Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had said, “You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women.” After several tumultuous decades we, as a nation, stand in an era of social liberation and economic prosperity. We broadcast India as a county filled with potential and opportunity and stand as future leaders of the world. The Constitution of India guarantees equality for women but the harsh reality is many women are unaware of their legal rights.
According to the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB), about 8,000 dowry deaths are recorded each year in India. NCRB further states that as many as 35,260 (83%) out of 42,410 cases filed under dowry deaths in 2015 and left over from 2014 were pending at the end of 2015, as were 11,319 (99.9%) of 11,320 cases recorded under abetment of suicide, 44,4367 (83%) of 534,431 cases filed under cruelty by husbands and his relatives, and 846 (99.8%) of 847 cases filed under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA).
Empowering women with a strong legal structure is essential. The cases of gender- based vulnerabilities are particularly high in India.The locus of gender violence is both inside and outside home. Laws like Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, Maternity Benefit Act 1861, Births, Deaths & Marriages Registration Act 1886, Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971, National Commission for Women Act 1990, Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act 1999, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act 2013 etc. are designed to safeguard women.
Menaka Guruswamy, Mishi Choudhary, Vrinda Grover, Indira Jaising, Meenakshi Arora, Karuna Nundy, and Meenakshi Lekhi are among the top female lawyers of India. They are not only lawyers but activists who fight for the rights of Indian women. India needs more such lawyers. It’s time India wakes up to this alarming call and fights back for the rights of its women.
What recourse can a woman take in legal terms
1. Marital rape/ Domestic violence: Currently, there is no legal recourse for victims of marital rape as section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, provides an exception to marital rape. Supreme Court advocate Karuna Nundy, who has argued for criminalising marital rape, pointed out that cases of marital rape may be filed under section 498-A of the IPC relating to “cruelty by husband and his relatives”.
2. Anti-dowry law: Currently, the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, prohibits the giving or taking of dowry. An offender is subject to a minimum of five years’ imprisonment, or more and a fine of `15,000 or the sum of dowry, whichever is more
3. Same minimum age of marriage: The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006 outlaws child marriages - where the a boy is under 21 years of age or the girl, under 18.
4. Eve Teasing: Sections: 294 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) prohibit any individual or group of people pass any kind of offensive comment or execute any such gesture towards a girl of any age
5. Succession of Property: Under the clause of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, any person who is entitled to be the heir of a property of ancestor, should get the property regardless of gender
6. Offensive Propaganda: The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, prohibits any individual or organisation to publish or help post, publish, exhibit or advertise - online or offline - any kind of representation of women that can be considered to be indecent.