
  5. Vibhuti Patel & Radhika Kajuria, Political Feminism in India: An Analysis of Actors, Debates and Strategies (Frederich Ebert Stiftung 2016)
  6. Catharine A MacKinnon, ‘Sex Equality under the Constitution of India: Problems, Prospects and Personal Laws’, International Journal of Constitutional Law, Volume 4, Issue 2, 1 April 2006, 181–202.



Recommended Readings:


  1. Ratna Kapur & Brenda Cossman, ‘On Women, Equality and the Constitution: Through the Looking Glass of Feminism’ inGender and Politics in India 197-261(Nivedita Menon ed., Oxford University Press  1999)
  2. Kalpana Kannabiran, Judicial Meanderings in Patriarchal Thickets: Litigating Sex Discrimination in India, in Women and Law: Critical Feminist Perspectives 172-204 (Kalpana Kannabiran ed., 2014).
  3. Nivedita Menon, ‘In the Wake of the AUD Report’, Mar. 10, 2018,
  4. Gita Sen & Avanti Mukherjee, ‘No Empowerment without Rights, No Rights without Politics: Gender-equality, MDGs and the post-2015 Development Agenda’, Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Vol. 15, 2014, Issue 2-3: Special Issue on Millennium Development Goals, 188-202
  5. Jayna Kothari, Gender Justice and India’s Obligations under International Conventions, Mar. 8, 2013, available at
  6. Recommendations of High Level Committee on Status of Women in India headed by Prof. Pam Rajput, 2014.
  7. National Policy for Women 2016: Articulating a Vision for Empowerment of Women (Draft), Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, May 2016, available at
  8. Radha Kumar, The History of Doing: An Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990 (Zubaan 1993)





(Weeks 6, 7 & 8)


This module aims at familiarizing the students with feminist doctrines, concepts and principles, and exploring the application of the same to statutory laws and judgments on violence against women in India.




  • ‘Good Woman, Bad Woman’  syndrome
  • Victimization, agency & empowerment
  • Consent
  • Lived realities
  • Intersectionalities




Essential Readings:


  1. Upendra Baxi, Vasudha Dhagamwar, Raghunath Kelkar And Lotika Sarkar,  Open Letter To The Chief Justice Of India, Supreme Court In Mathura Rape Case, Sep. 16 1979.
  2. Flavia Agnes, Protecting Women Against Violence – Review of a Decade of Legislation 1980-89, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 27, Issue No. 17, Apr. 25, 1992.
  3. Ved Kumari, ‘Gender Analyses of Indian Penal Code’ in (ed), Engendering Law - Essays in Honour of Lotika Sarkar (Amita Dhanda, Archana Parashar eds. 1999, Eastern Book Company) 139-160
  4. Sunita V S Bandewar, Amita Pitre & Lakshmi Lingam, Five Years Post Nirbhaya: Critical Insights into the Status of Response to Sexual Assault, in Indian Journal Of Medical Ethics, Mar. 28, 2018, available at
  5. Kimberle Crenshaw, Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color, 43 Stanford L. Rev.  1241-99 (1991).
  6. Nivedita Menon, Is Feminism about ‘Women’? A Critical View on Intersectionality from India, International Viewpoint, 18 May  2015, available at
  7. Naisargi Dave, Queer Activism: A Story in the Anthropology of Ethics 167-204 (Zubaan 2016)
  8. Case Studies: Khairlanji, Soni Sori, Bilkis Bano, Kunan Poshpara & Extra judicial killings in Manipur


Recommended Readings:


  1. Report of the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law (Jan. 23, 2013), 57-95,
  2. Sohaila Abdulali, ‘I Was Wounded; My Honor Wasn’t - Sohaila Abdulali’, New York Times, Jan. 7, 2013 rapedi-was-wounded-my-honor-wasnt.html?_r=0

  1. Aloysius Irudayam SJ et al, Dalit Women Speak Out: Caste, Class and Gender Violence in India 46-66 (2011).
  2. Arvind Narrain, Violation of Bodily Integrity: The Delhi Rape Case Among Others, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 48, Issue No. 11, Mar. 16, 2013.





(Weeks 9 & 10)



This module critically examines laws pertaining to discrimination and harassment, including (but not restricted to) the Uniform Civil Code debate and the discourse around law prohibiting sexual harassment at the workplace.  It discusses the relevance and import of feminist doctrines such as ‘personal is political’ and ‘public - private dichotomy’. 


The final part of this module aims to trigger discussion around the current context in which due process has come to be discussed and deliberated upon globally, against the backdrop of ‘Me Too’ campaigns, ‘Lists’ that publically shame alleged sexual harassers, and sexual harassment laws that are heavily weighed against the respondents, but also deny justice to the complainants.  It examines the meaning and import of due process and procedural fairness and their relevance for the legitimacy of laws related to women’s rights.  It juxtaposes procedural fairness with populist and vigilante justice, and examines both through the prism of feminist principles.



  • Understanding doctrines: Personal is political, Public-private dichotomy
  • Debate on the Uniform Civil Code
  • Law to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace
  • ‘Misuse of law’ by women
  • Substantive and procedural justice; the relevance of due process



Essential Readings:


  1. Carol Pateman, ‘Feminist Critique of the Public and Private’ inFeminism and Equality103-123 (A Phillips (ed.)
  2. Flavia Agnes, Law, Justice and Gender: Family Law and Constitutional Provisions in India, (Oxford University Press 2011), Chapter 2: Constitutional Claims and Gender Justice.
  3. Flavia Agnes, ‘Conjugality, Property, Morality and Maintenance’ in Women And Law Critical Feminist Perspectives 32-58 (Kalpana Kannabiran ed., Sage Publications 2014)
  4. Flavia Agnes, ‘The Supreme Court, Media and the UCC Debate’ in Religion, Power & Violence: Expression of Politics in Contemporary Times 225-247(Ram Punyani ed., Sage Publications 2005)
  5. Narendra Subramaniam, India Needs to Debate the Components of a Progressive Uniform Civil Code’, The Wire, Oct. 23, 2017
  6. Nivedita Menon, Uniform Civil Code: The Women’s Movement Perspective, Kafila, Oct. 1, 2014
  7. Elizabeth Bartholet, Nancy Gertner, Janet Halley & Jeannie Suk Gersen, Fairness For All Students Under Title IX (Aug. 21, 2017), available at



Recommended Readings:


  1. Saptarshi Mandal, ‘Do Personal Laws Get Their Authority from Religion or the State – Revisiting Constitutional Status’, in Economic & Political Weekly, Vol. 51, Issue No. 50, Dec. 10, 2016
  2. Lotika Sarkar, Women And The Law (undated), available at






(Weeks 11 & 12)


The last module examines the prospects of gender justice within state and non-state laws and mechanisms for legal redress.  It discusses the limits of law and feminist re-imaginations of gender justice.


It draws upon the discourse on homogenous laws vs. plural laws, the Feminist Judgment Project initiative, and discussion of non-state and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms for women, examining the transformation of feminist knowledge into praxis, and raising questions of access to justice, legitimacy and effectiveness of non-state mechanisms for grievance redress for advancing gender justice.




  • Limits of law
  • Access to Justice for Women
  • Feminist Judgment Project
  • Non-state Mechanisms for Justice for Women in India




Essential Readings:



  1. Erika Rackley, ‘The Art and Craft of Writing Judgments: Notes on the Feminist Judgments Project’ in FEMINIST JUDGMENTS: FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE (Rosemary Hunter et al, eds. 2010)
  2. Sylvia Vatuk, ‘The “Women’s Court” in India: An Alternative Dispute Resolution Body for Women in Distress’, inThe Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law, Vol. 45, 2013, Issue 1, 76-103
  3. Nandita Haksar,1999. Human Rights Lawyering: A Feminist Perspective, in Engendering Law: Essays in Honour ofLotika Sarkar (Amita Dhanda & Archana Parashar eds., Eastern Book Company 1999).
  4. Saumya Uma, ‘Access to Justice for Women: From Obligations to Outcomes’, National Law University Odisha (NLUO) Law Journal – Special Issue on ‘Access to Justice’, Vol. II, Issue 1, August 2015, 116-134


Recommended Readings:


  1. Ritupriya Gurtoo, ‘Khap Panchayats in Relation to Women’s Human Rights: Indian Perspective’, Journal of Legal Studies and Research, Vol. 2, Issue 2, April 2016,
  2. Sabiha Hussain, Shariat Courts and Women’s Rights in India, Centre for Women’s Development Studies



Background Books

The following books provide useful overviews of the field, and the course draws upon portions of some of these books as part of the syllabus.

  1. Kalapana Kannabiran ed., Women And Law: Critical Feminist Perspectives (Sage Publications 2014).
  2. Amita Dhanda and Archana Parashar eds., Engendering Law: Essays in Honour of Lotika Sarkar (Eastern Book Company 1999).
  3. Flavia Agnes, Law and Gender Inequality: The Politics of Women’s Rights in India (Oxford University Press 2004).

Assessment Methodology:

Assessment methodology will consist of a combination of oral and written assignments for evaluation, the rough break up of which is as follows:

  • Response essay / critical reading and analysis of a judgment or statute: 30 marks
  • Field work-based written assignment & oral presentation: 30 marks *
  • Debate (oral + written submission): 30 marks**
  • Class participation: 10 marks
  1. The field work would be devised in a manner so as to expose the students to ground realities of underprivileged women’s lives, inter-sectional vulnerabilities they face, the role of law in addressing the same as well as the women’s access to justice.
  2. The debate would draw upon the research, analysis, reasoning, oratory and written skills of students on a popular issue such as the Uniform Civil Code, the need for stringent laws to address violence against women, women as victims of oppression versus agents of change, or women’s reservation in the Parliament.