Women Empowerment is making women independent and powerful in every aspect of life. It refers to bringing equality in the social order where both men and women are equal in all areas. From ancient times women are not given the importance they deserved. They had to depend on every little thing upon the male members as India was a male dominant country. As time changed the position of women in our country also started changing gradually. However women in India, still continue to suffer from the burden of cultural, social, and traditional norms.
Situation in India
In India, we can see a major difference in treatment to women in urban areas and rural areas. The life of women is very different in Urban and very different in rural areas. As time is changing people in urban areas are becoming more open-minded. Women here are being educated, working, and have become self-independent. From the beginning, girls are educated and no difference is made between a boy and a girl child. However, there are many people where even in the 21st century they give more priority to a boy than a girl.
The situation is not the same in the rural areas as women there are still burdened with rules of male dominating culture. Many of the women there are not self-independent, not working also they do not have any financial freedom. Girl children are mostly not allowed to get educated. This shows the difference in the lives of women living in Urban and Rural places.
The current state of women
Even as time is changing women are not safe here as issues like female foeticide, dowry system, molestation, rape, sexual harassment, child marriage are prevalent and in such conditions how can a woman feel safe. India is amongst the countries where there is almost no safety for women as the people here still thinks that the male should dominate society and not female. The cases of Rapes, Molestation, and Sexual Harassment have been increased in the near time as the laws for women safety are not that stringent as they should be and even if the laws are made stringent their implementation is almost nil which makes India more unsafe for women to live with freedom and dignity.
In recent years, the government of India has made many laws relating to women’s empowerment. The increasing number of crimes has made public places, workplaces, and even houses unsafe for women. Given the number of crimes that are committed against women, it is pertinent that women are aware of the laws that are in place to protect them.
Protection by the constitution
The Constitution of India grants equality to both men and women. It also empowers the state to take measures to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender. The fundamental rights under the constitution help to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender, caste, religion, etc. It also ensures equality before the law for all its citizens whether male or female.
The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of law within the territory on Indian.
Nothing in this article shall prevent the state from making any special provision for women and children.
There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state.
Provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society and ensures justice for all.
That the ownership and control of material resources of the community are so distributed as best to serve the common good. It means the resources of the community would not be given to any private person, it would be used in a way so that it can serve the society and people in the best way.
The State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall, in particular, provide free legal aid.
Article 42 of the Constitution is a non-government organization operating in the sphere of protection of human rights facilitating the protection of civic and political rights and freedoms, as well as protection of other fundamental rights recognized by international law; harmonization of state policy and national
The protection provided by IPC
There are laws made in the Indian Penal Code specifically for the safety of women.
Section 376 of the Indian penal code deals with the crime of rape. The rapist shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a description for a term less than seven years, but which may extend to imprisonment for life.
Section 302/304-b of Indian penal code Homicide for dowry, dowry deaths or their attempts: When the death of women is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her in-laws or husband for or in connection with any demand of dowry, such death shall be called “dowry death”, Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.
Section 498A of Indian penal code deals with Torture, both mental and physical: Any women subjected to cruelty by her husband or any relative of the husband shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
Section 354 of Indian penal code deals with Molestation: Whoever assaults or molests any women shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and shall be liable to fine.
Section 509 of Indian penal code deals with Sexual Harassment: Whoever intending to insult the modesty of a woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such gestures or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Child Marriage Act
There is also some act which is specifically made to safeguard women and their interest. India ranks 13th in the world when it comes to child marriage. Since child marriage has been a tradition, it’s tough to eradicate it. To ensure that no child marriage takes place. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act was made effective in 2007. It aims at eliminating child marriage from the roots anyone encouraging child marriage is punishable under law.
Another age-old tradition in our Indian culture is of dowry. When any woman gets married the woman’s family has to give dowry to the man and his family to whom the girl is getting married. This is a norm carrying on for ages. If by any chance the bride’s family is not able to give dowry the groom’s family abuses the bride physically as well as mentally this can be seen in many cases till now. To prohibit the giving and taking of dowry, the Dowry Prohibition Act,1961 was enacted for saving women and also to eradicate the system of dowry.
Sexual Harassment of women at the workplace
Sexual harassment of women at the workplace ( prevention, prohibition, and redressal) act,2013: Sexual Harassment at the workplace is common in countries like India as it happens on a daily basis and no stringent laws were made. Sexual harassment includes the use of sexual languages, invasion into private space by any male colleague, touching any body part of the female inappropriately. The landmark case in this is Vishakha v State of Rajasthan and ors AIR 1997 SC 3011. The Supreme Court laid down several guidelines. The Act mandates that every organization with 10 or more employees set up an internal complaints committee.
- The person-in-charge of the particular institution, organization, or public, will be responsible for taking effective steps to prevent sexual harassment.
- A safe working environment is the fundamental right of a working woman.
- Appropriate work conditions should be provided in respect of work, leisure, health, and hygiene to further ensure that there is no hostile environment towards women at workplaces.
- An appropriate complaint mechanism should be created in the employees’ organization for redress of the complaint made by the victim.
- The complaints committee should be headed by a woman and not less than half of its members should be women.
- Such a complaint mechanism should ensure the time-bound treatment of complaints.
The Court directed that the above guidelines and norms would be strictly observed in all workplaces for the present and enforcement of the right to gender equality of the working women.
Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 is another act that provides Equal Remuneration to any person irrespective of whether male or female. As this is also a system practiced for long. Men have been always prioritized over women in any sector also when both of them working in the same place in the same position. There was a huge gap in the remuneration but time has changed for better now and women are being paid equally for their work.
Maternity Benefit Act, 1861
This act aims at providing payment during the leave period for the women. To be eligible for Maternity Benefit Act a woman must have worked in an establishment for a period of at least eighty days in the past 12months.
India has enacted legal provisions and constitutional provisions to improve the position of women but government plans and policies alone are not enough for improving the position of women. It is also the duty of society to take up activities and encourage the plan and policies of the government for empowering women.
Women should be allowed to work, should be paid equally. Women’s empowerment could only be attained if their social, educational, and economic status is improved. The first priority should be given to education which will eradicate illiteracy and empower women to be self-independent, take a stand for themselves, and be financially stable.
The influence of women’s empowerment will bring in gender equality and improve the gap between men and women. This will help to bring balance and steadiness in a community that is highly dominated by men.
As women comprise half of the population of India, it is very crucial that there are laws, plans, and policies that will empower them and their growth will flourish the economic growth of the nation.
As it is rightly said by Swami Vivekananda, “The country which does not respect women have never become great now and nor will ever in the future!”
Charmi Sharma | Thakur Ramnarayan College of Law, Mumbai, Maharashtra