Presently Indian women are facing toughest time as far as their routine personal and 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.
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 meanguiding 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.