Updated: Jul 23
Image source - The Secretary General – Message on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
Our Indian constitution was written in an era when the social condition of Indian women was not so poignant as it is today and needed an urgent reform. She was mentally and physically tortured in the society. She was struggling to find her social status, validation and a respectable place in the society. At that time Indian women were in a need of some laws in order to improve their social position and to ensure proper safety against mental and physical torture. At that time Dr B. R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Constitution of India, took certain constructive and much needed steps in favour of Indian women to make them independent and socially strong and today we can see the revolutionary change in the position and image of Indian women. It is indeed a matter of pleasure that the position of women has improved in the last four decades. But still somewhere I feel that the 21st Century Indian women are once again struggling to maintain their dignity and freedom. Mental and physical torture of women has once again become common and that is the reason they have started to feel unsafe. As per my personal understanding with the proper knowledge of legal and constitutional rights of a woman their position can further be strengthened in our society. The Legal strata of our country has enacted and ample amount of provisions which protects a woman from mental and physical torture. However, I also believe that enacting anymore provisions will not help the society to reform. In order to uplift the position of women in our society, we must stress on Education.
CONSTITUTIONAL AND OTHER PROVISIONS RELATING TO WOMEN
In India, the principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Constitution since its implementation ; i.e. January 26, 1950. Our Constitution guarantees to all women the fundamental right to equality under which they get equal voting rights and equal right to political participation. Our Constitution is firmly grounded in the principles of liberty, fraternity, equality and justice, and accordingly contains a number of provisions for the empowerment of women. The Constitution of India not only grants equality to women but also empowers them. It also guides the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. Articles 14, 15, 15(3), 16, 39(a), 39(b), 39(c), 42, 46, 47, 51(A) (e), 243 D(3), 243 D (4), 243 T (3), 243 T (4) of the Constitution
· Article 14:It gives assurance for Equality before law for women. No law is discriminatory under this article.
· Article 15 (i):Under this article the State does not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste,sex, place of birth or any of them.
· Article 15 (3):The State under this article can make any special provision in favour of women and children.
· Article 16:This ensures Equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.
· Article 39 (a):The State has to direct its policy towards securing for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood under this article.
· Article 39 (d):Under this article the State is obliged to pay equal pay for equal work for both men and women
· Article 39 A:The State should promote justice, on a basis of equal opportunity and to provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or scheme or in any other way to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.
· Article 42:The State shall make a provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief under this article.
· Article 46: The State has to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation under this article.
· Article 47:This article gives assurance for nutrition and the standard of living of its people by the State.
· Article 51 (A) (e):This article promotes harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
· Article 243 D (3):Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for Women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Panchayat by this article.
· Article 243 D (4):Nearly one- third of the total number of offices of Chairpersons in the Panchayats at each level to be reserved for women under this article.
· Article 243 T (3):Nearly one-third (including the number of seats reserved for Women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality
· Article 243 T (4):Reservation of offices of Chairpersons in Municipalities for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and women in such manner as the legislature of a State may by law provide will be given
The following various legislation’s contain several rights and safeguards for women:
· Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005) is a comprehensive legislation to protect women in India from all forms of domestic violence. It also covers women who have been/are in a relationship with the abuser and are subjected to violence of any kind—physical, sexual, mental, verbal or emotional.
· Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (1956) is the premier legislation for prevention of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. In other words, it prevents trafficking in women and girls for the purpose of prostitution as an organised means of living.
· Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (1986) prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner.
· Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act (1987) provides for the more effective prevention of the commission of sati and its glorification on women.
· Dowry Prohibition Act (1961) prohibits the giving or taking of dowry at or before or any time after the marriage from women.
· Maternity Benefit Act (1961) regulates the employment of women in certain establishments for certain period before and after child-birth and provides for maternity benefit and certain other benefits.
· Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1971) provides for the termination of certain pregnancies by registered medical practitioners on humanitarian and medical grounds.
· Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (1994) prohibits sex selection before or after conception and prevents the misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for sex determination leading to female foeticide.
· Equal Remuneration Act (1976) provides for payment of equal remuneration to both men and women workers for same work or work of a similar nature. It also prevents discrimination on the ground of sex, against women in recruitment and service conditions.
· Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act (1939) grants a Muslim wife the right to seek the dissolution of her marriage.
· Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act (1986) protects the rights of Muslim women who have been divorced by or have obtained divorce from their husbands.
· Family Courts Act (1984) provides for the establishment of Family Courts for speedy settlement of family disputes.
· Indian Penal Code (1860) contains provisions to protect Indian women from dowry death, rape, kidnapping, cruelty and other offences.
· Code of Criminal Procedure (1973) has certain safeguards for women like obligation of a person to maintain his wife, arrest of woman by female police and so on.
· Indian Christian Marriage Act (1872) contain provisions relating to marriage and divorce among the Christian community.
· Legal Services Authorities Act (1987) provides for free legal services to Indian women.
· Hindu Marriage Act (1955) introduced monogamy and allowed divorce on certain specified grounds. It provided equal rights to Indian man and woman in respect of marriage and divorce.
· Hindu Succession Act (1956) recognizes the right of women to inherit parental property equally with men.
· Minimum Wages Act (1948) does not allow discrimination between male and female workers or different minimum wages for them.
· Mines Act (1952) and Factories Act (1948) prohibits the employment of women between 7 P.M. to 6 A.M. in mines and factories and provides for their safety and welfare.
The following other legislations also contain certain rights and safeguards for women:
1. Employees’ State Insurance Act (1948)
2. Plantation Labour Act (1951)
3. Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act (1976)
4. Legal Practitioners (Women) Act (1923)
5. Indian Succession Act (1925)
6. Indian Divorce Act (1869)
7. Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act (1936)
8. Special Marriage Act (1954)
9. Foreign Marriage Act (1969)
10. Indian Evidence Act (1872)
11. Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (1956).
National Commission for Women Act (1990) provided for the establishment of a National Commission for Women to study and monitor all matters relating to the constitutional and legal rights and safeguards of women.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal). Act (2013) provides protection to women from sexual harassment at all workplaces both in public and private sector, whether organised or unorganized.