Religious freedom and gender equality in India

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Abstract

After India gained independence in 1947, the country's leaders promised its diverse constituents citizenship rights that extended across religion, gender, and caste. Distinct from its previous British rule, India's constitutional law guarantees citizens the right to religious freedom and associated cultural practices, and prohibits gender and caste-based discrimination. However, in ensuring freedom of religion, the constitution also effectively affirms gender inequality through patriarchal religious and cultural practices. This article examines how the constitutional rights of religious freedom and gender equality have been negotiated among each other in contemporary Indian society. I draw upon three landmark Indian Supreme Court cases that navigate the terrain of affirming both women's civic rights and religious freedom. Findings suggest that the Supreme Court is working toward a more inclusive definition of citizenship, particularly one which supports women's civic rights within the context of religious personal law.

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