“Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.” – Hillary Clinton
Violence against women is a problem across the World. It affects women of all races, ethnic groups, classes and nationalities. It is a life-threatening problem for an individual woman and a serious problem for all socio-economic and educational classes. It cuts across cultural and religious barriers, impeding the right of women to participate fully in society. Violence against women takes a dismaying variety of forms, from domestic abuse to rape, to child marriages and to female circumcision. All of them are violations of the most fundamental human rights.
The Indian constitution which is the fundamental law of the nation, contains numbers of provisions for the benefit and protection of the women. The concept of equality and non-discrimination finds its due place in Indian constitution. Besides, it also enables the state to adopt measures of affirmative discrimination in favor of women. Apart from fundamental rights, some specific provisions to ensure the rights of women have also been incorporated in Directive Principles of State Policy. However, despite constitutional protection and several legislations, gender discrimination and injustice continue to occur. This is mainly because those who enforce the laws or interpret do not always fully share the philosophy of gender justice concept.
Indian women are, by and large, handicapped with respect to all the prerequisites essential for access to justice. The widespread illiteracy, the cultural barriers and subordination is very common. The unfriendly process of law has kept most distressed women away from the law and courts. Victimized women have various experiences with the national criminal justice systems. They cannot always depend on the criminal justice system for either protection or rehabilitation. In terms of combating violence against women, there often exist gaps and ambiguities in the laws criminalizing violence. Laws tend to be piecemeal, focusing on specific forms of violence rather than dealing comprehensively with all forms of violence against women. When the law is in place, there is often weak law enforcement. This leads to victim’s apathy and distrust and avoidance of the system. In certain situations, such as the cruelty and dowry deaths, corruption among police and other enforcement officials works as a major obstacle.
Keeping all this in mind it is also felt that the largest part of women who belongs from indigent or backward class are not aware of their rights or for that matter the laws that protect them from the indifferent behavior and hostility of the society. This article is for making these women familiar with some basic laws which are essential for them.
LAWS EVERY WOMEN SHOULD BE FAMILIAR WITH:
We live in a world where goddesses are worshiped and birth of a female are seen as the dignity of the household in which she is born or she gets married into. But still women in our patriarchal society get tamed, harassed, abused, raped, kidnapped and killed for not fulfilling dowry demands every single day.
Keeping a check on a number of women-related cases, the government of India provides crucial rights to Indian women. Unfortunately, many of the women do not know their rights.
Laws Indian women holds
In one of the many aftermaths of the Nirbhaya Case, stalking was added as an offence as Section 354D of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) under Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. In a shocking state of affairs, after this ordinance came into effect, as many as 203 men were arrested and 259 cases were registered in the first six months of the enactment of law, according to a report by Times of India. However, even these numbers are far away from reality.
Stalking is, unfortunately, not given enough attention in India, because of the casual attitude of the society and women getting uncomfortably used to it. “Getting-used to” stems from the idea of self-preservation or being taught, if not actively, to not retaliate in case of any danger. Stalking is strictly censured as per the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. Section 354D enables the State to take legal action against the offender.
Even after the law is in place, why do you think the women are not reporting incidents of stalking? Most women are either intimidated by the stigma of reporting, or by the casual attitude of police officials, who most of the time dismiss such cases as trivial.
If you are being stalked, you can report the crime through an online application to National Commission for Women (NCW). Once the NCW is intimated about it, they will take up the case with the police. You can visit the website of NCW here. If you are being stalked, and need immediate assistance, you can also dial 1096 or 0111-23219750.
- Lodging of FIR without worrying about jurisdiction:
Now, this is the common issue faced by everyone and especially majority of women. Even I was also not aware of this previously but this one important law every woman should be well acquainted with.
FIR can only be registered in the police station of your own jurisdiction or where the crime has been committed. This is one of the primary reasons which police officers often use as an excuse for refusing to lodge an FIR and ask you to visit a different police station. It often leads to the aggrieved individuals being stressed, frustrated and eventually giving up on even filing the complaint.
But, if you are a woman who seeks to file a complaint, you can file a Zero FIR. It came as an after effect of Nirbhaya Rape Case with an intention to initiate the investigation or an action by the police officials without taking the place of crime into account.
Once the FIR is lodged and the filing is done with the magistrate, the case is redirected to the actual police station, i.e., the police station in whose jurisdiction the case belongs. For example, in the infamous Asaram Bapu Case, although the crime was committed in the district of Jodhpur, the FIR was lodged at Kamla Market Police Station, Delhi. In case you need to cite the law, it is under Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Every police officer is bound to register the complaint of cognizable offence irrespective of the jurisdiction. If not his jurisdiction, he is bound to register the FIR under the number 00 and then forward the FIR to the appropriate police station.
- Sexual harassment at work place:
As per a recent survey of 6,074 participants (both male and female) conducted by Indian National Bar Association, around 38 percent respondents confessed to being sexually harassed at their workplace. The same report reveals that around 69 percent respondents decided against complaining to the management. In addition, 65 percent of the participants revealed that most of the companies did not follow the procedure prescribed under Sexual Harassment (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013.
Sexual harassment at the workplace is more common than it may seem. However, as a woman it is our primary duty to know our rights, keep ourselves updated and complain in case of any discomfort. Here are few things we need to know:
- Your employee status does not matter
It does not matter whether you are a permanent employee or not. Even if you are an intern, a part-time worker, a visitor or someone who has come for a mere interview at a certain office and you have been subjected to harassment, you can go ahead and lodge a complaint.
- If not Internal Complaints Committee,
You have Local Complaints Committee, if you are ever subjected to harassment you can put down a written complaint to Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of your company within a period of three months. If your company has 10 employees or more, and even one of them is a woman, they are required to constitute this committee. However, under any unfortunate circumstances where the ICC does not exist, or you think the ICC won’t be able to come to your rescue, you can directly approach the Local Complaints Committee which exists at the district level.
- Not only you, but anyone your behalf can file the complaint
If the victim herself is not comfortable or neglects to complaint about such indecent incident anyone on her behalf can file complaint.
- Domestic violence in live-in-relationship:
There is no particular law regarding the matter of live-in relationship in India. There is no enactment to lay down the rights and commitments for the parties in a live-in relationship, and for the status of children born to such couples. The Indian law does not give any rights or obligations to the parties of live-in relationships. However, court has clarified the concept of live-in relationship through various judgments. Though law is still unclear about the status of such relationship yet few rights have been granted by interpreting and amending the existing legislations so that misuse of such relationships can be prevented by the partners.
For the very first time in Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA), the legislature has acknowledged live-in relationships by giving rights and protection to those females who are not legally married, but rather are living with a male individual in a relationship, which is in the idea of marriage, additionally akin to wife, however not equivalent to wife.
Section 2(f) of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 defines:
Domestic relationship means a relationship between two persons who live or have, at any point of time, lived together in a shared household, when they are related by consanguinity, marriage, or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family.
Though live-in relationship is not categorically defined in the Act but it was left for the courts for interpretation. By virtue of aforementioned provision, the court interpreted the expression “relationship in the nature of marriage”. Courts presume live-in relationships to be covered under the ambit of the expression as the words nature of marriage and live-in relationship stand on the same line and meaning. This gives women some basic rights to protect themselves from the abuse of fraudulent marriage, bigamous relationships.
- National commission women:
The National Commission for Women (NCW) is a statutory body of the Government of India, established in January 1992. The NCW represents the rights of women in India and provides a voice for their issues and concerns. The National Commission for Women Act aims to improve the status of women and worked for their economic empowerment.
NCW look into complaints and take suo moto notice of matters relating to:-
- deprivation of women’s rights;
- non-implementation of laws enacted to provide protection to women and also to achieve the objective of equality and development;
- non-compliance of policy decisions, guidelines or instructions aimed at mitigating hardships and ensuring welfare and providing relief to women, and take up the issues arising out of such matters with appropriate authorities.
It also call for special studies or investigations into specific problems or situations arising out of discrimination and atrocities against women and identify the constraints so as to recommend strategies for their removal.
The Commission has the powers of a civil court to summon any person, examine the person on oath, discovery and production of document, to receive evidence on affidavits, requisition public record and issue commissions for examination of witnesses and documents.
If women ever feel insecure of going to police stations you can always take help of NCW as it take up cases of violation of the provisions of the Constitution and of other laws relating to women with the appropriate authorities.
- Equal remuneration:
According to the provisions listed
under the Equal Remuneration Act, it prevents discrimination in terms of
remuneration. It provides for payment of equal recompense to men and women
workers. It is necessary to know these and other laws in place to protect the
interests of women. Only if you are aware of your rights can you fight against
any injustice meted out to you at home, at the workplace, or in the society.
- Rights against domestic violence:
One of the major stigmas associated with the Indian society is, “irrespective of what happens, the marriage shouldn’t break.” This idea has been glorified in various bollywood movies, speeches of various politicians and protectors of religion and culture. These ideas are so deeply embedded in the mindset of a majority of women that they often suffer domestic violence without raising a voice. This situation gives a huge boost to the individuals who demand dowry or subject their wives, daughters-in-law or newly married women to domestic abuse.
A study revealed that 88,467 women (on an average of 22 women each day) died due to dowry-related cases. This situation is worrisome. Section 498A of the IPC aggressively condemns dowry death. In addition, Section 3 and 4 of the Prohibition of Dowry Act, 1961 not only provide for penalty for giving or taking dowry but also for demanding dowry. The FIR once registered makes it a non-bailable offence in order to ensure that a woman’s safety is not put under question and further abuse can be avoided. Any abuse, be it physical, verbal, economic or sexual is covered under Section 498A.
Apart from IPC, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (the DV Act) enables you to access resources which can help with proper health-care, legal aid, counseling and a shelter home. It also allows you to claim monetary relief from the perpetrators of the crime under Section 20 of the DV Act. The complaint registered against an offender makes it a non-bailable one, ensuring a woman’s safety and protection from further abuse. The acts of violence are not limited to physical brutality, but also other forms of abuse like verbal, economic, emotional and sexual.
- Right not to be arrested in night:
Under section 46(4) of Cr.P.C a woman shall not be arrested after sunset and before sunrise.
Unless there is an exceptional case on the orders of a first class magistrate, a woman cannot be arrested after sunset and before sunrise. In addition, the law also states that the police can interrogate a woman at her residence only in the presence of a woman constable and family members or friends.
Women are egregiously mistreated in India, as elsewhere in the world. Several laws protect the interest and integrity of the women as well as ensure their safety but still women are not safe.
The crimes rate against women have increased rapidly even after the enactments of new, amended laws. If you ask me what is the reason behind this then answer is simple, it is the thinking of the patriarchal society; the rule book made by them which is being followed blindly by the society for many years now.
Though one of the major concerns in our society is how women of every class should be aware of these laws. There are majority of women who live under the shadow of men and are no exposed to the modern world. Those women doesn’t have excess to mobiles, internet or any other modern technology, there are many women from places where they even haven’t seen electricity so mobiles or television are in question. How we can help those women in knowing their rights and laws, many NGO works in regard to this also NCW also frequently visit to such places and organize social camp and provide these women assistance. These social camps inform women of their basic rights and laws and further assist them to live their life with dignity and encourage them to start taking action in securing their life as well as live with pride.
We live in a world where we pray to a goddess but treat her gift of female child with utmost disrespect and humiliation. For centuries women are been stepped upon by the patriarchal society for satisfying their inferior complexes. In our society women are socialized from their tender age to be dependent on men. The very existence of women is always subject to men. The patriarchal system in India made women to live at the mercy of men, who exercise unlimited power over them. In order to ameliorate the condition of women in India, legislature enacted large volume of enactments for their safety.
So, the best possible way for women to live in such patriarchal society is to rely on themselves and be aware of the laws and their rights which are commenced for their protection as well as integrity.
These supra laws are just the basics there are many more and women should be diligently acquainted with them because in the end they don’t need a men to save them from other men.