This world is made by both men and women collectively. The responsibilities were in-fact heavier on the shoulders of women. Despite such importance, women in this society are not treated well. Exploitation and barbarity against them is on a rise and now is the time to break all the obstacles that come in the way of women empowerment and gender equality. Nowadays, women are battling for their own rights and voicing their concerns but the other gender should support and help amplify their voice and join the battle. Empowerment of women is essentially the process of upliftment of women in economic, social and political structure in which they have been suppressed for years now.
Position And State Of Women
Women Empowerment is extremely crucial for the betterment of any society or country and their future as they shoulder dual responsibilities of managing their families while simultaneously struggling to earn and provide them with a decent life. Women empowerment isn’t just limited to urban or posh areas but even women in the rural sphere of the world are now demanding and fighting for their rights, equal status and respect everywhere. However, unfortunately, many still face exploitation and harassment; be it emotional, physical, sexual or mental. They are subjected to force, suppression, abuse and violence.
The position has, however, risen extraordinarily in the 20th Century but still, there are miles to go and we cannot rest. Objectification, dominance and ill-treatment of women are still rampant everywhere, especially in India. There is still major dependence on menfolk and that particularly is the reason for such brutality and disrespect towards women. In India, the customs and traditions of ‘purdah’, female infanticide, child marriage, dowry system, marital rape, etc. are still witnessed and that speaks volumes about the need to work and hustle more towards this cause.
Why Is It Required?
Every country independent of development has a history of ill-treating women. Women from around the world have rebelled, fought and raised their voices against such practice in order to reach the status they have today. We are fighting for women empowerment and gender parity but the biggest and the most basic problem goes unnoticed and unaddressed i.e. their safety. Social evils like honour killing, rape, dowry deaths, domestic violence, marital rape, etc. are an everyday phenomenon of India and these evil practices need to be prevented in order to keep women safe.
Women Empowerment And Constitutional Provisions
The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles. Equality before the law has been mentioned and constitutionally guaranteed to all the citizens of India under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. Article 15(1) and Article 15(3) supports the same. Protection of personal life and liberty is defined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Provision of just and humane conditions and maternity relief is defined under Article 42 of the Constitution of India.
Some Legal Provisions Against Women Crime
There are several provisions enacted through various legislations that protects and empowers women. This has proved to be quite successful after its inception.
Acid Attacks under Sections 326A and 326B of IPC, 1860.
Stalking under Section 354D of IPC, 1860.
Assault to outrage the modesty of woman under Section 354 and 354B of IPC, 1860.
Protection Of Women And Their Rights Under Some Laws
Crimes against women are increasing and rising each day of which some are reported and many go unnoticed. Women are not safe inside their own houses. There are many provisions and laws specially made to protect the interests, rights and even lives of women, such as-
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 India has the highest number of child brides in the world. Nearly 28% of women get married even before they turn 18. People consider this practice of child marriage as essential and material to their customs and traditions. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act was made effective in the year 2007. This Act completely criminalized and punishes the practice of child marriage and people encouraging it will be subjected to the action of law.
Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 Demanding dowry has been a very common practice in India since time unknown. Dowry is usually taken from the bride’s family by the groom’s family. The demand of dowry even persists after marriage, denial of which results in dowry deaths, burnings, domestic violence, etc. According to the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, nobody can take or ask or give dowry to the bride or bridegroom at the time of marriage.
Maternity Benefit Act, 1861 According to this Act, each female employee in India is entitled to get paid maternity leave during pregnancy. This law is applied to both the private and public sector. The maternity leave has been increased to 26 weeks from 3 months. Denial of leaves will attract punishment and legal action.
Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 Reduction of illegal abortion, maternal mortality and morbidity is aimed under this Act. This provision highlights the conditions and circumstances under which pregnancy can be terminated.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 Sexual harassment at the workplace is very common in a country like India. To ensure safety in the workplace, both public and private, this Act was introduced. It also aims at the redressal of complaints vis-a-vis sexual harassment.
Hindu Succession Act Daughters have the right in the property of their parents exactly like their brothers. The share must be equal for both the genders. This Act aims to empower women by giving them inheritance rights to avoid dependence on male counterparts.
Some Legal Provisions For Gender Parity
The disparity between genders and sexes is extremely toxic and unhealthy for everyone in this country and worldwide. In order to assist women in gaining parity to the male section of the society, some Acts were introduced-
Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 Equal remuneration to both men and women workers performing the same work or work of a similar nature at a similar post or rank is ensured. Prohibition of discrimination in recruitment, promotion, training or transfer is ensured under this legislation.
The Companies Act, 2013 This Act provides for quotas for women Directors to encourage women to enter and work in business platforms.
Some Future Laws
Some Bills have been presented in the Parliament of the country, and now the execution and implementation of the same are awaited. These Bills aim to protect, represent and empower women in the larger representation. Some of them are:
Women Reservation Bill, 2008 This Bill aims to have a bigger representation of women and females in Lok Sabha and State Legislatives. The 108th Amendment Bill of the Constitution reserves one-third seats in Lok Sabha and State Legislative for women. One-third of the seats reserved for SCs and STs are reserved for women of those groups.
The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Bill, 2012 The indecent representation of women on various technological portals and online accounts has caused annoyance and discomfort to many women in India. Indecent representation means disrespectful or derogatory portrayal of women which is opposed to public policy. This Bill aims to widen the scope of Indecent Representation of Women Act, 1986 to cover other areas such as the internet, cable television, etc. Anyone who commits this crime will be penalized with imprisonment for 3 years and fine ranging from Rs.50,000 to Rs. 1 Lakh.
Surrogacy Regulation Bill, 2016 The exploitation of women is rampant in India. Many sections of Indian women are exploited by forcing to rent their wombs for money. The rich exploit the poor the most. This Bill mandates the intending couple to complete at least 5 years of marriage and the female to be infertile. Only the medical expenses should be provided to the surrogated mother. The government shall appoint authorities to grant eligibility certificates and regulate surrogacy clinics.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2017 In Shayaro Bano v. Union of India, the practice of Triple Talaq was criminalized and made a punishable offence. It rendered the practice void and illegal. Divorce cannot be now obtained from this practice and whoever tends to follow this practice shall be punished with imprisonment for three years and fine.
The Menstrual Benefit Bill, 2017 The problems and issues faced by women during menstruation are massive and unparalleled and so, this Bill aims to provide leave of 2 days to every working woman who is on her menstruation, in order to provide with a healthy work environment. Also, better facilities at the workplace during the menstrual cycle of woman should be worked upon.
Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 The number of women exploited in the name of human trafficking is unimaginable and scary. The Bill aims to alleviate aggravated forms of trafficking such as forced labour, begging and kidnapping for various purposes of marriage, child abuse, sexual maturity, etc. The punishment prescribed is of minimum of 10 years or life imprisonment. Encouraging, facilitating or managing it is also punishable under this Bill. The identity of the victims and the witnesses shall remain confidential.
Special Initiatives For Women
National Commission for Women This body was set up in 1992. It is a special statutory body with a specific mandate to analyze and monitor all matters relating to constitutional and legal safeguards provided for women, to review the legislation that is already existing and to suggest amendments or reforms, etc.
Reservation of Women in Local Self- Government The 73rd Constitutional Amendment in 1992 ruled out that one-third seats were to be reserved for women in all elected offices in local bodies in rural as well as urban areas.
The National Plan of Action for the Girl Child The objective is to ensure survival, growth, protection and development of the girl child to make the future better of this country.
National Policy for the Empowerment of Women This came into force in the year 2001. The objective is to bring advancement, development and empowerment of women in socio-economic and political aspects, creating awareness and educating them.
Women in India really need to enable themselves to progress in all aspects of human life and not just in households, and a little push is required to make that happen. Due to inherent dominance among males, they often reject the idea of equality and parity. They restrict women to rise to their level. The only answer to this problem is education through mass communication and the change of mindsets to uproot the deeply entrenched patriarchy in the soil of our society. Awareness about their own responsibilities towards opposite genders and societies at large is immensely important.
The empowerment of women is one of the most important and alarming concerns in today’s time. Gender equality will definitely make this world a better place to live in and will reduce crime exponentially. Mere Government initiatives will not be enough to achieve this goal. The society together has to participate and contribute towards this goal and make a climate which suits all the genders and an atmosphere that pleases all.
Editor’s Note It is a noted fact that Women Empowerment and Gender Parity are closely interconnected with each other. The issue of lack of women empowerment is increasing day by day and so, it becomes increasingly important to look into the same. This article explains what women empowerment is and why is it required. The author has also enlisted certain constitutional provisions that safeguard the rights of women and tend to empower them. Further, the author has also enlisted and briefly explained various legal provisions for crimes against women and for the protection of rights of women along with some laws which are related to gender parity. The article further provides some initiatives taken by the Government of India for women empowerment and also enlists some Bills which will be helpful for the empowerment of women, if and when they are turned into concrete laws. Lastly, the author has also described certain challenges which may come in the path of women empowerment and has stated that education and awareness is the only solution to this problem of lack of women empowerment and of gender inequality.