We live in such a country where goddesses are worshipped and women get oppressed every single day. Whether on the roads or workplaces or even in their own homes, women get deprived of their rights. Many women face various kinds of oppression only because of not being aware of their rights guaranteed by the laws of India.
The constitution of India ensures the protection of the rights of every citizen irrespective of gender, race, caste, religion etc. Besides the constitution, there are other legal provisions that have guaranteed rights, especially for women.
The constitution of India not only grants equal rights to women but also empowers the state to adopt measures to make provisions for guaranteeing some rights, especially for women. There are certain articles enshrined in the Constitution of India that guarantee the rights of women. Some of the constitutional provisions related to the rights of women have been mentioned below:
1. Article 15 (3)
Article 15 (3) of the constitution of India empowers the State to make special provisions for women and children. Right to free and compulsory education for children under the age of 14 years, the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 1961 are some of the examples under the provision of Article 15 (3).
2. Article 16
Article 16 of the constitution of India guarantees the right to equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. Both men and women shall be provided equal opportunity in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state.
3. Article 42
Article 42 under the constitution of India directs the state to make provisions to ensure just and humane conditions for working. Besides, this article also directs to provide maternity relief to the women.
4. Article 46
Article 46 directs the state to protect the weaker sections of the society from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. There is also a provision directing the state to promote special care for the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people.
Other Legal Provisions
Besides the constitution of India, there are other legal provisions that ensure the protection of the rights of women. There are provisions related to women in the Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code. There are also some special laws that provide protection of the rights of women.
Some of the important legal provisions protecting the rights of women are given below:
1. Indian Penal Code
Under the Indian Penal code, Section 376 provides that whoever commits rape shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten years, but may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.
Section 304 B protects women against dowry death. It provides that if the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury within seven years of her marriage and it is proved that she faced any cruelty or harassment done by her husband or relative of her husband soon before her death which is in connection with the demand of dowry shall be called dowry death. In Satbir Singh & another vs the State of Haryana, the Supreme Court observed that the phrase ‘soon before death’ cannot mean ‘immediately before’. The bench further observed that a close and live link between the dowry death and cruelty or harassment by the husband and his relatives must exist.
Under Section 354 D, action can be taken against a man who follows a woman and contacts or attempts to contact repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such a woman. Or monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication, commits the offence of stalking.
Those women who have fallen prey to the cruelty done by their husbands or the relatives of husbands avail the protection under Section 498 A. Cruelty here means any wilful conduct that compels the woman to commit suicide or is likely to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health.
2. Criminal Procedure Code
Under Section 46(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code, women cannot be arrested after sunset and before sunrise. In exceptional circumstances, a woman police officer has to obtain the prior permission of the judicial Magistrate by making a written report to arrest the woman.
Women can not be called to the Police Station for interrogation under section 160. The police can interrogate a woman at her residence in the presence of a woman constable, and family members or friends.
Under Section 154, any person is entitled to inform the police officer about any crime that happened within the jurisdiction of the particular police station. But the women have the right to lodge an FIR at any police station irrespective of the location where the incident occurred and it is known as a zero FIR. The provision of zero FIR was introduced on the recommendation of the Justice Verma committee at the backdrop of Nirbhaya gang rape in New Delhi in 2012.
Protection Under Special Laws
There are many acts that provide protection to the rights of women. Some of these acts and important provisions have been discussed below.
1. Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
The Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Children Act, 1956 was given assent on 30th December 1956 which was made applicable to the whole of India. After the amendment, the name of the act has become Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956. The purpose of the act is to prevent immoral trafficking and prostitution in India.
2. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 protects the employment of women at the time of their maternity. Under this act, women employees are entitled to ‘maternity benefit’ which is fully paid wages during their absence from work and to take care of their children. Women can take the paid leave of 60 days known as child care leave which is available until the child attains 18 years of age.
3. Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 was enacted to prevent the giving or receiving of a dowry. Under this act, dowry includes property, goods, or money given by either party to the marriage, by the parents of either party or by anyone else in connection with the marriage.
4. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
Under the Equal Remuneration Act 1976, both men and women are entitled to equal remuneration. The purpose of this act is to prevent discrimination against women in the matter of employment. Under this act, every woman shall be treated equally with her male counterpart.
Although various legal provisions are available for the protection of the rights of women, due to ignorance many women are not able to take the advantage of these rights. Therefore, the government and other welfare organisations should take measures to make women aware of these rights.