Recently, I read about a survey conducted a few years ago on how much control do Indian women have over different aspects of their lives, and I was appalled by the statistics. It illustrated that even up to the years 2011-2012, only 5% of Indian women had sole control in choosing their husbands, and an alarming more than 74.2% of them needed permission to visit a health centre. Despite the claims of rising literacy rates, economic freedom and better health facilities one wonders if the Indian woman is really empowered. As a lawyer I come across many women who are still ignorant of their legal rights, hence I thought this should be the first topic for my maiden column.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005: This law was enacted for more effective protection of the rights of women guaranteed under the Constitution of India who are victims of any kind of violence occurring within the family and for matters connected herewith. The legal breakthrough achieved under this law is that it covers those women who are or have been in a relationship with the abuser where both parties have lived together in a shared household (i.e. Live-in relationship) and are related by consanguinity, marriage or through a relationship in the nature of marriage or adoption.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013: An Act to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Sexual harassment results in violation of the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India and her right to life and to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution and right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business which includes a right to a safe environment free from sexual harassment.
Law of inheritance :Under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, a daughter is entitled to equal share in the property of the Joint Hindu Family alongwith the son. Even the Indian Succession Act, 1925 entitles a daughter including a married daughter to an equal share in the estate of her deceased parents.
Abiding proper Police Procedure: Under the Courts’ directives issued under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, every police station must have a lady officer, not of a post below that of Head Constable, available round-the-clock and the police shall also help the victim of sexual assault of any degree with counselling assistance and further aid towards the betterment of the victim. Besides, a woman can only be searched by a lady officer and can be arrested only in the presence of a lady officer. A woman cannot be arrested before sunrise or after sunset, however, exceptions can be made under the directive of the magistrate.
The Dowry Prohibition Act , 1961: This Act read with Section 406 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 has made both giving and receiving dowry as a punishable offence.
To conclude, efforts should be made at the grass root level to make women aware of their legal rights and how they can be exercised to their advantage.