Women Empowerment Through Legislation In India


This article was written by Arohi Kashyap a student of Northcap University.

Women empowerment means their capacity to participate as equal partners in cultural, social, economic and political systems of a society.[1] Women empowerment till date, is advocated as a magical solution for all women issues and new legislations were seen as the road to achieve women empowerment. There was a need felt to make special legislations for the protection and empowerment of women. There is no doubt that women oriented legislations have been made in India but the is a major problem with the implementation of these laws.

India plays a big role in the global empowerment of women considering the fact that India has the second largest population in the world. Even though India has such an influence in the global empowerment of women it fares low on the gender gap index, ranking a dismal 108 out of 145 countries in the Worlds Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index.

Indian Courts have played a significant role in women empowerment during the last five decades with the support of the liberal provision of the Constitution, with the aid of a series of pro-women international human rights instruments and increasingly assertive women’s movement within and outside the country.[2] However, the root cause due to which these legislations lack effect is the lack of effective awareness spread about them. Urban India may still be aware of these rights, to an extent but Rural India (comprising of approximately 70% India[3]) is completely unaware. These areas have an extremely oppressive attitude towards women due to which there are great financial, educational and healthcare inadequacies faced by these women. Crimes like domestic violence and demand for dowry are seen as normal, accepted practises which a woman is expected to comply with.

In Urban India women have started being apart of the workforce of the nation. This, although seen as a big step forward for women empowerment, brings out several other ways in which women are seen as unequal and oppressed. Situations like unequal pay for working women, workplace harassment, stalking and cyber crimes are ever increasing in the country with no hope of diminishing.

A major factor of the continuing inequality is the society and societal pressure.

Indian society consists of people belonging various religious beliefs. In every religion women are given a special place and every religion teaches us to treat women with respect and dignity. But somehow the society has managed to develop both physical and mental ill practices against women. For instance, sati pratha, practice of dowry, parda pratha, female infanticide, wife burning, sexual violence, sexual harassment at work place, domestic violence and other varied kinds of discriminatory practices; all such acts consist of physical as well as mental element. The primary reason for such behavior against women is the male superiority complex as well as the patriarchal system of society.

The reasons for such behavior against women are many but the most important one are the male superiority complex and patriarchal system of society. [4]

The social taboos put on certain acts or crimes make it extremely difficult for a woman to take hold of her rights. A divorced women in India is always blamed for the failed marriage and is seen as a blemish on society; the cause, reason or fault of the divorce is irrelevant. When it comes to crimes like rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment or molestation, the ritual of victim – blaming prevails in our society.  The victim of such crimes is seen as impure and at fault in our society resulting in them becoming an outcaste of society. This mixed with the feeling of guilt and shame of the victim makes it near impossible for her to take advantage of the legislations made for her protection, safety and justice.  There is a widespread reluctance in both urban and rural areas of India to report crimes against women such as domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, molestation, etc. due to the social taboos put on these crimes.

Women in India have to face a range of social inequalities from gender specific abortions, mistreatment by their spouses, to a trivialized act of eve teasing.

Most women aren’t aware of women rights in India and other times their legal rights are not protected as they should be.[5] There have been several legislation that have been enacted for women in India today, however duty to the lack of awareness and support of the society they are not successfully implemented.

India plays upon the precedential judgment and guidelines on Vishakha vs. State of Rajasthan for work place harassment issues but statistics show that there hasn’t been a substantial change in such cases of harassment and they have increased instead.

A landmark judgment of the Apex Court, Air India v Nargesh Meerza [6], held that a woman shall not be denied employment on the grounds that she is a woman as it violates Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

In yet another case Ms. C.B. Muthamma v. Union of India[7], it was held that ruled relating to seniority and promotion in Indian Foreign Service which make discrimination only on the ground of gender is not only unconstitutional but also a hangover of the masculine culture of having cuffing the weaker sex.

Under Sec. 46 of the CrPC, no woman can be arrested without the presence of a female police officer and cannot be arrested before sunrise and after sunset in the absence of extreme circumstances. A case of Christian Community Welfare Council of India & Anr. V State of Maharashtra[8] laid down guidelines for the arrest and questioning of a woman for their safety and protecting after a brutal case where a woman was beaten and repeatedly molested in police custody.

This is the perfect example of lack of awareness. Most women and men are not aware of the protection given to them while in police custody and/or arrest. If awareness was to be spread about this one legislations, several custodial rapes and molestations could be avoided, especially in Rural India

Once laws are made and enacted they require follow-ups and publicity. This does not mean news articles and publications. Though this method may be effective for 30% of the population, the other 70% is kept in the dark and the major chunk of people for who this law is enacted, fail to recognize and utilize it.

The patriarchal attitudes, widespread illiteracy and women’s ignorance of their economic and educational rights are all the root cause of ineffective implementation of laws.

The major reason that laws are not implemented is the society but an equally important reason is lack of awareness.

Enactment of legislations are not sufficient techniques for women empowerment; laws require enforcement and awareness. Women empowerment primarily requires society’s support- it’s about time they get the support they need.

[1] http://www.lawctopus.com/academike/schemes-strategies-for-women-empowerment-india/

[2] Women Empowerment By, A. Singh

[3] http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/about-70-per-cent-indians-live-in-rural-areas-census-report/article2230211.ece

[4] http://www.indiacelebrating.com/social-issues/women-empowerment/

[5] http://www.womenempowermentinindia.com/women-rights-in-india/

[6] AIR 1981 SC 1829

[7] AIR 1979 SC 1868

[8] [2003] INSC 488

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