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Legal Status and Rights of Women in the Indian Constitution

  By : , MyAdvo Techserve Pvt. Ltd, Haryana, India       28.2.2020         Phone:098117 82573          Mail Now

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 constitution.

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 transgender.

- 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 different laws.

- 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 feticide.

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 of women.

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 go unheard.

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 exploitation.

TAGS: Indian constitution,   women's rights in India,   Rights of Women in the Indian Constitution,  

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