Gender Justice through Public Interest Litigation: Case Studies from India*
This Article examines the application of the Supreme Court of India’s enterprising Public Interest Litigation (PIL) mechanism to a subject of compelling global concern: violations of women’s rights. India is currently receiving much international attention for its dynamism and innovation on various fronts, yet the country also remains steeped in centuries-old norms and conventions. This tension is reflected in the decisions of the Supreme Court, which has assumed an active role in enforcing women’s rights through PIL but is sometimes limited in this regard by the complex cultural context in which it operates. Based on an analysis of Indian constitutional law, case studies of landmark Supreme Court decisions, and extensive interviews with stakeholders in India, the Author argues that the PIL vehicle has great potential for advancing gender justice. However, the success of this endeavor in a society that is rapidly evolving—yet still deeply patriarchal—will depend upon strategic mobilization by women’s rights advocates and committed efforts by the Court to enforce the rights of women, independent of mainstream opinion and within the boundaries of the separation-of-powers doctrine. If India can assume a leading role in advancing gender justice through its judiciary, its PIL mechanism could serve as an inspiring model for other constitutional courts and international human rights bodies.