Mental harassment, physical torture, sexual violence… women have suffered these since time immemorial. And violation of women rights is still common in India and every other country in the world. However, it’s not that things have to continue the way they have. Injustice meted out to women can be effectively challenged — legally, if not socially.
There are several laws that give women the power to fight adversities such as discrimination, harassment, violence and abuse.
Women rights can be broadly classified into two categories — constitutional rights and legal rights. Those guaranteed by the Constitution include Right to Equality, no discrimination in employment on the ground of sex, to secure adequate means of livelihood, equal pay for equal work, securing just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief etc. On the other hand, legal rights are available to women in the form of prevailing law or enactments in the country.
Advocate Sumit K Batra lists 14 relevant laws that he says women in India should know to be aware of their legal rights.
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act: A comprehensive legislation is essential to protect Indian women from different types of domestic violence. It ensures protection for women who are in a relationship and are subjected to constant physical, mental, sexual, verbal and emotional violence.
Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act: It helps in protecting women from trafficking for the purpose of prostitution as an organised means of living.
Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act: It prevents improper representation of women via any advertisement or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner.
Dowry Prohibition Act: It prohibits the giving or taking of dowry at or before or any time after the marriage from women.
Maternity Benefit Act: This ensures that women working in establishments for decided time (both before and after childbirth) are entitled to maternity and other benefits.
Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act: This allows the termination of certain cases of pregnancies by registered doctors on humanitarian and medical grounds.
Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act: This will prevent of sex selection before or after a woman conceives. This will reduce unwanted and illegal abortions in the country.
Equal Remuneration Act: This ensures payment of equal remuneration to both men and women workers for the same work or work of a similar nature. In the context of recruitment and service conditions, there will be no discrimination on the basis of gender.
Family Courts Act: It provides for the establishment of Family Courts for speedy settlement of family disputes.
Legal Services Authorities Act: This provides for free legal services to Indian women.
Hindu Marriage Act: This has been instrumental in introducing monogamy and allowed divorce on certain specified grounds. This law has helped in bringing Indian man and woman on the same platform in terms of marriage and divorce.
Hindu Succession Act: This recognises the right of women to inherit parental property equally with men.
Minimum Wages Act: This does not allow discrimination between male and female workers or different minimum wages for them.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act: This will make provisions that there is no sexual harassment against women at workplaces both in public and private sector.
According to Batra, both Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) have provisions to help women. While relevant sections of the IPC deal with dowry deaths, cruelty, rape, abduction and other offences, CrPC has certain safeguards such as the obligation of a man to maintain his wife, arrest of a woman by female police personnel only etc.