Women and Law

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If there is one topic of discussion that creates as much heat as global warming, it is the issue of women, their roles and their level of autonomy. It is indeed a difficult task to play down the view that Courts have had of women and their call for autonomy.


The term 'substantive equality' is one such effort that speaks of "affirmative action" that tries to facilitate the inclusion of women into hitherto male-dominated job areas. (Bartlett, 5). This situation is not just limited to the job market that is open to women. In cases where discrimination is justified in the name of tradition and culture, the courts are left with no recourse but to honor the cultural norms of people of different ethnic origins. The Supreme Court's view in Oregon v. Smith (Case 1, 5) could be applied to the case of a young Hindu or Muslim girl who would have to fall in line with the general dress codes in public places, even though this contravened the cultural norm. This was also upheld in Boerne v. Flores (Case 2, 5) with an added edge, which gave a much needed boost to minority rights in general and women's rights in particular.
Making choices seem to have become an inevitable part of life for most women today. These choices need to be made not just with the roles that they are called upon to play, but also on the basic values that they hold dear to themselves. The question of women's rights, vis--vis abortion or forced marriages, for instance, open up a Pandora's box of unanswerable questions without much of the vital element of hope, beneath them all. This is a not a situation that has geographical limitations. It is as universal as the fact of male domination in most sections of private and public life today. ...
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