Women are the precious solitaire in our society. Safeguarding women is the responsibility as well as the key priority of every nation and India is also not far behind. The government has passed various laws made for the protection of women. In the twenty-first century, women have maintained to be pre-eminent in distinctive fields. Consequently, they use their inherent potential to win the world in the best ways. When a woman properly knows her rights, only she can fight against atrocities. As we all are well aware that “where there is right, there is remedy”. Thus, every woman should have awareness of her rights to claim all those legal remedies which law has provided to her.
1. Right Against Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is an uninvited behavior that is offensive and humiliating in nature. It is a kind of harassment that involves unwelcome promises in exchange for sexual approval. In simple words, it is an unwelcome physical and verbal behavior of a person in authority in regards to a subordinate, a student or an employee.
Sexual Harassment attacks on the modesty of women. Thus, it makes her uncomfortable to reside in society with pride. Sometimes, woman also feels insecure at the workplace because harassment can be done by anyone (i.e. employee, higher authority, workers). When a women go through harassment at the workplace it becomes an obstacle in achieving the potential target fixed by her.
Bullying and questioning the character of the woman is an offence. It is punishable under sections 294, 354, 354-A, 509 of Indian Penal Code 1860. The honourable Supreme Court has provided guidelines in Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan regarding sexual harassment at workplaces against women. Then they constituted a committee to resolve the matters of women in the organization.
28 January 2021 Bombay High Court held that “Act of Holding A Minor Girls hands and Opening the Zip of Pants Won’t come under ‘Sexual Assualt’ Under POCSO Act”. But under section 354A (1) (i) Indian Penal Code (IPC) is an offence of sexual harassment.
2. Right of Maternity Benefits
The government has provided women with paid holidays from work called maternity leave. She can get this benefit during the pregnancy, after and before childbirth. The minimum leave gives a call of 12 weeks and the recommended is for 14 weeks.
Further, Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 mentions the advantages of pregnant women. These benefits are for the women after and before the birth of the child. Maternity allowances permit paid leave to all pregnant women. Thus, Parliament enacted this Act for the welfare of women. The reason behind this was various reported cases of breach of contract due to the pregnancy which is explained by an example.
‘A’ the Principal of ‘XYZ’ School drum out a women ‘B’ on the ground of her pregnancy. As ‘B’ was a teacher in the school on a contract basis. So, there was also a breach of contract and ‘B’ becomes unemployed. Where instead, of this she must get some benefits.
Further, this Act applies to each plantation industry, mining, factory etc. Moreover, it extends within the territory of India. For maternity allowances, a woman should know the following:-
- The company must have more than 10 working employees.
- A woman must be working with the company for not less than 1 year.
- The company should give maternity leave 8 weeks before the delivery.
Every woman can get maternity allowances with a full salary of 12 weeks. Concerning this additional bonus as well as allowances should be given to her. Thus, it is not legal to reject a woman for not being present in her maternity period.
Indrani Chakroverty v/s Idiom Consulting Ltd, 2012
Indrani filed a petition against ‘Idiom Consulting Ltd.’ for pressuring her to relocate her job. Furthermore paid her half salary on the ground of discovery of her pregnancy. However, The Delhi High Court imposed the penalty, to compensate the woman with Rs 7.5 lakh.
Not long ago Smriti Irani – Minister of Women and Child Development, had recently proposed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Bill 2020. She said it will be a milestone for women’s right in India. The proposed amendment consists of the substitution of various subsections and clauses. Though the target is to extend the upper gestation limit for pregnancy termination under specific conditions. However the government will introduce the MTP bill at the time of the budget session of parliament.
Present day- After Announcement of Budget
Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 proposes an idea to terminate pregnancy till 20 weeks of gestation. The bill increases the upper and lower gestation limit by 20-24 weeks. This bill also gives an advantage to the survivors of disabled women, minor and rape victim. However, along with this the bill too introduced that the upper limit won’t be applicable in the cases where fetal abnormalities (conditions that affect fetus or embryo) will be discovered by the medical board. Thus the Act provided the structure, functions and the other details.
3. Right To Privacy
It is clear that article 21 of the Indian Constitution deals with personal liberty. Howsoever, now it includes right to privacy too. In other words, it describes living life with dignity. Thus “No Person Shall Be Deprived OF His Life Or Personal Liberty Except According To Procedure Established By Law”. Right to life is the survival of a human being and gives importance & meaning to humans life. Basically, the right to life and personal liberty means having the right to privacy. However, each human has his/her own privacy and violation of it, is unlawful.
Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978)
Remedy And Benefits
Under section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973 (Cr.P.C.), a raped woman can record her information and statement before the woman Magistrate. Meanwhile, the Magistrate can also exclude everyone from the courtroom during such proceedings. Thus, the proceedings should be camera proceedings i.e. exclusion of the general public from the courtroom. The victim can file a complaint in the police station to lady officer. Hence, the police officer is responsible for the secrecy of statements. Further the Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides that the identity of the victim will not be disclosed. Thereafter, the right to privacy motivates a woman to file a complaint without fear.
4. Right to equal pay
Equal pay for equal work can be perceived in terms of gender equality. Equal pay for equal work is a concept of providing facilities and wages to women and man for completing the same amount of work, responsibilities and duties. The Indian Constitution itself doesn’t grant equal pay for equal work as a fundamental right. Nevertheless, various provisions stand for the implementation of this principle.
The Preamble of the Indian Constitution provides equality of status and opportunity. Even Article 14, we all are equal and no person is above law. It states that men and women have equal rights and opportunities in each social, economic and political sector. Article 39(d) of the Constitution of India, 1950 assures the right to equality in pay scale. The Landmark Judgment in Randhir Singh V. Union of India highlights “Equal Pay for Equal Work for men and women”.
The target of uniform pay is to have an equivalent allocation of resources among the people. Hence, there should not be a scarcity of resources (pay) in few hands. However, the expression ‘equal pay’ incorporates medical facilities, basic salary, bonus allowances etc. The main aim of equal pay is to wipe out discrimination. Thereafter, Parliament came up with the Equal Remuneration Act 1976, with a similar target “equal pay, equal work”.
Randhir Singh v/s Union of India
AIR 1997 SC 3014
The Supreme Court held that the Indian Constitution has not mentioned the principle “equal pay for equal work” as a Fundamental Right of the citizens. Whereas under Articles 14,16,32, 39 (d); it is considered as a valid constitutional principle. Hence, it includes permanent, temporary as well as daily wage workers.
Jharkhand high court observed that the ‘equal pay for equal work’ is to be assumed as a fundamental right in service jurisprudence.
5. Right to confidentiality
The principle of the right of confidentiality states that no one is having the authority to share the details of the victim unless and until the court says or the victim agrees. Under no conditions, any authority can reveal the identity of the woman. No one can’t defame the reputation of a woman which she holds in society. Thus, there is no mean to harm the dignity and modesty of the woman. Whenever a victim files a complaint, it is indeed the responsibility of the cops to keep the victim’s profile confidential.
Section 228-A, of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), punishes the authority on the ground of disclosure of victim’s profile. Not either police, media or anyone can publish or showcase the identity of the victim.
Thus if anyone discloses the victim’s profile without the court’s permission, he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 2 years of imprisonment and fine.
6. Right To Virtual Complaint
When a victim women don’t feel comfortable complaining to the police station then she is having the ‘Right to Virtual Complaint’. Virtual complaint stands for the lodging of an FIR via email, Facebook, WhatsApp, video conferencing or through post. The only thing she has to do is to send an email or post to the senior authority (police officer, deputy commissioner) along with the details. This is because Sometimes, women feel insecure in the police station on the ground of disclosure of identity. In some cases, the woman suffers from humiliation done by society. Thus, the principle of virtual complaint will protect the reputation and interests of the woman in society.
So, to scrap this nuisance, the Delhi cops came up with some guidelines. However, this has given a right to woman of filing virtual complaint addressing senior authority. Additionally, women can file a complaint in any police station and officers to write it. As per Zero FIR, no police station can refuse to register on the ground that it does not come under their jurisdiction.
7. Right Against Arrest
The ‘Right against arrest’ states that the police has no right to arrest a woman before sunrise and after sunset. Even if they are having an arrest warrant then also they are ceased to arrest. Hence, there were many cases when police arrested a woman at night. Concerning this, the Supreme Court ruled that they can’t arrest the woman between 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM. Additionally, it also ruled that there should be the presence of a lady constable to arrest a woman. Apart from this, in a serious situation the only ground for the arrest of a woman shall be notice from the Magistrate. Including that woman should be kept separate from the male cell. In the case of a Pregnant woman, the lady should be arrested with comfortable needs.
Sheela Barse v/s State of Maharashtra
Supreme Court held that it is the responsibility of the cops to keep the women in different cell. Thus in this case a separate lock-up was not available. So, the police should keep the woman in a room apart from the men’s cell.
Sec 160(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 does not allow the cops to call a woman at a police station, neither for any inquiry nor for investigation. Furthermore, it provides that police/cops should question at her own residence.
Section 53 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 mentions that only a registered female doctor or nurse shall examine the arrested woman and even accused one.
8. Right of Not Being Called For Interogation
‘Right of Not being called for interrogation’ says that there is no need to go to the police station for questioning of cops. According to the Code Of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) Section 160, defines that women shall not go to police station for the investigation purpose for recording statements related to the case. Thereafter, if the cops want to do an investigation then they can only do it at their place of residence. And it must be in presence of friends, family or lady constable. If a police officer wants to do an investigation then it should be done without hurting the dignity of women.
However, section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure states that women are not liable to attend the investigation procedure at the police station. Additionally, if they are not comfortable, cops have to go to the residence of women to interrogate. In Nandini Sathpathy v. P.L. Dani, it was held that if the police officer has called a woman to the police station departmental proceedings can be initiated against such officer.
9. Right Against Being Stalked
Section 354 D of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC )- defines the term ‘stalking’. Stalking is to follow someone with a sick intention or to cause harm to the followed person. Additionally, it also includes wrong gestures and words. Furthermore, section 509 of IPC defines the gestures and words which harm the dignity of women. Thereafter, owing to some drawbacks in sections 354 and 509, the wrongdoer proceeds gets a benefit to move freely from the courtroom. It happens on the ground that it was a bit hard to prove certain conditions:-
- Attack against women
- Use of excessive force by offender
- Harm to the modesty of women
Therefore, after the amendment in the Indian Penal Code in 2013, the Criminal act ‘stalking’ became a cognizable, non-compoundable and bailable offence. Which also includes a fine and imprisonment of up to 3 years for 1st conviction. Subsequently, fine and imprisonment up to 5 years for repeating the same.
Priya Matoo Case
In this case, a young girl was stalked. Thus stalker was the son of a former IPS officer named Santosh Singh. He raped the young law student and murdered her in her own house. Afterwards, various complaints were filed against the culprit. Thereafter, in 1996, the case was moved to CBI. Hence the High Court punished him with the death penalty. Later on, in 2010, it was converted into life imprisonment by the Supreme Court.
Criminal law amendment bill 2019 proposes the expression “any person” to take place of “women” and “men” or “other person”. However, the reason was to make the offence gender-neutral. Additionally, the bill inserts the new section 375 A which defines sexual assault. Which includes intentional touching of breast, anus or forcing the other person to touch.
Apart from this, the relevant sections of the Indian Evidence Act 1872, and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1973, are amended to incorporate new section 375 A.
10. Right Against Domestic Violence
The term domestic violence is defined in section 3 of ‘The Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act 2005’. Domestic violence is the behaviour of a person whose purpose is to abuse or control a boy/girlfriend, family member, spouse etc. Abusing is considered as a learned behaviour of the person, not as a mistaken behaviour. This is not caused by drinking, smoking, drugs etc. but takes place with the own will of the person. Domestic violence occurs when one person acts to dominate another in the relationship or the family. It includes misuse of power and can take the shape of physical violence, verbal and sexual abuse, cruelty to pets etc. Generally, it is perpetrated by males against females.
T.V. Rao v/s State of Telengana
Eventually, these rights were ideas, then travelled to legislation, after struggling get introduced & get imposed in nation. Thereafter today these are written only in books or papers but we can’t see their physical existence or we cant feel privileged for our rights. The day when girls and women will be having access to the locked rights then we will be able to talk about equality in our Nation.
In this article, Kritika Gupta, a Law student of Punjabi University, Patiala writes about “Rights of Women In India”.Under The Guidance Of PhD. Scholar Gaurav Moudgil Punjabi University, Patiala.