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Legal and Constitutional rights of women in India
Presently Indian women are facing toughest time as far as their routine personal and professional life is concerned. Mental and physical torture of women has become quite common and their safety is at stake. One of the problems behind this situation is lack of knowledge of legal and constitutional rights of a woman. Most unfortunate part of this is even women are not fully aware about their rights. Through this article I am going to share few legal and constitutional rights of a woman.
Our Indian constitution was written in an era when the social condition of Indian women was very poor and need an urgent reform. She was mentally and physically tortured in the society. She was struggling to find her social status 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, author of our Indian constitution, took certain constructive and much needed steps in favor 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.
Due to the revolutionary changes brought by our constitution and efforts made by Indian women, they have earned themselves a respectable position in the society. Now they are treated equally with men. Today women are everywhere and to be precise women are in space, women are in corporate, women are in politics, women are in entertainment field, women are in defense field and the list goes on.
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 presently Indian women are again a bit struggling to maintain their dignity and freedom. Mental and physical torture of women has again become common and that is why they have started feeling unsafe. As per my personal understanding with the proper knowledge of legal and constitutional rights of a woman their position can be further strengthen in the society. There are lots of provisions in our law which protects a woman from mental and physical torture. Now let us discuss some of the problems women are facing along with remedy provided by the law.
Provisions ensuring rights of Indian women
After Independence lots of provisions have been introduced to improve the social condition of women and to give them a platform where they can utilize their potential for their betterment and contribute positively towards the growth of their country. It is fact that the in the present era position and development of any country is dependent on the socio-economic position of its women. The provisions which enhanced the value of present women can be divided into two parts:
1. Constitutional provisions
2. Parliamentary provisions
It’s a fact that awareness about constitutional and Parliamentary provisions to improve the condition of women is lacking. To ensure and spread the awareness of these provisions we will discuss them in detail.
Constitutional provisions to ensure dignity of women
Lots of provisions have been introduced through constitution to ensure dignity and self respect to the women at large. As mentioned earlier Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, author of Indian constitution, make sure that constitution of India safeguard the social and legal rights of women. Please find below some of the provisions made in favour of Indian women, in constitution of India:
- Article 14:- Article 14 of constitution of India ensures equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. This is a very important provision which provides equal legal protection to women against any women based crime. This provision also paves way for the introduction of various laws and acts to ensure protection and enforcement of legal rights of women in India.
- Article 15:- Article 15 of constitution of India ensures that no one should create any sort of discrimination only on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth or any of them within the territory of India. At the time of Independence there was lots of discrimination in India against women which gradually abolished after introduction of article 15. As per article 15(3) of the constitution state has the authority to make any special provision for women and children.
- Article 16:- Article 16 of constitution of India ensures equal employment opportunity to every citizen of India. As per article 16 there should not be any discrimination in respect of employment opportunity under the State only on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, and place of birth, residence or any of them. Now we can see women are doing really good work in politics and in corporate sector. Presently they are holding responsible positions in Government and Government run institutions. Let me share few good names from political and corporate field. These names are Chanda kochhar, Indira nooyi, Sonia Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj and this never ending list goes on.
- Article 39:- Article 39 of constitution of India ensures the benefit of the directive principles of state policy to the women. Directive principles of state policy mean guiding principles for the framing of laws by the government at state level. Article 39(a) of directive principles of state policy ensures and directs a state to apply policies which focus on a men and women have an equal right of adequate means of livelihood and article 39(c) ensures equal pay for equal work for both men and women.
- Article 42:- Article 42 of constitution of India caste a duty on every employer to ensure just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief. In reality the position and treatment of women in corporate offices is really bad and in fact they are exploited by their seniors and bosses. In this scenario the provisions of article 42 are very important and now it is duty of employer to provide good working conditions to all the employees.
- Article 243:- Article 243 of constitution of India ensures reservation of seats in gram panchayat for women. This opportunity of being a part of local level arbitration process has improved the social conditions of women in village areas.
These are few rights which are given by our constitution to the Indian women in order to ensure their dignity and social respect. Further to protect these constitutional rights there are numerous legal steps that have been taken by the state Governments which we will discuss in detail through this article.
Parliamentary provisions to ensure dignity of women
After Independence there was need to introduce some statutory laws to ensure safety and protection of women. Keeping in view this requirement, just like constitutional provisions, various parliamentary steps have also been taken by the law of India in order to ensure dignified life to the Indian Women. Parliamentary steps means and includes the enactment of various laws and statutory acts to protect the interest of women and to stop the crime against women. These acts have proved really useful towards progress and safety of women in society.
Personally I feel that equal rights should be awarded to women which have already been enjoyed by men in our society as women forms a major part of Indian population and for social and economic welfare on global platform women welfare is very much needed. In order to ensure adherence to constitutional provisions for women welfare, there was a need to enact specific laws by the state and central Government. Although a women can be victim of any crime in society and in fact all crimes cannot be classified as a crime against women except few crimes which affects a women largely. However major steps have been taken by the legislation which has proved as weapons for women and helped them to stand in male dominating country. Now we will discuss major crimes against women along with the legal provision which penalize the criminal.
Few crimes which are recognized as crime against women are:
- Adultery :- Adultery is a very serious crime against women in India and affects married women by and large. In simple words adultery means having voluntary sexual relationship with a married person other than the spouse. The offence of adultery is dealt with by section 497 of the Indian penal Code, 1860, which says adultery means sexual intercourse of a man with a married woman without the consent of her husband when such sexual intercourse does not amount to rape. However we may find different meaning of adultery in different laws in different countries. Initially only men were punished under the law of adultery in India but now men and women both are equally responsible for committing the crime of adultery. As per section 497, the offender shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case the wife shall not be punishable as a partner in crime.
- Child marriage :-Child marriage is a very awful offence against child as it does not only harms the future of child but also damage social values. Further the doctors have also revealed that child marriage is a very big reason for bad health condition for girl child. Child marriage restricts the social development along with reduction in the educational and employment opportunities in the global market. It was like a burden on society to practice this unwritten custom. The major step was taken by the Law Commission of India by fixing the minimum age for marriage which is 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys. Another major step was mandatory primary education and moreover for girls provision for free education provided by the Government of India.
- Female feticides: -Female feticide means identifying and killing of female fetus before they take birth. This is the most brutal way of killing women. The custom of female feticide is practiced by the society form ancient times and it is really shameful to note that even today, when we considers ourselves educated and civilized, this custom is practiced in a big manner. Government has taken so many steps to spread awareness among people about the consequences of this crime. Many awareness programs are conducted by the Government to spread the awareness about the physical, mental and social effect of this practice. Punishment of 3 years imprisonment and Rs. 10,000 fine has been prescribed by Pre conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex selection) Act, 1994, for the offence of Female feticides.
In a recently development Maharashtra government has recommend to the centre that the crime of female feticide should be treated as murder. To ensure this amendment in Pre conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex selection) Act, 1994, (PCPNDT Act, 1994) would become necessary. This provision will bring this crime within the category of murder under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
- Trafficking and Prostitution :-Trafficking means import and export of humans for sex business. It is indeed very sad to learn that in India, where women are recognized as Devi and prayed by all Indian’s as Devi Shakti, they are also treated as a source of earning by unethical means. Prostitution is one of the biggest problems in this world which is damaging the women in many ways. In general, the term prostitution means offer of sexual services for earning money. Prostitution is a problem which exists across the world. There are quite a few laws in India in order to prevent the crime of prostitution like Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girl Act 1956 and Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956. There are few commissions are made by state Government to save women and specially girls to protect them from this practice.
- Domestic Violence:- Domestic violence has become a very serious problem for women. In general the term Domestic violence means mental, physical, emotional and economical harassment of a woman by family members. For the purpose of domestic violence family includes spouse, his mother, father, brother, sister, his relatives and sometimes even friends. We call ourselves educated and talk too much about morality, ethics and civilization and expect others to be good to create a dream world but forget that without giving due respect to the women, a nation’s growth is impossible. Now in India domestic violence is recognized as a criminal offence under section 498A of Indian Penal Code, 1860. Domestic violence means cruelty by husband towards women. Cruelty can be done by physically, mentally, economically or emotionally.
An act called Domestic violence Act, 2005 was introduced to handle the cases of Domestic violence in India. This act is a very noteworthy attempt in India to recognize domestic violence as a punishable offence. Before the introduction of this act two kinds of remedies were available to a women affected by Domestic violence. These two remedies were divorce through civil courts and application of section 498A through criminal courts.
- Eve teasing: - It is a general perception that eve teasing is not a big crime like rape or murder and may be because of that we don’t take it seriously. But from a women’s point of view eve teasing is also a very big crime as this activity does make her feel uncomfortable most of the times. Eve teasing usually involves teasing women, passing comments on women and making vulgar signs (eshare). A woman has to face this kind of irritating behavior and deal with this on daily basis. She can’t even fight back due to fear of disrespect by others as everyone will blame her and say that you must have done something to invite them. In case of eve teasing girl should not remain silent and raise her voice. She should inform her family members and simultaneously file a complaint in the nearest police station. In this case family should also support the women instead of locking her at home.
- Acid throwing:- Recently the issue of acid throwing on girls has also become a big issue. There are few types of acids and all are very dangerous for human flash and burn. This acid attack sometimes is so dangerous that even bones and eyes are also got damaged due to acid. Few victims are forced to leave their education or occupation due to the results of acid throwing. Now a days this has become very easy for people to get these acids and the cases of acid throwing has become very regular in daily life.
It is quite sad that despite of so many cases of acid attacks on women, we do not have a dedicated and specific law to deal with such cases. The National Commission for Women (NCW) is asked for a well defined law to deal with such casualties. The NCW has introduced a draft of the Prevention of Offences (by Acids) Act, 2008, which is with now with the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development for the purpose of vetting and final recommendations. Once the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development approved the Bill, it will be sent to the law ministry to be tabled in Parliament. After the approval in Parliament it will become applicable as law.
- Fraudulent Marriage:- Before going into the details of Fraudulent Marriage let me explain the general meaning of fraud in relation to crime against women. Fraud means hiding something or giving false impression about something which a person knows that knowing the fact may harm his prospective marriage. The scope of fraudulent marriage has increased in the recent past as in India parents of a girl are very fond of NRI son in law. Parents want to settle their daughter with any rich NRI. Parents of brides don’t inquire too much about the NRI groom as they are happy that their daughter is going to marry a rich person who will fulfill her all demands and she will live a luxurious life in abroad. There blind faith on NRI’s may invite problems like false commitments, false details, second marriage and infertility. This is not necessary that fraudulent marriages only took place in case of NRI’s even Indian grooms also do the same for money or for boy child or for any other reason.
- Exploitation at work place:- Though we all accept the truth that in today’s world women has come out of her image of house wife and proved herself as a better administrator then a man. In all sectors women are working hard and getting awards and rewards for that. She has crossed all the boundaries and shut the mouth of all those peoples who has ever questioned her working caliber.
But she has to pay a very heavy price of her success as she has to face exploitation at work place do we ever think what boundaries she has crossed and how. What she had paid go get this position and power? How much pain she has felt to become this person.
- Rape, murder: - Rape is another very serious crime against women and this crime is increasing day by day like anything. Reporting of rape and abduction cases has become very common in print and electronic media which is indeed a very sad affair for all of us. Increasing rape cases are enough to prove that our moral values are still very low and we still to learn how to respect the dignity of women at large.
In simple terms the word ‘Rape’ means sexual intercourse or sexual penetration, by another person without the consent of the other person or victim. Provisions related to rape are given in section 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Section 375 explains the pre-condition which are necessary tp prove the offence of rape whereas section 376 provides punishment for the offence of rape. As per section 376, whoever commits the offence of rape shall be punished with imprisonment of either for a term which shall not be less than seven years (7) but which may be for life or for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.
- Dowry:- The system of dowry is another social evil which dragging women back from 100 of years as this evil has a very long history especially in India. Various dowry based domestic violence cases has been reported by media. There are ample legal provisions in India to provide relief to women in case of dowry based domestic violence cases. Civil law of India has prohibited the payment of dowry in the year 1961. Further Indian Penal Code, 1860 has introduced Sections 304B and 498A, which allows women to file complaint and seek restoration of her rights from serious harassment by the husband's family.
Dowry is one of the strong and biggest reasons of increasing domestic violence. Every year thousands of dowry deaths along with mental trauma cases reported and registered in India. In case of inadequate dowry, incidents like burning, suicides, physical and mental torture of women is very common by husband and his family. Keeping in view the increasing cases of dowry deaths another legislative provision called “Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005”, was introduced in order to reduce domestic violence cases and to protect women's rights.
Some legislative acts for women at one place
Let me also share the name of some of the legislative acts which are available in India to protect women’s rights against harassment. These acts are like a boon to women at large to protect their dignity in society. Please have a look:
1) Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
2) The Protection Of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005
3) The Commission Of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987
4) The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956
5) Civil Procedure Code, 1973
6) Indian Penal Code, 1960
7) Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
8) Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
9) The Medical Termination Of Pregnancy Act, 1971
10) National Commission Of Women Act, 1990
11) The Minimum Wages Act, 1948
12) Bonded Labor System Abolition Act, 1976
13) The Special Marriage Act, 1954
14) Foreign Marriage Act, 1969
15) Indian Divorce Act, 1969
16) The Indecent Representation of Women Prohibition Act, 1986
17) Guardians & Wards Act, 1869
18) Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
The above list is not conclusive but inclusive. These acts have given ample provisions to ensure the protection of women rights like minimum wages, protection from domestic violence, right of equal remuneration, prevention from immoral trafficking, prevention from indecent representation of women etc. So there is no doubt that our judiciary and legislature has taken various effective steps to ensure the dignity of women.
To conclude I would like to say that Indian women has come a long way and prove that she is capable of doing anything and equal partner in the growth and prosperity of the nation. Women are one of the pillars of the society and it would be very difficult to imagine society without the presence of women. Now it is high time for all of us to understand the power of women. Even our judiciary and legislature has also accepted the fact that women are one of the most important elements of society and their exploitation would not be accepted at any cost. There is one saying that behind every successful man there is a woman. This saying is enough to prove that man and women both are necessary element of society. Women plays different role in her life which is not an easy task. During her life she acts as daughter, wife, sister and mother at different stages of life. So we must give them due care and respect and understand their efforts towards welfare of the society at large. Through this article I tried my best to cover all the constitutional, judiciary and legislative rights of women against the crimes which they are facing from quite some time now. I hope this article will help us to understand that rights of women are very necessary and Indian law is strong enough to protect her from any kind of harassment and torture.
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