Chief Justice’s Big Remarks On Gender Pay Gap In India, Homemakers’ Rights

Chief Justice's Big Remarks On Gender Pay Gap In India, Homemakers' Rights

Chief Justice DY Chandrachud was speaking at National Law School of India University, Bengaluru


Explaining why law needs to address gender inequality that persists within households, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said privacy cannot be a “cloak for infringement of rights”. The Chief Justice was speaking at a lecture at National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, in the memory of India’s 19th Chief Justice ES Venkataramaiah. Justice Venkataramiah’s daughter, Justice BV Nagarathna, is a Supreme Court judge and in line to become India’s first woman Chief Justice.

Delivering the memorial lecture, the Chief Justice said the purpose of law has to be expanded to safeguard participants in both public and private spaces. He then said he would be looking at gender discrimination from the perspective of public and private divide.

The Indian Penal Code, he said, provides that when two or more persons disturb public peace by getting into a brawl, they are said to commit an offence. “This is punishable only if it is a public place and not otherwise. Thus, the thrust of the law is not only the inherent merit or demerit of brawls, but where it is taking place. A holistic, constitutionally governed society must be willing to look beyond this binary of public and private,” the Chief Justice said.

This dichotomy of what is public and private has formed the basis of feminist and economic critique of our laws for several years, he said. “For freedom of expression to truly exist, it has to exist in both these spaces,” the Chief Justice added.

“If the hierarchy persists in the private space and the law looks in the other way in the name of the sanctity of the household, we would be failing in the promise of equal protection of the law and qualifying it with a caveat based on the location of wrongdoing. This will be a diluted understanding of what privacy entails. It is not a cloak for infringement of rights,” the Chief Justice said.

Chief Justice Chandrachud said a household as a private space is a site of economic activity for a homemaker who is not remunerated for her service. “Similarly in public places, women are confined to distinctive service oriented and often sexualised occupations and thus both sides have rights and their infringement. However, if law chooses it will interfere only in (the) latter, that is public space, then that law will be unjust,” he said.

“A sense of justice evolves when we are ready and willing to open our minds beyond the assumption that society has taught us to hold. It is only when we have an open mind are we likely to feel the need to deviate from these base assumptions to curate our own sense of justice,” the Chief Justice said.

He said technology has ended spatial constraints and laws must “identify the oppressed and oppressor, regardless of where they are”.

“When a home is a site of economic employment for a house help, does the law give the same benefits to the person as a corporate employee, he asked, adding, “The aged notion that what men do is public, and what women do is private has no application in society governed by constitutions.”

Speaking on the gender pay gap in India, he said, “This issue is particularly pronounced for Indian women, especially those belonging to a marginalised community. Despite their significant contributions to various professional spheres, women continue to face disparity in remunerations compared to their male counterparts.”

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