The concern relating to safety of Women in India has been on a constant rise in the recent years. In a country where women have been treated as Goddesses since the ancient times, the respect for Women seems to have been on a degrade since a few decades. What is the reason behind this, we ask. What brought about such a huge cultural change in the Society? The various invasions and the practices set upon by the invaders is the only most important answer that we can give. The Mughal and Afghan invasions to India then followed by the British invasion brought with themselves the practise of treating women as mere objects. The invaders turned into rulers and hence started causing atrocities against women and their modesty. They ill treated women and degraded their respectful status by treating them to be inferior to men. Women could no longer move freely because of the constant fear of the outrage that could be caused to their modesty by the hands of such Invaders. However, our women have displayed their strength and pride by the practise of Sati and Jauhar. While the Mughals fought battles with our ancient rulers, our women stood strong by the side of their men, ready to face any challenge that the war could cause. The Mughals would then capture our women, rape them and force them into slavery and/or prostitution. In order to save their modesty and respect, our women would gracefully sacrifice their lives rather than damaging their dignity. Such strong have been our women and such cruel have been the invaders of the history.
However, inspite of gaining Independence from the Mughals and then the British, they have left their imprints behind by sowing the seeds of their disgusting acts into their successors. As a result, the women in our country are still unsafe at the hands of these imprinted successors who are spreading such disgust within our society till present date.
Multiple Crimes are being committed against women such as Rape, Physical abuse and violence, domestic violence, assault, dowry system, inequality and harassment at the workplace, etc. The Constitution of India has ensured safety of women by giving them equal rights to dignity, freedom, protection against gender discrimination and any kind of abuse; however, the seeds that are sown in the minds of the people have been deeply rooted and it takes a lot of effort and awareness to bring about a change in the society. Wars have taken place since initial times in order to save the respect and dignity of our women, Earlier the wars were fought on the battlefield with the help of swords; today the war is being fought in the Courts, with the help of the laws of our country
We are aware of the brutal rapes that happened in Delhi, Telangana, Unnao, Hathras, or Balrampur. In all the above scenarios, the crime against the women have been of the same kind – physical and sexual violence against the women. There have been many such incidents on a daily basis that are not even reported. Age does not even play any role in these crimes. Be it an eight-month-old, or a two (2) year old, an eighty-year-old or even a ninety-year-old woman, none of them are spared from such crimes. A crime is committed against a woman every day in India and it is a matter of great concern which needs to be resolved at the earliest.
STEPS TAKEN BY THE GOVERNMENT IN FAVOUR OF SECURING THE DIGNITY OF WOMEN.
The Government of India has established a Ministry of Women and Child Development, the existence of which has come into effect since the 30th January, 2006. The objective of this Ministry was to address the gaps in the State Action in favour of women and children, thereby promoting gender equitable policies, legislations and programs. The Ministry has set up multiple autonomous organisations for the protection of Women and Children such as the National Commission for Women (NCW), Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK), National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD) and Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB). The National Commission for Women was established in 1992 as a national apex statutory body for safeguarding the rights of women. The Ministry has the right to establish and implement any Act or Legislation required in order to safeguard women.
Multiple laws have been established in order to protect women and punish the offenders. Although all laws are not gender specific, there are certain provisions established specifically for women. Laws affecting women are analysed significantly and certain amendments are made periodically to ensure that they are at the same pace with the emerging requirements to provide safety to women. A few of the enactments are noted as below :
- The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956;
- The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961) (Amended in 1986);
- The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986;
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005;
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal) act, 2013;
- The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.
The above-mentioned laws are Special and Local Laws (SLL) applicable to only a specific set of people or to only people in a specific locality.
The above-mentioned Acts have been implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development for the coordination of activities of Cooperation for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE). Planning, Researching, Evaluation, Monitoring, Project Formulations, Statistics and Training relating to the welfare and development of women, including development of gender sensitive data base, everything is done under the supervision of this ministry.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 also contain certain provisions regarding the safety of women.
THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA, 1950
The Constituion of India has laid down certain fundamental and constitutional rights that ensure women equality to women. Some of the provisions in the Constitution safeguarding women are as follows-
- Article 15(1) : That the state shall not discriminate against any citizen of India on the ground of sex and Article 15(3) provides that the state can make special provisions for women i.e., affirmative discrimination can be made by the state in favour of women.
- Article 16 (2) : That no citizen on the grounds of sex shall be shall be ineligible or discriminated against in respect of any office or employment under the State.
- Article 23(1) : Traffic in human beings and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and is an offence.
- Chapter IV of the Constitution that contains the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) under Article 39 (a) states that men and women shall have an equal right to an adequate livelihood. Article 39 (d) states than men and women shall have same amount of pay for same work and Article 39 (e) states, health and strength of women shall not be abused.
- Article 42 under the DPSP’s states that provision for securing just and humane conditions and maternity relief shall be provided.
- Article 51A(e) : That practices derogatory to the dignity of a woman shall be renounced.
- Sub-sections of Article 243 provide that one-thirds (1/3rd) of total number of seats through direct election and one-thirds (1/3rd) of total number of offices of the Chairperson in every panchayat shall be reserved for women. In direct elections of municipality one-thirds (1/3rd) of total number of seats shall be reserved for women.
THE INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860
Multiple provisions in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 lay down the punishment for culprits that commit heinous crimes against women. Crimes such as-
- Outraging the modesty of women (Section 354),
- Sexual harassment (Section 354A),
- Assault on women with intent to disrobe a woman (Section 354B),
- Acid Attack (Section 326 A and 326B),
- Rape and attempt to commit rape (section 375-376),
- Kidnapping and abduction (Section 363-373),
- Dowry death and abetment of suicide (Section 304B and 306) (it includes both mental and physical torture),
- Cruelty by husband or his relatives (Section 498A),
- Stalking (Section 354 D),
- Importation of girls up to 21 years of age (Section 366B),
- Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman (eve teasing) (Section 509),
- Voyeurism (Section 354C), etc.
THE IMMORAL TRAFFIC (PREVENTION) ACT, 1956
The Act was enacted in order to supress the immoral trafficking of women in India. Our nation was one of the signatories to the United Nations International Convention for “Suppression of Women in Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation in Others” on 9th May 1950 in New York. This Act was later made for prevention of immoral traffic. The act aims to stop immoral trafficking and prostitution in the country. Trafficking includes trafficking for the purpose of exploitation or (prostitution), Trafficking of minor girls, etc.
THE DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT, 1961 (28 OF 1961)
The Act was enacted to prevent the giving or receiving of a dowry. Earlier, dowry held immense importance in Indian marriages wherein the family of the bride had to give dowry by way of money, property, goods and other gifts to the groom and his family. The dowry system was widely practiced across all religions. As a result, if any bride could not give dowry to her in-laws, either the marriage would be called off or if not, the bride aould be harassed by the in-laws also to the extent of causing death. It was very important to curb this tradition at it was a huge social taboo. The Act sets out maximum and minimum punishment for anyone who indulges in either giving or taking dowry. With the enactment and implementation of this Act, there has been a reduction in dowry and dowry harassment cases but still there are cases happening in the country. Dowry deaths still happen at various corners of the country, especially in rural areas. Death of married woman who was either murdered or abetted to suicide due to constant physical or mental harassment is known as dowry death.
THE PROTECTION OF WOMEN FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT, 2005
This Act was primarily focused to protect the women in a relationship from physical, sexual, economic or mental abuse. Physical abuse can be called as an act that causes physical harm, injury or damage to the body of a person which may also cause death to such person. The law also extends to widows, mothers and sisters. All women are given protection within the ambit of this Act. Harassments arising from dowry demands are also covered under this Act. It gives women the right to secured housing while the Court can also provide security to the victim. This act protects women at the work place as well.
THE INDECENT REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN (PROHIBITION) ACT, 1986
This Act prevents any indecent representation that can be derogative to a woman. The Act protects women against any publications or advertisements that depict women in a derogative manner leading to public morality. Women were often depicted as an expression of sexuality. In the 1970’s and 1980’s indecent portrayal of women was focused primarily on nudity and sexually provoking images and commercials. This Act prevents such indecent depiction (“indecent representation of women” under Section 2(c) of the act means the depiction in any manner of the figure of a woman, her form or body or any part thereof in such a way as to have the effect of being indecent, or derogatory to, or denigrating, women, or is likely to deprave, corrupt or injure the public morality or morals) and lays down punishment for anyone who indulges in any such activity.
THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF WOMEN AT WORKPLACE (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION AND REDRESSAL) ACT, 2013
Sexual harassment at work place creates a hostile environment for Women and discourages their active participation. Tise Act was established to provide protection to women against any sexual harassment at work place and also to set a redressal mechanism for complaints pertaining to sexual matters and other incidents connected to it. Any unwelcomed act such as physical contact, sexual favours, wrongful gestures etc. are defined as sexual harassment under this Act. Any act that implicitly or explicitly promises preferential treatment in a woman’s employment, or may be a threat of detrimental treatment in her employment, or a threat about her present or future employment status, humiliates her, etc. are considered to be offensive under this Act.
THE CRIMINAL LAW (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2013
After the steep rise in heinous rapes and other crimes committed against women, it became necessary to bring about this amendment to The Indian Penal Code, 1860, The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. This Amendment Act is commonly known as the Anti-Rape Bill. This Amendment added new provisions in the Indian Penal Code with respect to various sexual offences. Amendments were carried out in Sections 209, 354, 376 and 508. Acid attacks, Attempts to Acid Attack, Stalking, Voyeurism, Sexual harassment and Public disrobing of women were some of the new offences introduced in the IPC after this 2013 Criminal Law Amendment.
The enactment of Stringent Laws is a mandate during these times of trouble for the Women of our Society. The number of cases that are pending in the Court is a long list and therefore, there is a delay in the action taken for bringing about justice to the women who have been a victim of these crimes. Inspite of these enactments, the number of criminal activities against women are increasing at a swift rate. In order to curb these crimes from happening, there should be quicker and stricter punishment; the thought of which will prevent the crime from happening. But only the implementation of these laws are not enough to control and regulate these crimes, rather there should be change in moral values, social ethics of people for these laws to be effective.
A message needs to be conveyed that anyone committing a heinous crime against a woman shall face a kind of punishment equivalent to the atrocity committed. Till the time this kind of message is not conveyed, a fear in the mind of those committing such crimes will not be created, which will lead to a greater number of crimes. The crimes against women are a matter of grave concern and its time that women in India start living a life with respect, liberty, honour, peace and dignity in an environment free from such heinous crimes and atrocities.
BY:- Adv. Payal Mehta