Women play a significant role in society, and since they have been oppressed
for a long time it has become imperative to safeguard their rights. Today
women's rights are also referred to as the ‘human rights of women’ aiming that
women are being treated equally and have equal opportunities as everyone else.
Our constitution drafters were aware of the atrocities towards women and
anticipated the issues that women might face and therefore made several
provisions to safeguard their basic human rights.
Constitutional Articles which deal with the protection of the Rights and
Status of Women
The Constitution drafters, while drafting the constitution were able to
anticipate social issues related to the condition of women, and therefore
drafted the laws keeping that in mind. If you read the constitution of India,
you will find that there are different provisions safeguarding the interest of
women while providing equal opportunities to them. The constitution guarantees
all women the right to equality and equal protection of the law (Art. 14).
In the case of Air India v. Nargesh Meerza, The court said that
the termination of service on pregnancy was manifestly unreasonable and
arbitrary on the basis of this it was a violation of article 14 of the Indian
In the case of the National Legal Service Authority v. Union of India,
the Supreme Court discussed the ambit of the word ‘person’ and held that Article
14 does not restrict the application of the word to male or female but includes
- Art 15 (1) guarantees that the State cannot discriminate against any citizen
on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of
them, while Art 15 (3) allows the state to make special provisions in favor of
women and children.
- Article 16 of the constitution of India ensures equal employment opportunities
to every citizen of India.
- Article 39 (a) directs the state to make policies to ensure men and women have
equal rights to livelihood, and Art 39 (d) promotes equal pay for equal work.
This principle of equal pay for equal work was assumed in the case of Randhir
Singh v. Union of India.
- Under Article 42 the state is required to make provision for ensuring just and
humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.
- Article 46 ensures that the interest of the weaker section is protected.
- Article 51 (A) (e) provides for renouncing the practices derogatory to the
dignity of a woman. The condition and participation by the women in various
fields have increased over time and now the women are actively taking part in
fields of research, sports, science and technology and there are many
legislations being drafted by the government for the benefit of women.
Legal Provisions for the Women Empowerment
Law has always been instrumental in bringing in social change in society. The
government therefore, in order to provide women with the security and enable
them to secure their social and economic lives, have time and again enacted
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and
Redressal) Act (2013) had been enacted with an aim to provide women with a safe
workplace requiring every company to have an Internal Complaints Committee to
record complains of harassment at workplace.
- The Domestic Violence Act (2005) was introduced to aim for the safety of women
from the domestic violences at home by reporting any violence against them,
enabling them to feel safe in their own home.
- The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 was introduced to enable the women
to have a right over their ancestral property which before this amendment was
not an option.
- Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act 1999
has helped to check the misuse of this technique by checking the female
The Government of India through multiple schemes has been trying to promote
women empowerment such as, ‘beti bachao beti padhao’ which talks about saving
the girl child and getting her the much deserved education. The ‘Pradhan Mantri
Matritva Vandana Yojna’ scheme allows conditional cash transfer to pregnant and
lactating women as part of their wage as compensation. These schemes and active
enactment of laws by the Government helps a lot in improving the social status
Women and Education
In the Vedic times, women had access to education, however it somehow got lost
as we progressed. Given the fact that women make up for around fifty percent of
the human resource, women education is very significant as an educated woman can
provide better guidance to the children. Under the 86th amendment of the Indian
Constitution, all the children between the age of 6 and 14 years have the right
to free and compulsory education and yet very few girls are being sent to
school. It is because of the stereotypical belief in India that women are
required to be a homemaker once she is married.
In a recent report by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, it
was stated that around 40% of 15 to 18-year-old-girls were out of school and
among them almost 65% were engaged in the household work. Due to lack of
education, women contribute only 18% to the GDP, which is very low as compared
to the global standards. The government through various awareness programmes and
schemes is trying to increase the enrollment of girls in the schools and
colleges. One such scheme is ‘CBSE Udaan’ which focuses on increasing the
enrollment of girls in prestigious engineering and technical colleges in India.
To empower the girl students who just passed Class X, CBSE will provide free
online resources to 1000 disadvantaged girls for Class XI and Class XII.
Economic, Social, Cultural Rights and Reservation for Women
The women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights cover a wide area and are
interlinked. It is an attempt to locate women rights within the wider human
rights, which allows covering broader issues being faced by the women. For
example, in order to enjoy their right of housing, they also need to have equal
access to healthcare, education, equal pay, etc. In order to fulfill such
rights, programs like PWESCR were introduced which aim at strengthening the link
between the international and national initiatives by linking the work done by
different organizations to promote women’s rights. It was in 1993, when for the
first time one third of the seats in the gram panchayat were reserved for women.
Reservation for women in different fields has given them a chance to showcase
their abilities, and allowed them to raise issues which affect them the most and
has helped to improve the situation of women in India. However, even after a
decade, the Women's Reservation Bill passed by the Rajya Sabha is still stuck in
the Lok Sabha and faces criticism that gender cannot be the basis of reservation
as it may lead to conflict and tensions. This is one such reason why women still
do not have enough representation in the parliament and many of their concerns
Women Security - Indian Scenario
The Indian Legislature has time and again drafted laws in order to safeguard the
interest of women; however it fails to enforce the legislation against the
increase in the crime against women. India, recently, was named one of the
dangerous countries for women to live in.
According to National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), 30% women in India between
the ages of 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence and 6% of women between
the age of 15 to 49 have experienced sexual violence. Unfortunately, such issues
of violence against women are on the rise in the country, as the average rate of
reported rape cases in India is 6.3 per 100,000 people, which can be as high as
25-30% in metropolitan cities like Delhi.
According to the data collected by the International Centre for Research on
Women, 45% of girls are married before they are 18. Crime against women is said
to cost around 3.7% of some countries GDP. It's high time that the Government of
India should work on the successful enforcement of laws in order to stop such
growing crime against women.
The Extent of Misuse of Laws by Women
The increasing cases of dowry deaths led to the introduction of the Section 498A
in the Indian Penal Code in order to safeguard the interest of women. However,
many years later, such provision is misused by some women to file fraudulent
cases against their husband.
In the case of Rajesh Sharma & Or. vs State of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court
for the first time addressed the growing tendency to abuse the provisions of the
law and observed that no direct and immediate arrest should be made in cases of
dowry harassment. Such misuse has been labeled as legal terrorism by the Supreme
Court as the conviction rate is less 10% and many cases are fraudulent. Though
there has been a shift in the approach, however the victims of violence can’t be
presumed to be guilty of misusing the law.
Section 498A solely provides for a remedy solely to the woman. Although dowry
deaths are real in today's world also, the misuse of this section is real too.
While not assuming that the section is misused by all women, it's time for the
judiciary to amend this section and make a few changes to stop this