Constitutional provisions for women:
- Article 14 – Men and women to have equal rights and opportunities in the political, economic and social spheres.
- Article 15(1) – Prohibits discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex etc.
- Article 15(3)- Special provision enabling the State to make affirmative discriminations in favour of women.
- Article 16– Equality of opportunities in public appointments for all citizens.
- Article 23– Bans trafficking in human and forced labour
- Article 39(a)- The State shall direct its policy towards securing all citizens men and women, equally, the right to means of livelihood.
- Article 39(d)- Equal pay for equal work for both men and women.
- Article 42– The State to make provisions for ensuring just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.
- Article 51 (A)(e)- To renounce the practices derogatory to the dignity of women
- Article 300 (A)- Right of property to women
- 73rd and 74th Amendment Act 1992- Reservation 1/3rd of seats in local bodies of panchayats and municipalities for women.
Laws for women
Parliament from time to time has passed several legislations to empower women & to provide them a legal basis in their fight for equality & justice. Some of them are:
1) Sati (Prevention) Act 1987 – The practice of Sati which was first abolished in 1829, was revised and made illegal in 1887. It provided for more effective prevention of the commission of sati and its glorification and for matters connected in addition to that.
2) Amendment to Criminal Act 1983– This Act talks about domestic violence as an offence, rape is also made a punishable offence.
3) Special Marriage Act 1954– It has been amended to fix the minimum age of marriage at 21 yrs for males & 18 yrs for females.
4) Hindu Succession Act 1956– Equal share to daughter from the property of the father, while a widow has the right to inherit the husband’s property. An amendment in this Act in 2005 gave daughters an equal share in ancestral properties.
5) Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), 1986– Suppression of Immoral Trafficking in Women and Girls Act (SITA) 1956 was amended in 1986 & renamed ITPA. SITA was enacted to prohibit or abolish traffic in women and girls for purposes of prostitution. It was amended to cover both sexes & provided enhanced penalties for offences involving minors. However, the system has failed to crack the mafia working both at interstate and international levels.
6) Dowry Prohibition Act 1961– Now the court is empowered to act in its own knowledge or on a complaint by any recognized welfare organization on dowry murder. Indian Evidence Act is also amended to shift the burden of proof to the husband & his family when the bride dies within 7 yrs of marriage.
7) Maternity Benefit Act 1961- An Act to regulate the employment of women for certain periods before and after childbirth and to provide for maternity benefits like paid leaves for 6 months.
8) Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971– Legalize abortion in case if the fetus is suffering from a physical or mental abnormality, in case of rape & unwanted pregnancy within 12 weeks of gestation period & after the 12th week, before the 20th week if the pregnancy is harmful for the mother or the child born would be severely deformed.
9) Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986– This Act prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, and figures or in any other manner and for matters connected therewith.
10) Domestic Violence Act 2005– It seeks to determine domestic violence in all forms against women & make it a punishable offence.
11) Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 – In the backdrop of the Dec 16 gang rape, this Act was passed amending the CrPC. The new law has provisions for increased sentences for rape convicts, including life-term and death sentences, besides providing for stringent punishment for offences such as acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism. Through the revised Bill, the government has amended various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
National Policy for Women
The Government of India adopted the National Policy for Empowerment of Women on 20th March, 2001 with the objective to bring about the advancement, development and empowerment of women and to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.
Given the long-term nature of issues that impact women, the need was felt to strengthen the processes that promote the all-around development of women by focusing on a coordinated approach for implementation of the schemes of the concerned Ministries/Departments and by creating an enabling environment conducive to social change.
With this in view, the Government set up the National Mission for Empowerment of Women in 2010 with the objective of convergence of schemes/programmes of different Ministries/Departments of the Government of India as well as State Governments/UT Administrations.
Priority Areas for a New National Policy for the Empowerment of Women
- Health including food security and nutrition
- Governance and Decision Making
- Violence Against Women
- Environment and Climate Change