NEW DELHI: International Women’s Day is a global holiday celebrated annually on March 8 to commemorate the cultural, political, and socio-economic achievements of women. It is also a focal point in the women’s rights movement, to bring attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women.
A total of 371,503 cases of crimes against women were registered across the country last year, the government told the Parliament, citing data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Many expressions of violence are not considered crimes, or may otherwise go unreported or undocumented due to certain Indian cultural values and beliefs. These reasons all contribute to India’s Gender Inequality Index rating of 0.524 in 2017, putting it in the bottom 20% of ranked countries for that year.
Our Constitution provides exclusive rights to women for their protection and development. Furthermore, IPC, CrPC, and Evidence Act are also active when it comes to women and their protection. “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.” — Hillary Clinton
Here’s a list of rights that every woman should know about:
Right to maintenance
Maintenance includes the basic necessities of life like food, shelter, clothes, education, health care facilities, etc. A married woman is entitled to get maintenance from her husband even after her divorce till she doesn’t remarry. Maintenance depends on the standard of living of the wife and the circumstances and income of the husband. Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, puts an obligation on the husband to maintain his divorced wife except when the wife lives in adultery or refuses to live with her husband without reasonable cause or when both of them live separately by mutual consent. Under the aforesaid section, any Indian woman irrespective of her caste and religion can claim maintenance from her husband.
The Hindu Marriage Act, of 1955 also facilitates maintenance but to Hindu women only. Whereas, the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, of 1939 covers only Muslim women.
Right to equal pay
We now have gender-neutral laws. A male and a female are entitled to the same pay for the same work. The Equal Remuneration Act provides for the same. It 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.
Right to dignity and decency
Every woman has the right to live in dignity, free of fear, coercion, violence, and discrimination. Law very well respects women’s dignity and modesty.
In case the woman herself is accused of an offense and arrested, she must be behaved and dealt with decency. Her arrest and search should be made with strict regard to decency by a woman police officer and her Medical examination should be carried out by a woman medical officer or in the supervision of a woman medical officer. In rape cases, so far as practicable, a woman police officer should register the FIR. Furthermore, she cannot be arrested after sunset and before sunrise except for special permission of the Magistrate by a woman police officer.
Right against domestic violence
Every woman is entitled to the right against Domestic Violence with her by virtue of the enactment of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act in 2005. Domestic Violence includes within its ambit not only Physical abuse but also mental, sexual, and economic abuse.
So, if you are a daughter or a wife or a live-in partner and is subjected to any of such abuses by your partner or husband or his relatives or by a person related to you by blood or adoption who live or have lived with you in a shared household, then you are well covered under the provisions of Domestic Violence Act and may seek different remedies provided thereof. You may contact the women helpline no. “1091” and register your complaint. They will inform the police about your case. You may also approach the women’s cell of your area which you can find with help of Google. They provide special services to such women and help them lodge their cases before the Magistrate after drafting their complaints in a proper manner. You may also approach the police to register your case.
Right against dowry
Dowry system i.e. giving and taking of dowry by bride or bridegroom or by their parents at, before or after the marriage is penalized by Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. The Act defines “Dowry” as any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly by one party to the other but does not include dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies. If you give, take or abet giving or taking of dowry, then you shall be punishable with a minimum imprisonment of 5 years and a minimum fine of Rs. 15,000.
Right to free legal aid
If you are an aggrieved woman, you are entitled to claim free legal services from the legal services authorities recognised under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 irrespective of whether you can afford legal services on your own. There are District, State, and National legal Services Authorities constituted at District, State, and National level respectively. Legal services include assisting in the conduct of any case or other legal proceedings before any Court or tribunal or authority and advising on legal matters.
Right of private defence/self-defence
It is a defensive right. You can cause hurt, grievous hurt, or even death in protecting your body or another person’s body from the assailant. But you can kill the assailant without attracting liability and punishment only in certain circumstances like: When you feel that the assailant is about to cause your death or grievous hurt or commit rape, kidnapping, or abduction or if he intends to lock you in a room or throws or attempts to throw acid at you, then you can kill that person and law will protect you.
Sexual Harassment of Women At Workplace Act, 2013
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is a legislative act in India that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work. The Act will ensure that women are protected against sexual harassment at all workplaces, be it in public or private. This will contribute to realisation of their right to gender equality, life and liberty, and equality in working conditions everywhere. The sense of security at the workplace will improve women’s participation in work, resulting in their economic empowerment and inclusive growth.
All these rights are aimed at protecting women and ensuring that they live their lives in dignity and without fear. Know your rights, so you can exercise them should the need arise.