In 2019, more than 4,05,861 cases of crimes against women were registered, an increase of 7.3 percent from 2018 when 3,78,236 cases were reported. These numbers might be lesser than the actual figures because many women often don’t report crime – they feel a sense of shame or are not aware of legal recourse.
There are several laws in India that give women the authority to fight against abuse, discrimination, violence, harassment, indignities, etc. Being aware of them is the first step towards fighting against any injustice.
Women’s agency and their independence have been stifled for way too long. From what they can say to how they can dress, their freedom has been questioned and repressed. There are too many ‘don’ts’ that a woman is forced to adhere to. Being compared to goddesses doesn’t certainly help them. No one wants to be put on a pedestal where every action of theirs has implications far worse than what is necessary.
Things have changed a lot for the average Indian woman in the last few years. They are more aware of their rights, contribute directly to the economy, and have been trailblazers in various areas. Laws promulgated for the well being of women have been laid down, but many of them are unaware of these.
India’s judicial system is another men’s club. Silencing of victims or slut-shaming are common in police stations. Unless the victim in question has political links or monetary power, chances of getting justice are bleak. But that shouldn’t stop women from knowing their laws and rights, because that is the only solution.
Here are a few laws and rights that every woman should be aware of:
Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
This act provides for the payment of equal remuneration to men and women workers. It aims to prevent discrimination on the grounds of sex against women in matters of employment and employment opportunities. In ‘The Gender Gap Index in 2020’ report, India’s ranking has slipped to the 112th position. The report says it will take India 100 years to bridge the gap in areas such as politics, economy, health and education. The act provides women the ability to fight against discrimination with respect to recruitment processes, promotions, transfers, job training, etc.
Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 says taking or giving dowry at the time of marriage to the bride or the bridegroom and their family is a criminal offence. The dowry system has been in existence for many years. Criminalising the act has reduced the instances of the groom's family asking for dowry. If there is any case of cruelty from her in-laws asking for dowry, it can be reported under Section 304B and 498A of IPC.
Unfortunately, the problem still exists in large parts of India, where women are still tortured, beaten, and harassed for not heeding the demands of more dowry. The taboo of divorce in Indian society has resulted in women enduring the abuse instead of confronting it.
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
It was enacted to protect women from domestic violence. The act includes not only physical violence, but other forms such as emotional, verbal, sexual, and economic abuse. The act is primarily meant to protect the wife or the female live-in partner from domestic violence. Based on the case, the magistrate can pass the following orders: protection orders, residence orders, direct the respondent to pay monetary relief and custody orders if there is a child involved, and compensation for injuries.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
This legislative act is to protect women from sexual harassment at their workplace, be it public or private. Any workplace with more than 10 employees is supposed to implement this. It is believed that the act will improve the working conditions of women and how they are treated. This law superseded the Vishaka Guidelines for Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Act introduced by the Supreme Court of India. This act was derived from the Vishaka Guidelines after the landmark case ‘Vishaka and others vs. State of Rajasthan’.
Women will be able to fight for their rights only when they are aware of it. No matter where an injustice is inflicted on a woman - workplace, home or in society - legal recourse is available.
(Edited by Teja)