From Fundamentals to Zero FIR- Women Rights in India You must know
In India, there is hardly a day that passes without reading newspaper reports of crime against women. Women are really vulnerable whether it is at home, workplace or public places. In view of the numerous crimes perpetrated against our women, it is important that they know their rights as guaranteed under the constitution.
The Indian government in their wisdom has promulgated several laws which we will discuss to protect women rights and dignity. So, if you are a wife, parent, employee, daughter and a woman, sit back and relax while we walk you through your rights.
Before we delve into the various women rights in India, it is expedient to take you through the four fundamental women rights as enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
FUNDAMENTALS of WOMEN RIGHTS
Indian women have the following fundamental rights under the Constitution:
Article 21 of the Indian constitution clearly states that no person shall be deprived of personal liberty, except otherwise directed by a court of competent jurisdiction. Indian women can leverage Article 21 to enforce their fundamental right.
Article 14 is another part of the Constitution that guarantees women rights. Article 14 clearly states that no Indian shall be discriminated based on caste, race, religion, place of birth or sex.
Article 19 guarantees the right to freedom of expression, speech, movement, profession, and trade.
Article 32 gives Indian citizens the right to approach the Supreme Court to seek for Constitutional remedy.
Apart from the above four fundamental human rights, there are some laws which have been enacted to protect the rights of women. We will now consider the laws below:
- THE PROHIBITION OF CHILD MARRIAGE ACT, 2006
According to a report recently released by the International Research Centre for Women, 47% of Indian girls are forced into early marriage before they attain the age of 18. Also, Indian occupies number 13 in the list of countries engaging in early marriage.
The Indian government in a bid to curb this ugly trend enacted the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. The Act defines early marriage as a marriage involving a bride whose age is below 18 and a groom whose age is below 21. The Act punishes any parent who gives out their daughter in early marriage.
- SPECIAL MARRIAGE ACT, 1954
The Special Marriage Act, 1954 makes it possible for women from different religion and caste to get married. India is a country with diverse casts and religion, so any woman with the intention to get married to a man from another religion or caste can leverage this Act. However, the Special Marriage Act, 1954 is not applicable to Indians from Jammu and Kashmir State, as well as those living in the diaspora.
- DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT, 1961
Before the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 was enacted, giving and taking dowry was the norm in India. The situation got to a point whereby a bride can be maltreated if her parents fail to make full dowry payment, coupled with the fact that Indian women were not independent. The government in their wisdom enacted this Act to curb the ugly trend.
The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 clearly states that no Indian family should give or take dowry at the time of marriage. What this means is that any family who requests for dowry before allowing their son to get married would be penalized.
The Act has protected Indian women in various ways. Women can now have a stand and can approach any Family Court for a breach of the Act.
- INDIAN DIVORCE ACT, 1969
The Indian Divorce Act, 1969 is another strong law enacted to protect Indian women. The Act as it stands allows women to file for divorce in a Family Court. Unlike in the past, a woman was seen as a mere object. If her marriage is not healthy, she will stay put. But right now, Indian women are speaking up. The Act has enabled women to dissolve any marriage they feel they no longer want.
In the light of the above, Family Courts were established by the Indian government to attend to divorce cases.
- MATERNITY BENEFIT ACT, 1861
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1861 was enacted to regulate maternity benefits and the employment of women. The Act makes it possible for employers of labour to provide maternity benefits such as maternity leave, medical allowance, and nursing breaks, among others to expectant mothers. Any pregnant women can seek for maternity leave few months to the expected date of delivery.
- Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 has been amended since it was enacted. It was amended in 1975 and further amended in 2002. The intention of the Act was to control the rate of illegal abortion, morbidity, and mortality.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 clearly states the qualification of the medical doctor that will carry out abortion, as well as the conditions a pregnancy can be aborted.
- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
Sexual harassment in workplaces is a common phenomenon in today’s work environment. People see the female folk as a sex object. The situation is even more dere in government offices.
In a bid to guarantee the safety of women in their various workplaces, the Sexual Harassment Act, 2013 was promulgated.
According to a November 2015 report released by the FICCI-EY, over 36% of companies operating in India are not compliance with the Sexual Harassment Act, 2013.
The Act defines sexual harassment as the use of sexual overtone languages, subtle touches, and hovering too close to a woman. Women can leverage this Act to sue any man who attempts to violate their privacy.
- Indecent Representation of Women(Prevention) Act,1986
The Indecent Representation of Women Act, 1986 is one of the Acts that women lawyers have hailed. It is no longer news that advertisement practitioners now use women who dress indecently for marketing purposes. In a bid to curb the trend, the government enacted this Act.
The Act prohibits the use of indecently dressed women for advertisement, paintings, writings, figures, and publication. Anybody found to engage in this Act is liable to fine and jail term.
- National Commission for Women Act, 1990
The National Commission for Women Act, 1990 was passed into law in 1992 in order to establish a body known as the National Commission for Women (NCW). The pioneer chairman of the body was Lalitha Kumaramangalam. She was appointed in 2014.
The duties of the body are to represent Indian women’s rights and to give a voice to the voiceless and less privileged women
Also, the body was established to ensure that the welfare of women is guaranteed.
- Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
Before this law was enacted, it was a common practice of employers to discriminate women on the basis of salary payment. The government in their wisdom enacted this Act to curb such practices.
The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 is one of the Acts supporters of gender equality usually hail. The Act guarantees that the payment of salaries should be equal both for a man and a woman. Any employer of labour who breaches this Act would be liable to a jail term or fine.
- RIGHT TO FREE LEGAL AID
Currently, India is one of the countries with a high rate of rape cases. Before now, rape victims were not allowed to openly express their mind. But it is no longer the same nowadays. Female rape victims can now leverage the free legal aid to sue rape offenders through the Legal Services Authority.
- RIGHT NOT TO BE ARRESTED AT NIGHT
Security agencies do not have the right to arrest Indian women at night, except otherwise directed by a court of competent jurisdiction. Also, the police do not have the legal right to detain a woman at night in a police facility without a court order.
Furthermore, if there is a need for the police to interrogate a woman, it must be in the presence of family members or friends.
- RIGHT TO VIRTUALLY REGISTER COMPLAINTS
This right makes it possible for Indian women to make a complaint through email or letter to the police without physically going to their station. In some cases, the State House Officer can deploy a police officer to the residence of an Indian woman to record her voice.
- THE PROVISION OF ZERO FIR
The Supreme Court in one of its rulings mentioned that Indian women who are a victim of circumstances can register their grievances using the Zero FIR ruling to any police station regardless of the jurisdiction the crime occurred. Once a woman lodges a complaint, it would be investigated and then transferred to the jurisdiction where the crime occurred. Supreme Court gave the ruling in order to protect women and to ensure that the offender does not go scot-free.
As a woman, it is important to know your rights. Knowing your rights will empower you to fight any injustice whether at home, public places or in the office.