Indian Women Rights

There was a point in Indian history when women were considered by men as inferior, as mere homemakers or even slaves. The promotion of equal rights for women in India by many reformers in the country has now culminated into radical changes. These changes are to the effect that at present, there are more women in workplaces, holding positions of power or even running companies than ever before in our history.

Scholars believe that during the Vedic period, women enjoyed equal rights as men in India. However with invasions by the Mughal empire came the concept of the Purdah along with the Smritis, particularly the Manusmriti, curtailing and women’s rights and freedom in India.

Sati was one of the most widely practiced evils of the time. It was a custom wherein on death of the husband, the wife was immolated alive on her husband’s funeral pyre. It symbolized that a woman had no life after the death of her husband. Jauhar was another such practice where voluntary immolation of all the wives and daughters of a defeated warrior would take place.  The Mughal Empire brought the Purdah to India which required women to cover their bodies so as to cover their skin and conceal their form. Devdasis were women who were “married” to a deity or a temple.

But despite these and other various factors working against them, some women defied the society and went on to excel in the fields of politics, literature, education, religion etc. staking their rights in India.

At present, the leaders and key persons in fields like education, sports, politics, media, art, science and technology, service sector etc. are all women. The world’s longest serving woman Prime Minister is one from our country, Smt. Indira Gandhi.

The lawmakers have recognized that women in this country are not willing to give in to restrictions and curtailing their rights is no longer an option. Acknowledging the changing times and the need of the hour, various new legislations have come out to promote and safeguard women’s rights in India.
The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles. The Constitution not only grants equal rights to women, but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women.

The laws of this country provide special provisions for crimes directed specifically against women. Offences like Rape  (sec. 376 IPC), Kidnapping and Abduction for different purposes (sec. 363-373 IPC), Homicide for Dowry, Dowry Deaths or such attempts ( sec. 302/304B IPC), Physical and Mental torture (sec. 498 A IPC), Molestation (sec. 354 IPC), Sexual Harassment (Sec. 509 IPC) etc. are all women centric and seek to get speedy justice for an aggrieved woman.

Various other statutes have also been enacted to empower and uplift the status of women in this country. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, Dowry Prohibition Act, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, The Maternity Benefit Act, Equal Remuneration Act, The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act and The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence  Act are only a few examples of such legislations.

The National Commission for Women was set up as a statutory body with a specific mandate to study and monitor all matters relating to the constitutional and legal safeguards provided for women, review the existing legislation to suggest amendments wherever necessary, etc.
The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act passed by the Parliament ensure one-third of the total seats for women in all elected offices in local bodies.

The Department of Women & Child Development in the Ministry of Human Resource Development has prepared a “National Policy for the Empowerment of Women” in the year 2001. The goal of this policy is to bring about the advancement, development and empowerment of women by encouraging Indian women to assert their rights..

In the year 2005, the need for removing gender bias from Hindu succession laws was recognized and the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 was passed which made the daughter of a coparcener in a joint family property, a coparcener by birth. It also granted the same rights and liabilities to the coparcenary property as a son. By this act daughters can also claim equal rights in their father’s self-acquired property.