Indian women are very fortunate when it comes to all constitutional, legal and government efforts to provide them with an equal opportunity for holistic development.
The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles. The Constitution not only grants equality to women but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. Within the framework of a democratic polity, our laws, development policies, plans and programmes have aimed at women’s advancement in different spheres. India has also ratified various international conventions and human rights instruments committing to secure equal rights for women
Constitutional Provisions Rights available to women in India
Women have equal rights as men so as to enable them to take part effectively in the administrative of the country.
Equality before law
Article 14: embodies the general principles of equality before the law and equal protection of laws. Prohibition from discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth
Article 15(1) and (2): Prohibits the state from discriminating against any citizen only on the basis of any one or more of the aspects such as religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
Article 15(3): makes it possible for the state to create special provisions for protecting the interests of women and children.
Article 15(4): capacitates the State to create special arrangements for promoting interests and welfare of socially and educationally backward classes of society.
Equality of Opportunity
Article 16 provides for equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.
Article 39 requires the State to direct its policy towards securing for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood [Article 39(a)], and equal pay for equal work for both men and women [Article 39(d)].
Article 39A directs the State to promote justice, on the basis of equal opportunity and to promote free legal aid by suitable legislation or a scheme or in any other way to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.
Humane Conditions at Work
Article 42 directs the State to make provision for securing justice and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.
Article 51(A) (e) To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women
Reservation of seats for Women in Panchayats and Municipalities
Article 243 D(3) Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Panchayat
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) Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality.
Article 243 T (4) Reservation of offices of Chairpersons in Municipalities for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and women in such manner as the legislature of a State may by law provide.
To uphold the Constitutional mandate, the State has enacted various legislative measures intended to ensure equal rights, to counter social discrimination and various forms of violence and atrocities and to provide support services, especially to working women.
Although women may be victims of any of the crimes such as Murder, Robbery, Cheating etc, the crimes, which are directed specifically against women, are characterized as Crime against Women. These are broadly classified under two categories.
(1) The Crimes Identified Under the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
Rape (Sec. 376 IPC)
Kidnapping & Abduction for different purposes ( Sec. 363-373)
Homicide for Dowry, Dowry Deaths or their attempts (Sec. 302/304-B IPC)
Torture, both mental and physical (Sec. 498-A IPC)
Molestation (Sec. 354 IPC)
Sexual Harassment (Sec. 509 IPC)
Importation of girls (up to 21 years of age)
(2) The Crimes identified under the Special Laws (SLL)
Although all laws are not gender-specific, the provisions of law affecting women significantly have been reviewed periodically and amendments carried out to keep pace with the emerging requirements. Some acts which have special provisions to safeguard women and their interests are:
The Employees State Insurance Act, 1948
The Plantation Labour Act, 1951
The Family Courts Act, 1954
The Special Marriage Act, 1954
The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 with amendment in 2005
Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (Amended in 1995)
Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1976
The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1983
The Factories (Amendment) Act, 1986
Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986
Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
Special Incentives for Women
National Commission for Women: In January 1992, the Government set-up this statutory body with a specific mandate to study and monitor all matters relating to the constitutional and legal safeguards provided for women, review the existing legislation to suggest amendments wherever necessary, etc.
Reservation for Women in Local Self -Government: The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Acts passed in 1992 by Parliament ensure one-third of the total seats for women in all elected offices in local bodies whether in rural areas or urban areas.
The National Plan of Action for the Girl Child (1991-2000): The plan of Action is to ensure survival, protection and development of the girl child with the ultimate objective of building up a better future for the girl child.
The Department of Women & Child Development in the Ministry of Human Resource Development has prepared a “National Policy for the Empowerment of Women” in the year 2001. The goal of this policy is to bring about the advancement, development and empowerment of women.