Women's rights
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This article is written by Yukta Joshi.

Introduction

Women do not need to be polite to someone who is making them feel uncomfortable. You know, what I mean right?

If this is being read by a female, I’m probably hitting my goal. In India, it is seen that women are not much aware of their rights and that continues to remain recessive in society. Only an aware person can well discern between just and unjust and this article would surely help you become just. 

In India, there is no paucity of laws for women. Our Constitution provides exclusive rights to women for their protection and development. Furthermore, IPC, CrPC and Evidence Act are also active when it comes to women and their protection. We have some special laws as well for effective implementation of the rights of women against abuse, Harassment, violence, inequality etc. against them such as the Protection of Women from Domestic violence Act, 2005; the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956; the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961; the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986; the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION and REDRESSAL) Act, 2013; the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 etc.

By the end of this article, you might feel empowered (of course “females”) by the protection and care that law has made available to them, So Come on! Let’s dive in.

 Here is a quick preface of the rights:

  • Right to maintenance
  • Right to equal pay 
  • Right to dignity and decency
  • Right against domestic violence
  • Rights at workplace
  • Right against dowry
  • Right to free legal aid
  • Right of private defense
  1. Right to maintenance

Maintenance includes the basic necessities of life like food, shelter, clothes, education, health care facilities etc. A married woman is entitled to get maintenance from her husband even after her divorce till she doesn’t remarry. Maintenance depends on the standard of living of the wife and circumstances and income of the husband. Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, puts an obligation on the husband to maintain her divorced wife except when the wife lives in adultery or refuses to live with her husband without reasonable cause or when both of them live separately by mutual consent. Under the aforesaid section, any Indian woman irrespective of her caste and religion can claim maintenance from her husband. 

The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 also facilities maintenance but to Hindu women only. Whereas, the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939 covers only Muslim woman. 

  1. Right to equal pay

We now have gender neutral laws. A male and a female is entitled to the same pay for the same work. The Equal Remuneration Act provides for the same. It ensures payment of equal remuneration to both men and women workers for the same work or work of a similar nature. In the context of recruitment and service conditions, there will be no discrimination on the basis of gender.

  1. Right to dignity and decency

Dignity and decency are women’s personal jewels. Anybody who tries to snatch and disrobe her modesty is considered a sinner and law very well entails its punishment. 

Every woman has the right to live in dignity, free of fear, coercion, violence and discrimination. Law very well respects women’s dignity and modesty. The criminal law provides for the punishments for offences committed against women like Sexual Harassment (Sec. 354A), assault with intent to disrobe her (Sec. 354B) or to outrage her modesty (Sec. 354), Voyeurism (Sec. 354C), Stalking (354D) etc. 

 In case the woman herself is accused of an offence and arrested, she is behaved and dealt with decency. Her arrest and search should be made with strict regard to decency by a woman police officer and her Medical examination should be carried out by a woman medical officer or in supervision of a woman medical officer. In rape cases, so far as practicable, a woman police officer should register the FIR. Furthermore, she cannot be arrested after sunset and before sunrise except for a special permission of the Magistrate by a woman police officer.

  1. Right against domestic violence

Every woman is entitled to the right against Domestic Violence with her by virtue of the enactment of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act in 2005. Domestic Violence includes within its ambit not only Physical abuse but also mental, sexual and economic abuse. 

So, if you are a daughter or a wife or a live-in partner and is subjected to any of such abuses by your partner or husband or his relatives or by person related to you by blood or adoption who live or have lived with you in a shared household, then you are well covered under the provisions of Domestic Violence Act and may seek different remedies provided thereof. You may contact the women helpline no. “1091” and register your complaint. They will inform police about your case. You may also approach the women’s cell of your area which you can find with help of google. They provide special services to such women and help them lodge their cases before the Magistrate after drafting their complaints in a proper manner. You may also approach the police to register your case.

Since the case of Domestic violence is cognizable in nature, police is bound to register FIR and investigate thereto, but in case, it refuses to do so then you may write a letter stating your case to Superintendent of police and post it, if SP feels that the information discloses a cognizable offence, then he may either himself investigate or direct his subordinate police officer to register the case and investigate it. In case, SP also denies you, you may directly approach the Magistrate having jurisdiction in your area, and move your application under sec. 12 of DV Act with the help of a lawyer for seeking desired relief(s) against Domestic Violence which include protection, custody and compensation orders.

The Indian Penal code also provides protection to such women who are subjected to Domestic violence, under Sec 498A by punishing the husband or his relatives with the imprisonment which may extend to 3 years and fine.

  1. Rights at workplace

You have a right to have a ladies toilet where you work. At places, with more than 30 female workers, providing facilities for care and feeding of children is mandatory. Further, the Supreme Court and the Govt. had put in to ensure the safety of women at workplaces. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan, had laid down exclusive guidelines for protection of women from Sexual Harrasment at workplace, following which, the Govt. in 2013, has enacted an exclusive legislation- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION and REDRESSAL) Act, 2013 for that end. So if any person at your workplace, asks you for sexual favors, or makes sexually colored remarks and whistles looking at you or sings obscene songs looking at you, touches you inappropriately, or shows pornography, then all that will constitute Sexual Harrassment and you may complain to the Internal complaints committee which is required to be constituted by the employer at each office or branch with 10 or more employees. The District Officer is also required to constitute a Local Complaints Committee at each district, and if required at the block level. Apart from this, IPC also, penalizes Sexual Harassment under 354A by providing an imprisonment of 1-3 years.

  1. Right against dowry

Dowry system i.e. giving and taking of dowry by bride or bridegroom or by their parents at, before or after the marriage is penalized by Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. The Act, defines “Dowry” as any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly by one party to the other but does not include dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies. If you give, take or abet giving or taking of dowry, then you shall be punishable with a minimum imprisonment of 5 years and minimum fine of Rs. 15,000.

“Say no to dowry, it breeds violence.”

  1. Right to free legal aid

If you are an aggrieved woman, you are entitled to claim free legal services from the legal services authorities recognized under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 irrespective of whether you can afford legal services on your own. There are District, State, and National legal Services Authorities constituted at District, State and National level respectively. Legal services include assisting in the conduct of any case or other legal proceedings before any Court or tribunal or authority and advising on legal matters.

  1. Right of private defence/ self-defence

It is a defensive right. You can cause hurt, grievous hurt or even death in protecting your body or another person’s body from the assailant. But you can kill the assailant without attracting liability and punishment only in certain circumstances like:

When you feel that the assailant is about to cause your death or grievous hurt or commit rape, kidnapping or abduction or if he intends to lock you in a room or throws or attempts to throw acid at you, then you can kill that person and law will protect you.

Conclusion

Indian Law protects women very well. These 8 most common yet basic Rights of women should be known by every Indian woman. A person who knows law, doesn’t need any weapon. Law itself is his weapon which makes him the most powerful person. Awareness about your rights makes you smart and just. Only if you are aware of your rights, can you fight against any injustice meted out to you at home, at the workplace, or in the society. So, dear ladies, the bottom line is:

“Don’t be oppressed, know your rights and claim them because when one woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all the women.” 

Thanks for reading, hope this article makes you aware and more just.


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