The United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human rights on 10 December 1948 which proclaims that all human beings are born free and have equal right to dignity .Similarly Indian Constitution guarantees several rights such as the right to equality in Article 14, right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of Constitution to all its citizens irrespective of gender .
Gender equality means a society in wherein both women and men enjoy the same opportunities, rights and obligations in different spheres of life. Equality in decision making, economic and social freedom, equal access to education and right to practice an occupation of one’s choice. In order to promote gender equality , we need to the empowerment of women and concentrate on areas which are most crucial to her well being. Women’s empowerment, economic, social, political, is vital to growth of any nation and to protect and nurture human rights.
Constitutional rights available to women in India-
Fundamental right to equality before Law that is, equal protection of laws in India- Article 14
Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.However art 15(3) empowers state to make any special provision for women and children -Article 15
Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment or opportunity to any office under state and prohibits discrimination on ground of sex- Article 16
Freedom of speech and expression and freedom to practice any profession or to carry out any occupation , trade or business – Article 19
Protection of life and personal liberty- Article 21
Right to Privacy- Article 21
Right to property- Art. 300-A
Political rights- women reservation in for instance, panchayats. Art 15 of the Constitution allows special provisions for women and children to be made for their welfare.
Under the Legal Services Authorities Act women and children are entitled to free legal aid .
Under the Constitution of India , the Directive Principles of State Policy contain duties of the State to apply these principles while making laws. These principles state that state shall direct its policies to secure that citizens , men and women equally have the right to an adequate means of livelihood, that there is equal pay for both men and women, provide free and compulsory education for children and duty to improve public health. Where as in case of violation of fundamental rights , these rights are enforceable , that is , a victim can seek legal redress through a court of law , the directive principles are only a guiding factor and its non observance is not actionable before court of law.
10 Legal Rights every woman
Knowing the times that we are in, we give you, yet again, an
overview of some important legal rights for women that every one must be aware
Free legal aid
Exercise your right to free legal aid. Often, women go to the
police station unaccompanied by a lawyer to get their statement recorded, and
they stand the risk of being misquoted or their statement being tampered with.
The police may also treat the entire episode lightly and not lodge an FIR. So,
it is necessary to have a lawyer with you while you lodge the FIR. “According
to a Delhi High Court ruling, whenever a rape is reported, the SHO has to bring
this to the notice of the Delhi Legal Services Authority. The legal body then
arranges for a lawyer for the victim,” says Saumya Bhaumik, women rights
Right to privacy while
Under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, a woman who
has been raped can record her statement before the district magistrate when the
case is under trial, and no one else needs to be present. Alternatively, she
can record the statement with only one police officer and woman constable in a
convenient place that is not crowded and does not provide any possibility of
the statement being overheard by a fourth person. The cops have to, by law,
upkeep the woman’s right to privacy. It’s important for the person to feel
comfortable and not be under any kind of stress while narrating the incident.
Time doesn’t matter
The police cannot refuse to register an FIR even if a
considerable period of time has elapsed since the incident of rape or
molestation took place. If the police tells you that they can’t lodge your FIR
since you didn’t report it earlier, do not concede. “Rape is a horrifying
incident for any woman, so it’s natural for her to go into shock and not want
to report it immediately. She may also fear for her safety and the reputation
and dignity of her family. For this reason, the Supreme Court has ruled that
the police must register an FIR even if there has been a gap between the report
and the occurrence of the incident,” says Tariq Abeed, advocate, Supreme Court.
Email to the rescue
According to the guidelines issued by the Delhi Police, a woman
has the privilege of lodging a complaint via email or registered post. If, for
some reason, a woman can’t go to the police station, she can send a written
complaint through an email or registered post addressed to a senior police
officer of the level of Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner of Police. The
officer then directs the SHO of the police station, of the area where the
incident occurred, to conduct proper verification of the complainant and lodge
an FIR. The police can then come over to the residence of the victim to take
Cops can’t say no
Arape victim can register her police complaint from any police
station under the Zero FIR ruling by Supreme Court. “Sometimes, the police
station under which the incident occurs refuses to register the victim’s
complaint in order to keep clear of responsibility, and tries sending the
victim to another police station. In such cases, she has the right to lodge an
FIR at any police station in the city under the Zero FIR ruling. The senior
officer will then direct the SHO of the concerned police station to lodge the
FIR,” says Abeed. This is a Supreme Court ruling that not many women are aware
of, so don’t let the SHO of a police station send you away saying it “doesn’t
come under his area”.
No arrests after sunset
According to a Supreme Court ruling, a woman cannot be arrested
after sunset and before sunrise. There are many cases of women being harassed
by the police at wee hours, but all this can be avoided if you exercise the
right of being present in the police station only during daytime. “Even if
there is a woman constable accompanying the officers, the police can’t arrest a
woman at night. In case the woman has committed a serious crime, the police has
to get it in writing from the magistrate explaining why the arrest is necessary
during the night,” says Bhaumik.
You can’t be called to the
Women cannot be called to the police station for interrogation
under Section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code. This law provides Indian
women the right of not being physically present at the police station for
interrogation. “The police can interrogate a woman at her residence in the
presence of a woman constable and family members or friends,” says Abeed. So,
the next time you’re called to the police station for queries or interrogation
when you have faced any kind of harassment, quote this guideline of the Supreme
Court to exercise your right and remind the cops about it.
Protect your identity
Under no circumstances can the identity of a rape victim be
revealed. Neither the police nor media can make known the name of the victim in
public. Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code makes the disclosure of a
victim’s identity a punishable offense. Printing or publishing the name or any
matter which may make known the identity of a woman against whom an offense has
been committed is punishable. This is done to prevent social victimisation or
ostracism of the victim of a sexual offense. Even while a judgment is in progress
at the high court or a lower court, the name of the victim is not indicated,
she is only described as ‘victim’ in the judgment.
The doctor can’t decide
Acase of rape can’t be dismissed even if the doctor says rape
had not taken place. A victim of rape needs to be medically examined as per
Section 164 A of the Criminal Procedure Code, and only the report can act as
proof. “A woman has the right to have a copy of the medical report from the
doctor. Rape is crime and not a medical condition. It is a legal term and not a
diagnosis to be made by the medical officer treating the victim. The only
statement that can be made by the medical officer is that there is evidence of
recent sexual activity. Whether the rape has occurred or not is a legal
conclusion and the doctor can’t decide on this,” explains Bhaumik.
Employers must protect
the duty of every employer to create a Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee
within the organisation for redressal of such complaints. According to a
guideline issued by the Supreme Court, it is mandatory for all firms, public
and private, to set up these committees to resolve matters of sexual
harassment. It is also necessary that the committee be headed by a woman and
comprise 50% women as members. Also, one of the members should be from a
women’s welfare group.