The Indian Constitution grants equality to women by empowering the state to adopt measures of eliminating discrimination and violence against women in India. The constitutional articles that favour the growth of women help to neutralize the cumulative socio, economic and political disadvantages faced by them in our society. The fundamental rights ensure equality before the law, equal protection of the law, prohibits discrimination and also guarantee equality of opportunity to all citizens. The Constitution guarantees all citizens the fundamental right to live in peace and harmony through Article 12 to 35 of the constitution.
To mandate and uphold the constitutional provisions, the state has also enacted various legislative measures to ensure equal rights, to counter social discrimination and various other forms of violence. Women have been the victim of serious crimes such as Rape, Murder, Robbery, Cheating, etc. All the crimes which are directed against the women are characterized as ‘Crime against women’.
The Indian Penal Code includes the legal provision for several crimes against women in India. The crimes against women are classified into two categories namely:
- Crimes under IPC
- Crimes under special laws
A few changes in the legal system of India include provisions such as strict laws regarding sexual assault, creation of fast track courts for prosecution against severe crimes like rape, murder, etc. Recent cases of violence against women like Unnao rape case and Kathua Rape case have also led to certain legislative changes. Following are the laws that help to eliminate violence against women:
Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961: According to the provisions mentioned in the Act, taking or giving of dowry is to be penalized. Over the centuries, the lack of independence of women and taboo towards divorce resulted in bride burning for the demands of dowry at the time of marriage.
Indian Divorce Act, 1969: The act allows the dissolution of marriage, mutual consent, nullity marriage, restitution of conjugal rights if any violence is caused against the women after her marriage.
The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956: The act is enacted to combat trafficking and sexual exploitation of the women and girls for commercial purpose. The act provides the legal consequences of the criminal act which helps to eliminate the violence against women.
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005: The act provides the effective provisions for protecting women against violence occurring within the family and the matters connected therewith. The act helps to protect women from any sort of domestic violence against women.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013: The Act applies to all women employees to get protection against sexual harassment at workplace. The act came into effect after the landmark judgement of Vishaka &Orsv. The state of Rajasthan.
The Criminal Act (Amendment) Act, 2013: The act provides the amendment of the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Evidence Act. The act works on the major amendments of the sections related to offences said in the above-mentioned acts. It recognizes the broad range of sexual crimes of which women fall victim. In Nirbhaya case, stalking was added as an offence under section 354 D of the Indian Penal Code under the amendment of the Criminal Act, 2013.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860: The Indian Penal Code mentions and explains the sexual offences against women,which encompasses the offences such as rape (Section 376), gang rape (Section 376 D), outraging the modesty of women (section 509), disrobing a woman (section 354B), Voyeurism (Section 354 C), etc. along with the punishment for those crimes.
The Indian Evidence Act, 1872: Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act defines the presumption of absence of consent in the prosecution of rape. The section helps to decide the cases relating to rape as they are mainly dependent on the consent of the victim in the act.
Government Initiatives For Women
The Indian Government has implemented various policies, laws, programs to eliminate violence against women. The Government has established the statutory body with an intent to monitor all matters relating to the legal and Constitutional safeguards provided for women and to eliminate the violence against them. The Statutory body; namely, the National Commission for Women, practice to review the existing legislation to amend it whenever it is necessary in order to eliminate violence against women. Also, in 1992, the 73rd Constitutional amendment was passed to ensure and allot one-third of the total seats for women in the elected offices.
In 2001, the Department of Women and Child Development had prepared a “National Policy for the Empowerment of Women” The goal of this policy was the development and Empowerment of Women. The objective of the policy was as follows:
- To create a positive environment for the social and economic development of women.
- Equal access to participate in the social, economic and political life of the nation, equal access to health care, quality education, employment, equal remuneration, health safety, social security, etc.
- Strengthening legal systems to eliminate the violence against women
- Development in the elimination of discrimination and all forms of violence against women and girl child
- Changing the attitude of society and community practices by the active participation of both men and women
Government has initiated and encouraged the changes in the personal laws to inculcate the provisions relating to marriage, maintenance, divorce, etc to eliminate discrimination. Also, the evolution of property rights of women in a patriarchal society has contributed towards equality. The existing laws are reformed and new laws are enacted to ensure the quick justice to the women.
Effective Implementation Of Legislation
The laws and policies have initiated strict enforcement of all relevant legal provisions and speedy redressal of grievances. Also, the measures have been implemented to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace, crimes against women, protection for women workers, etc by strict enforcement of laws. The investigation, detection and prosecution of the matters are reviewed at the Central, State and District level. The women cell in Police station, family courts, legal aid centres, counselling centres and Nagar Panchayats are strengthened to eliminate the violence against women.
Unfortunately, the cases of violence against women in India are rising despite the implementation of several laws, policies and legal frameworks to eliminate violence against women. The indicators of violence against women are a reflection of the structural and institutional inequality of women in society.