India : Valsamma Paul v Cochin University & Ors; Kerala Public Service Commission v Dr Kanjamma Alex & Anor, [1996]

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A woman born into a “forward class” married a man belonging to a “backward class”. Under Indian law, states could make provisions for members of “backward classes” so as to diminish the equality gap, despite the Indian constitution’s protections against discrimination. The woman thus applied for a job based on her belonging to a “backward class” via marriage, even though she had grown up with all of the privileges that belonging to a “forward class” entails and none of those entailed by belonging to a “backward class”. She got the job. Another candidate challenged this. The Supreme Court, citing CEDAW and saying that “its principles are enforceable by operation of the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993”, ruled in favor of the challenger. It held that women from a “forward class” could not reap the benefits of such affirmative action programs by becoming members of a “backward class” by marriage.

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