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Women and Law - Essay Example

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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…
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Women and Law
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Women and Law

Download file to see previous pages... 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. It is in this changed and charged scenario that women need to raise their voices, either individually or in unison, against the prevailing lack of respect for their own autonomy, both in and out of courts.
A brief look at control exercised by women in relation to abortions:
Who decides and more importantly when - these are some of the painful issues that keep flitting through the mind of a woman who is burdened with an unwanted pregnancy. There are conflicting views however, on this, as is always the case. Lord Ellenborough's Act of 1803 calls for stringent action against the right of a woman to have an abortion after the eighteenth week of pregnancy. (Ellenborough, 5). The Offenses Against the Person Act and The Infant Life (Preservation) Act of 1929 insisted that abortion could not be condoned unless there was sufficient reason to believe that the foetus had to be eliminated as there was a potential danger either to the mother or to the unborn child. This was done to ensure that no danger would befall the unborn foetus, so incapable of defending itself. In Rex v. Bourne (Case 3, 5) where a doctor was charged under the provisions of the acts mentioned earlier, for having performed an abortion on a fifteen year old girl (a rape victim), the court found him not guilty of the offence. This judgement was because of the discernment of the court in the treatment of an abortion case which, if not done, would have resulted in the deterioration of the mental and physical health of the rape victim. It was decided that the riddance of the unborn child, when weighed against the more valued life of the mother, was in every sense of the term, perfectly justified. This case of Rex v. Bourne was reflective of the judgements and opinions in Halsbury (Hailsham Edn.) (Case 4, 5). In C vs. S, there was a debate on the status of the foetus and the viability of the same at a particular stage in pregnancy (Case 5, 5). The Abortion Act of 1967 passed in the United Kingdom to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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