Constitutionalising Social Reproduction: Motherhood and Gender Equality in India

Feminist scholars in recent years have posed social reproduction i.e., the processes through which societies raise the next generation of citizens, as a question of public law. It has been argued that constitutional protection of motherhood along with sex equality has the promise of creating an egalitarian infrastructure for social reproduction, that recognizes mothers as both caregivers and breadwinners. The terms of the discussion however are shaped by the particularities of the Euro-Anglo-American legal cultures. This paper both builds on and challenges some of the methodological and theoretical moves made in this literature, by focusing on India. The Indian Constitution guarantees both sex equality and provision of maternity benefits. Through an analysis of constitutional provisions, judicial discourse and state policies pertaining to reproduction and childcare, the paper shows how state protection of motherhood entrenches gender stereotypes, rather than alleviating them.