The Constitution of India not only protects women from exploitation and discrimination but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women for neutralizing the cumulative socio economic, education and political disadvantages faced by them.
Following are constitutional privileges which are guaranteed to women in India for their empowerment.
- Article 14: Equality before law
- Article 15: The State not to discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them
- Article 15 (3): The State to make any special provision in favour of women and children
- Article 16: Equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State
- Article 23: Trafficking of human beings and forced labour are prohibited
Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs)
- Article 39(a): The State to direct its policy towards securing for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood
- Article 39(d): equal pay for equal work for both men and women
Health and Education:
- Article 39A: State to provide free legal aid by suitable legislation
- Article 42: The State to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.
- Article 46: The State to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the
- Article 47: The State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people
Fundamental Duties: Article 51(A)
- Article 51(A) (e): It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
Panchayati Raj System (Panchayat and Municipality)
- Article 243 D(3): One-third of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat shall be reserved for women
- Article 243 D(4): Not less than one- third of the total number of offices of Chairpersons in the Panchayats at each level to be reserved for women
- Article 243-T(3): One-third of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality shall be reserved for women
- Article 243-T(4): The offices of chairpersons in the Municipalities shall be reserved for women in such manner as the State Legislature may provide.
Indian Penal Code (IPC)
Indian Penal Code (IPC) criminalizes certain offences derogatory to women and provides for stringent punishment with imprisonment and fine.
- Section 228A : Punishment for disclosure of identity of the victim of certain offences
- Sec. 302/304-B: Punishment for Homicide for Dowry, Dowry Deaths or their attempts
- Sec. 354: Punishment for Molestation (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty)
- Sec. 363-373: Punishment for Kidnapping & Abduction for different purposes
- Sec. 376: Punishment for Rape with rigorous imprisonment of 7 years to life imprisonment and with fine.
- Sec. 498-A: Punishment for Torture, both mental and physical
- Sec. 509: Punishment for Sexual Harassment (Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman)
Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)
- Section 46(4): No arrests after sunset (arrest in exceptional circumstances with prior permission from a Judicial Magistrate)
- Section 47(2): Notice for search of place (of a woman) entered by person sought to be arrested
- Section 51(2): Search by a woman personnel only
- Section 53(2): Medical Examination by a female practitioner
- Section 154: In cognizable offence, even orally FIR can be lodged which would be reduced to writing by the Police.
- Section 160: Nowomen shall be required to attend at any place other than her residence.
164: Right to Privacy while
recording statement(for rape victim)
- Section 164A: Doctor’s Report on rape is not a conclusive proof
The Criminal Law Amendment Act (2013): The Nirbhaya Act
- Zero FIR: Registration of complaint from any police station (for rape victim or relatives)
- Time does not matter: in cases of rape or molestation, Police cannot refuse to register an FIR even if a considerable period of time has elapsed since the incident.
- Protection of identity: Identity of a rape victim cannot be revealed. Section 228A IPC makes it a punishable offence.
- Doctor’s Report is not a conclusive proof: Report of the doctor can only act as a proof. Whether the rape has occurred or not is a legal conclusion and doctor cannot decide on this. The only state that can be made by the medical officer is that there is evidence of recent sexual activity.
- Employers must protect: It is the duty of every employer to create a Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee within the organisation for redressal of such complaints.
- Acid Attack, stalking and voyeurism also offences: Stalking (following a woman even after her disinterest), voyeurism (watching or capturing images of a woman during private acts) and Acid Attack (throwing acid on or giving it to her in some way) are serious and punishable offences.
Other Legal Rights
The following various legislations contain several rights and safeguards for women:
- Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (1956):
- It is the premier legislation for prevention of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
- It prevents trafficking in women and girls for the purpose of prostitution as an organised means of living.
- Mines Act (1952) and Factories Act (1948):
- They prohibit the employment of women between 7 PM to 6 AM in mines and factories and provides for their safety and welfare.
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005):
- It is a comprehensive legislation to protect women in India from all forms of domestic violence.
- It also covers women who have been/are in a relationship with the abuser and are subjected to violence of any kind—physical, sexual, mental, verbal or emotional.
- Dowry Prohibition Act (1961)
- It prohibits the giving or taking of dowry at or before or any time after the marriage from women.
- Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (1986):
- It prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner.
- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (2013)
- It provides protection to women from sexual harassment at all workplaces both in public and private sector, whether organised or unorganized.
- Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1971):
- It provides for the termination of certain pregnancies by registered medical practitioners on humanitarian and medical grounds.
- Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (1994):
- It prohibits sex selection before or after conception and prevents the misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for sex determination leading to female foeticide.
- Maternity Benefit Act (1961):
- It regulates the employment of women in certain establishments for certain period before and after child-birth and provides for maternity benefit and certain other benefits.
- Equal Remuneration Act (1976)
- It provides for payment of equal remuneration to both men and women workers for same work or work of a similar nature.
- It also prevents discrimination on the ground of sex, against women in recruitment and service conditions.
- Minimum Wages Act (1948):
- It does not allow discrimination between male and female workers or different minimum wages for them.
Justice and Legal Aid:
- Family Courts Act (1984):
- It provides for the establishment of Family Courts for speedy settlement of family disputes.
- Legal Services Authorities Act (1987):
- It provides for free legal services to Indian women.
- National Commission for Women Act (1990):
- It provided for the establishment of a National Commission for Women to study and monitor all matters relating to the constitutional and legal rights and safeguards of women.