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Justice, Peace and Equality

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The very idea that there could be a constitution for the whole world expresses a deep faith in the equality of all human beings. I regard this as a belief in the inalienable and equal dignity of every child, woman and man. It is with reference to this value, of every human being as an end in herself or himself, that a legal system needs to operate. Without this vital core, any body of constitutional principles or concrete laws would be hollow. I use the word ‘faith’ advisedly, because such a principle must be grasped by the whole person and not by the mind alone. Most of all, it must become visible in action, for of lip service there has been more than enough.

Living in India, with its own lofty constitution and a multitude of progressive laws, I am acutely conscious of the gap between word and deed. Consider the attitude of an unfortunately large section of the judiciary. Navratna Chaudhary, while appearing in the court of Justice S N Dhingra on January 7, 2006, was told by the judge that he knew how women lawyers make it, implying thereby that they use immoral means. This from one entrusted to deliver justice to women, no less than to men.

The concept of human equality is therefore but a pretty truism unless it is applied concretely. One of the inescapable aspects of this concretisation is gender justice. No world constitution can afford to remain vague about gender. Right away, let it be clear that women's equal participation is essential in the process of drafting such a constitution. Gender perspectives cannot be mere addenda to a programme aimed at peace with dignity and justice. They have to be integral to be meaningful.

In October 2000, Dr Theo-Ben Gurirab, Namibia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, who acted as President of the UN Security Council when Resolution 1325 was unanimously passed, asked “Women are half of every community … Are they, therefore, not also half of every solution? ”

At one end of the spectrum of gender mainstreaming is the language used to express constitutional or any other propositions. Exclusive language is still widely used in national constitutions and laws. The very use of “he” or “his” in statements of principle betrays a male-only viewpoint. Inclusive language, in contrast, ensures that at least the existence of women is also remembered at every stage.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2007

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