Postal worker instead of postman: Gender-neutral guide launched for trainee IAS officers

Apart from the trainees, these guidelines will also be used in various leadership programmes run by the academy, which politicians and career bureaucrats also attend.
Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)
Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)

NEW DELHI: A new guide packed with a gender-neutral lexicon is the latest addition to the curriculum at the prestigious Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy to coach budding bureaucrats in tackling gender biases. 

In the handbook Gender Inclusive Communication, which was launched by Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Zubin Irani on Tuesday, words like businessman are replaced with a business person, an actor with a performer or artist, a postman with postal worker and common man with a common person.

Apart from the trainees, these guidelines will also be used in various leadership programmes run by the academy, which politicians and career bureaucrats also attend.

The move aims to shatter stereotypes and create a gender-inclusive societal environment.   

Compiled by the National Gender and Child Center, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, in partnership with the Bills and Melinda Gates Foundation and UN Women, the guide is a first-of-its-kind document, which highlights how language and expressions can be made gender-neutral. 

Over 80 words, including idioms and phrases, adjectives, and titles, have been given a gender-inclusive lexicon. 

Now, apart from boy/girl, an additional word, ‘child’ has also been added to the lexicon. Similarly, for ‘husband/wife,’ additional words like ‘spouse/partner’ have been added, and for ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’, ‘partner’ word has been added. 

There are many other examples in the guide: ‘cleaning lady’ has been reworded to ‘house help’; ‘housemaid’ to ‘housekeeper’; ‘housewife’ to homemaker’ ‘layman’ to ‘layperson;’ ‘maiden name’ to ‘family name’, ‘man-made; to ‘human-made’ and ‘middleman’ to ‘intermediary.’

The other suggestions the guide makes is 'toughen up' instead of 'man up', 'owner' instead of 'landlord or landlady', 'humankind or humanity' instead of 'mankind', 'workforce or workers' for 'manpower', and 'transgender person' instead of 'transsexual.'

Some common idioms and phrases have also got a new lexicon.

‘A man’s home is his castle’ has been given the gender-sensitive phrase to ‘one’s home is one’s castle.’

Similarly, other expressions have also been rephrased to make it gender-inclusive. Such as ‘every man for himself’ to ‘everyone for oneself’; ‘gentleman’s agreement’ to ‘honourable agreement’; ‘to man a project’ to ‘hire a person for a project;’ ‘no man’s land’ to ‘neutral zone’ and ‘yes man’ to ‘avid follower.’

Also, some adjectives that indicated characteristics associated with traits like bravery and gave meaning, which was gender-biased, have been given gender-inclusive language. 

Words like ‘effeminate’ have now been reworded as ‘delicate/soft/gentle;’ ‘king-size’ to ‘gigantic’; ‘ladylike’ to ‘courteous/cultured;’ ‘like a man to resolutely/bravely’ and ‘man of action’ to ‘dynamic person.’

At the event, Irani said the guide will help train administrators and should also be given to the DISHA committees, which have representatives from parliamentarians, legislatures, and members from local governments.

"This guide today is going to impact not only the lives of citizens and administrators but also the future, especially a future which is to be looked upon in the prism of gender justice," Irani said.

"Today, the language of power has been embellished by empathy and equity because of this guide," she said. 

She also hoped that the guide would be translated into other regional languages and shared internationally, as it is one of a kind.

Irani also hoped that the guide would be promoted at universities and educational institutions as well.

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