FEMINIST UNDERSTANDING OF PART III OF CONSTITUTION OF INDIA
Amidst the recent legal victories and growing public support for eradication of practices pertaining to unequal treatment of women, numerous fundamentalist groups have challenged the same on the basis of Right to Religion guaranteed under the Constitution of India. This Article explores the possibilities that exist for a feminist understanding of Part III of the Constitution in light of the judicial misinterpretations that have taken place so far. Among other issues, we examine the feminist critique of such value and gender-neutral provisions as they have been interpreted in various judgments; pragmatic regulative challenges, like the limits of letter of law vis-à-vis judicial discretion to interpret and construct them; and how constitutional provisions and their customary understanding further these struggles by creating a hegemony of male-dominated legal sphere. We argue that if these perspectives are understood through a feminist lens, then the outcome would be significantly different. On one hand, Right to life in its umbrella provision has provided several interpretative footholds for expanding its domain by becoming more meaningful to the cause of women. On the other hand, Right to Religion has simultaneously reinforced cultural stigmas by creating a divide between the private and public spheres of action. These include stigmas that constrain the practical utility of the existing legal tools (especially as means for implementing broader social change beyond the letter of the law). By accounting for these conflicting legal provisions, this Article provides a comprehensive roadmap of the issues and challenges likely to emerge along the path towards an equal and free society within the framework of Constitution of India.
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