This article is written by Tulip Das, currently perusing BBA L.L.B(H) from Amity University Kolkata.
The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution, Fundamental Rights (Part III), Fundamental Duties (Part IV-A), and Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV) of the Constitution. Besides granting equality to women, the Indian Constitution also empowers the State to adopt special measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. Within the sphere of a democratic polity, our laws, development policies, plans, and programs have aimed at women’s development and advancement in various spheres. India has also ratified various international conventions and human rights instruments committed to secure equal rights to women. Key among them is the ratification of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in the year 1993.
Constitutional Provisions for Women
Women’s safety and security is still a question in 21st century India. To curb ill-doings towards women, the Indian Constitution has led down the following provisions: –
In the Preamble
- The Principle of gender equality is mentioned in the Indian Constitution in its Preamble. The constitution not only grants equality for women but also empowers the State to adopt measures to positive discrimination in favour of women.
- Within the framework of a democratic polity, our laws, development policies, plans, and programs have been aimed at women’s advancement in different spheres.
- India has also ratified various international conventions and human rights instruments committing to secure equal women rights.
Fundamental Rights (PART -III)
Art 14 – Equality Before Law: this article says that the everyone is equal in the eye of law.
Art 15(1) and (2) – This article prohibits the nation from discriminating against any citizen on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth and others.
Art 15 (3) – The State has been assigned the authority to make any special provisions for women and children.
Art 16 – Equality amount of opportunity must be given to all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the Government of India.
Article 21 – provided right to life and personal liberty where it greatly emphasises on protecting, maintaining and honouring the dignity of our women.
Art 23 – The Constitution states that traffic in human beings especially women and children and beggar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with the law.
Directive Principles of State Policy (PART IV)
Article 39(a) – The State must direct its policy towards ensuring that all citizens of India, men and women equally, the right to an adequate means of livelihood
Article 39(d)- The State must look to secure equal pay for equal work for both men and women
Article 39 A – This article says that justice should be provided on basis of equality of opportunity and there shall be provisions for free legal aid for all. It also says that justice shall not be denied to anyone irrespective of their economic or other disabilities.
Article 42 – The State must look to secure just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.
Article 46 – The State shall promote, ensure and look into with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the society, particularly the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall also protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
Fundamental Duties (PART IV-A)
Article 51(A) (e) – This fundamental duty aims to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
The Panchayats (PART IX)
Seatsare reserved in the Panchayat for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe as well. Article 243D (2) of the Indian Constitution says that among the seats reserved in the Panchayat for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe not less than one-third of the seats so reserved in the Panchayat are reserved for women belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes.
Article 243D (3) of the Indian Constitution says that, Panchayats should have one-third of the total seats which are filled by direct election, reserved for women (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribe). Such seats may be allotted by the process of rotation to different constituencies in the Panchayat.
The Municipalities (PART IX-A)
According to Article 243T (1) of the Indian Constitution, seats will be reserved for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in each Municipality and the number of seats so saved will bear a similar extent to the complete number of seats to be filled by direct election in that Municipality as the number of inhabitants in the Scheduled Castes in the Municipal region or of the Scheduled Tribes in the Municipal region bears to the all-out populace of that region and such seats might be allocated by turn or by rotation process to various constituencies in a Municipality.
Article 243T (2) says that among the seats reserved in the Municipalities for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe not less than one-third of the seats so reserved in the Municipalities are reserved for women belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes.
Article 243T (3) of the Indian Constitution says that, Municipalities should have one-third of the total seats which are filled by direct election, reserved for women (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribe). Such seats may be allotted by the process of rotation to different constituencies in the Municipalities.
The Co-operative Societies (PART – IX B)
Article 234ZJ of the Indian Constitution talks about the number and term of members of the board and its office bearers. It says board shall contain as many directors as suggested by the Legislature of State, backed by law.
It says that two seats shall be reserved for women on board of every co-operative society consisting of individuals as members and having members from such class or category of persons.
Some Cases Reflecting Victory of Women
The Supreme Court in Muthamma v. Union of India (1979) 4 SCC 260 and Air India v Nagresh Mirza AIR 1981 SC 1829 struck down the discriminatory service conditions requiring female employees to obtain government permission before getting married, denying marriage and pregnant women the right to be employed.
In Vishaka v State of Rajasthan AIR 1997 SC 3011, the Supreme Court observed that equality in employment can be seriously hampered when women are subjected to gender-specific violence, such as sexual harassment in the workplace. Therefore, the Supreme Court issued guidelines to ensure that women have equal working conditions and are protected from sexual harassment.
The Supreme Court stated in Government of A. P. v. P. K. Bijayakumar AIR 1995 SC 164 that under Article 15(3) job opportunities for women cannot be created would be to cut at the very root of the underlying inspiration behind this Article making special provision for women in respect of employments or posts under the state is an important part of Article 15(3).
Law cannot change society overnight, but it can certainly ensure that the disadvantages are not given a raw deal. Sadly “she” is the most tortured gender in the Indian society. In spite of so many exclusive rights granted to women by the Constitution, the harsh reality is that women have been ill-treated in every society for ages and India is not an exception to this universal problem. The irony lies in the fact that in our country where women are worshipped as ‘shakti’, the atrocities are committed against her in all sections of life. She is being looked down as commodity or as a slave, she is not only robbed of her dignity and pride outside her house but she also faces ill-treatment and other atrocities within the four walls of her house also. The women are being considered as an object of male sexual enjoyment and reproduction of children. Its high time now. We really need to get together and fight for the welfare of our mothers, sisters and daughters.
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