The best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of its women. There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved quoted by Swami Vivekananda. According to a study conducted by the United Nations, women constitute more than two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population. Various researches found that 80% of the world’s refugees are women. Also, women only own 1% of the world’s resources and earn a small part ( 1/10) of the world’s income.
Talking about India’s culture, Manu who is greatly known for framing the laws said, ‘ where women are honored; there resides the god ‘.
1.1. Are women truly vulnerable?– The term ‘vulnerable group considered children, pregnant women, elderly people, malnourished people who come under this group. there are mainly four types of vulnerabilities found and they are physical, economic, social and emotional. The definition of vulnerable is easily hurt or delicate women are considered physically weaker than men. So they are always victimized from long time.
It is often women who require social prediction interventions, as they are disproportionately vulnerable due to lack of capital, high wage differentials and gendered work norms.
Women face double discrimination and violence Bing members of specific cost, class or ethnic group. Patriarchy and accepted attitudes towards the position, violence against women Are an important source of vulnerability.
1.2 Causes of vulnerability of women:- The main cause or factor that contributes to women’s vulnerability include lack of education, limited access to resources, Economic conditions and especially cultural issues. Several studies have reported that the main cause of vulnerability of women is due to lack of education And in formation. Vulnerability is most often associated with poverty, but it can also arise when people are isolated, insecure or defenseless in the face of risks, shock or stress.
2. Status of women:
The status of women Depicts the social Economical and mental condition in a nation. It has been subject Many changes over the span of recorded history. Social evils such as doubting, domestic violence, dominance of patriarchal social norms, upon genders.
Female infanticide was widely prevalent in the early age. But the spread of education has laid there progress over the period and to sharpen their voice against the Orthodox system.
For women, there are no developed countries. Although some places are clearly better for them to live in than others. It is not always true that the relatively reach countries of the world provide better circumstances for them as women then Do poorer countries.
2.1 Vedic period:- Women play a key role In strengthening the dynamism of human civilization. According to Altekar (1938, P.1) “ One of the best ways to understand the spirit of civilization and to appreciate it’s excellences and realise its limitations is to study the history of the position An status off women in it. During Vedic period women had a greater status and we treated it respectfully. They had their right of education and Can work parallely with men. The knowledgeable women Of that era where known as ‘Brahmavadini’ Which means the women Who’s stripes for the highest philosophical knowledge of brahman As opposed to Sadyovadhu who were Domestic ideals and dedicated herself towards the welfare of her family. The prominent among them were Vak Ambhrini , Lopamudra , Vishwawara, Gargi, Maitreyi, etc .
2.2 Post Vedic period:- The beginning of patriarchal norms over the whole society started from this era. In this. Patriarchal society started dominating women And try to corner them. As a result, orthodox thinking evolves from this era.
In pre-Vedic period, women were assigned a well position but it got reverse in posed with the period and couldn’t survive. As a result patriarchal society came into existence and started to do surprise women in society.
2.3 Women in Medieval Period:- In this era, Apastamba Sutra (4th century BC) captures some prevalent ideas of the role of women during the post-Vedic ages. The Apastamba Sutra shows the elevated position of women that existed during the 4th century BC, a man is not allowed to abandoned his wife.
He permits daughters to inherit. There can be no division of property between a husband and a wife, because they are linked inextricably together and have joined custody of the property. Thus, a wife may make gifts and use the family wealth on her own when her husband is alive.
Women are upholders of traditional lore, and Apastamba tells his audience that they should learn some customs from women. From the Gupta period, the participation of women in an administrative job were not rare. In the sultan period Razia Sultana become the only women monarch to ever ruled Delhi. And also in the Mughal period Jahangir’s wife Nurjahan effectively wielded imperial power and was recognized as the real power behind the Mughal Thron.
2.4 Women in British Period:- During the British East India Company rule (1757-1857) and the British Raj (1858-1947), few measures were enacted Including Bengal Sati Regulation Act, 1829, Hindu widow’s remarriage Act, 1856, Female Infanticide (prevention) Act,1870 and many more Acts and regulations came into effect just to safeguard women/girls from the cruel social norms.
During the British Raj, many reformers such as Ram Mohan Roy, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar and Joti Rao Phule fought for the betterment of women. Women like Dr. Kadambini Ganguly who was one of the 1st Female Medical practitioners among India and as well as among Asia, who set a milestone for the 1st time and light up the ways for the next generation and who break the boundaries created by the orthodox society.
2.5 Women in Contemporary India:- Status of women in India began to change radically during the contemporary period since independence like the structural and cultural changes provided equality of opportunities to women in education, employment and political participation. Women in India now participate fully in areas such as education, sports, politics, media, art etc.
3. Safeguards Under Indian constitution:
The constitution of India introduced various provisions to safeguard the rights and interests of Indian women.
3.1 Preamble:- The Preamble of India guarantees social and economical justice it ensures equality of status and of opportunity for all sphere of society.
3.2 Fundamental Right:- The constitution of India guarantees to all Indian women equality (Art-14), no discrimination by the state (Art-15), equality of opportunity (Art-16).
Art. 15(1) prohibits discrimination against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth. The provision is exclusively implied that women shouldn’t face discrimination because of their gender.
Art. 15(3) allows the state to make special laws for women and children.
Art. 16 provides equal opportunity to each and every individual of the society, under this article the equity of opportunity is also guaranteed to women.
3.3 Directive Principle of State Policy:- According to Article 39 (a), the state is directed to provide all citizens, men and women equally and adequate means of livelihood. Art-39(d)(e) speaks about the equal pay for equal work for both men and women, the health & strength of no one irrespective of gender can be Abused for economic necessity. Art-42 directs state about Maternity Relief Act. Art- 42 directs the state to make provision for securing justice and humane conditions of work and provide Maternity benefits.
3.4 Fundamental Duties:- Article 51A(e) enjoins upon every citizen to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
3.5 Reservation of women at respective body:- Reservation of seats for women in Panchayats and Municipalities.
Article 243 D (3) and Article 243 T(3) provide for reservation of not less than one-third of the total number of seats in Panchayats and Municipalities for women to be allotted by rotation to different Constituencies. Article 243 D(4) T(4) provides that not less than one-third of the total number of officers of chairperson in the Panchayat and Municipalities at each level to be reserved for women.
3.6 Voting Right/Electoral Right:- Not less than one-third seats shall be reserved for women. Such seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Panchayat. The office of the chairperson in the Panchayat at the village or any other level shall be reserved for SCs, STs, and women in such manner as the legislature of state may, by law provide. Reservation of seats for women in Municipalities is also provided.
4. Women Being Victimized sexually:
Sexually women are more likely to be victimized by male offenders, about three-quarters of the violent crimes against women are committed by males. In one survey it shows that violence was the most common injury to women between the age of 15-44. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) found that women were 10 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than were men. The annual rate of rape is estimated to be 7.1% 1000 adult women, and 13% of all women experience forcible rape sometime during her lifetime.
4.1 Sexual Harassment:- Sexual harassment is a type of harassment involving the use of explicit/implicit sexual overtones, including the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange of sexual favours. This includes a range of actions from verbal transgressions to sexual abuse/ assault.
Women are victimized in every corner of society and this could be experienced at workplace too. So, to protect women from being victimized a was made on Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal ) Act, 2013. A landmark case related to this offense was filed in Rajasthan High Court.
In, Vishakha & ors vs State of Rajasthan & Ors: Bhanwari Devi was a social worker in a programme initiated by the state government of Rajasthan aiming to curb the evil of Child Marriage. Amidst, the protest to stop child marriage in one Ramakant Gujjar’s family Bhanwari Devi tried her best to stop that marriage. However, the marriage was successful in its completion even though widespread protest. In 1992, to seek vengeance upon her, Ramakant Gujjar along with his 5 men gang-raped her in front of her husband. The police department at first tried to dissuade them on filing the case on one pretext or other but to her determination; she lodged a complaint against the accused. They were, however, subjected to harsh cruelty by the female police attendants even to the extent that for procuring evidence her lehenga was demanded from her and she was left with nothing but her husband’s blood-stained dhoti. Adding to their misery, their request to spend the night in the police station was also refuse The trial court acquitted the accused but she didn’t lose hope and seeing her determination all female social workers gave their support. They all filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court of India under the name ‘Vishakha’. The apex court was called upon to frame guidelines for preventing Sexual Harassment at Workplace.
The Hon’ble court did come up with such guidelines as Vishakha Guidelines which formed the basis of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
4.2 Marital Rape a non- criminalized crime:- Marital rape / spousal rape is the act of sexual intercourse with one’s spouse without the consent of the spouse.’ Consent’ is important element in a sexual intercourse and it lacks that would completely considered as rape but no provision has yet being made to protect the victims of marital rape and as a result women experienced this more widely. Marital rape is often a chronic form of violence for the victim which take places with abusive relation.
4.3 Reparotory Marriage:- In a variety of cultures, marriage after rape of an unmarried woman has been treated historically as a resolution to the rape.
Whether women were forced to marry their rapist, the marriage was concluded before the violence began many victims remain in chronically violent relationship. While there are many reasons for which a victim of marital rape remains in their marriage. One important reason is that divorce may be hard to obtain and the other reason which keeps victims in their marriage is guilt and shame and lastly, some victims do not categorize their abuse as marital rape in order to minimize the violence endure.
5. Personal law relating to women:
A family is incomplete without the contribution of women so the different personal laws by which everyone families are governing will be incomplete without the provision related to women .
5.1 Maintenance:- Under the Indian Divorce Act, 1869 the maintenance rights of Christians Women where the husband is liable to pay maintenance till a woman’s lifetime. Under the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 the court can award a maximum of ¼ of the husband’s net income to Parsi women for her lifetime. No doubt women are the strongest creature on the earth, but unfortunately, when a women goes through this phase of her life she needs support. So, there are some specific laws that outline the rights of a women after divorce in India.
Indian lawmakers formulate the laws by taking into account every future possibility. The physical need food, shelter, clothes and other basic requirements for survival need to be provided to the dependence . Sec 125 of CrPC provides maintenance to each and every women irrespective of their religion.
When the marriage commenced under the Special Marriage Act of 1954 the wife only can claim maintenance but under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 the court will decide the alimony of seeker.
5.2 Guardianship:- The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 as a part of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 was meant to enhance the Guardianship and ward Acts, 1890, not serve as its replacement. In quite explicit that in case of legitimate children law accords primary position to father and secondary position to mother.
5.3 Adoption:- Under the Hindu Law there is an exclusive act called Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act. It has brought in substantial changes and remove bias against women in many ways the personal law (amendment) Act 2010 has further amended the law of Adoption so as to confer equal status for women in case of adoption.
Any female Hindu who is of sound mind and is not a minor can also adopt a child. It permits an unmarried women. Divorcee and a widow to adopt and if she is married she needs to take consent from her husband otherwise the adoption would be void. In, Brajendra Singh vs state of MP physical crippled women practically having no legs was given in a marriage to a person as a social neccessity and since her marriage she was living with her parents like a divorced women having no contacts with her husband in her later years she adopted a boy to take care of her the Adoption was challenged as invalid due to the fact that she being a married women could not adopt without the consent of her husband. The Apex court highlighting the contextual difference between the divorce women and who is leading a life like a divorce women, had that as both can not be equated and as the present Adoption does not come under any of the exceptions as mentioned above declare the adoption an invalid one .
As women are considered a weaker section of society so they become maximum time prey.
6.1 Dowry death:- when a women enters into a marriage she has many salubrious expectations and deserves to live a dignified life but all those are worn out by the cruel hands of Dowry related deaths.
Dowry deaths are violence by the husband and by his family with a motive of extortion of gifts and other demands from time to time against women and protection of women is the responsibility of state. The government has enacted many laws by and bylaws to prohibit the social evil know as Dowry death. In, Kamesh Panjiyar vs State of Bihar In this case the Jaikali Devi (deceased) was married to the appellant. At the time of marriage appellant demanded Rs, 40,000 as dowry and it was paid to him. After marriage appellant demand for a buffalo and this demand of appellant was not fulfilled by the deceased’s family. Due to the failure of fulfillment of his demand appellant and his family started torturing and beating the deceased. When the family of deceased came to know about the situations, brother of deceased went to meet her but appellant and his family insulted him. One day brother of deceased heard the rumor about the death of his sister. He went to appellant’s place to meet his sister and found her dead. She had many injuries on her body. Appellant claimed that she had some rheumatic disease which led to her death. Session court found the appellant guilty and punished him with the imprisonment of 10 years. On appeal preferred by the appellant before High Court of Bihar, the court reduced it to 7 years.
SC upheld the decision of session court saying that under section 304 of IPC it was not necessary to give direct evidence of causing death. Cruelty before death is enough.
7. Women and Industrial Law:
Gender equality is the key element in industrial or labour law to attain social justice and thus various provisions have been made to protect or safeguard the interests of women.
7.1 Maternity Benefit Amendment Act, 2017:- The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 protects the employment of women during the time of her maternity and entitles her of a ‘maternity benefit’ – i.e. full paid absence from work – to take care for her child. The act is applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more employees. The Act is applicable to all establishments which include factories, mines, plantations, Government establishments, shops and establishments under the relevant applicable legislation, or any other establishment as may be notified by the Central Government. As per the Act, to be eligible for maternity benefit, a woman must have been working as an employee in an establishment for a period of at least 80 days within the past 12 months. Payment during the leave period is based on the average daily wage for the period of actual absence. The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act has increased the duration of paid maternity leave available for women employees from the existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks. Under the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act, this benefit could be availed by women for a period extending up to a maximum of 8 weeks before the expected delivery date and the remaining time can be availed after childbirth. For women who are having 2 or more surviving children, the duration of paid maternity leave shall be 12 weeks (i.e. 6 weeks before and 6 weeks after expected date of delivery).
7.2 Equal Remuneration Act, 1976:- The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 provides for payment of equal remuneration to men and women and help prevent gender discrimination. Article 39 of the Indian Constitution envisages that the States will have a policy for securing equal pay for equal work for both men and women. The basic concept underlying, the very controversial subject, Feminism, is “equity”. Equity refers to a treatment of equal with equals and Unequal with unequal. The Equal Remuneration Act does the same. It provides for Equal remuneration both men and women, but also understanding the fact that it will not override any special treatment provided to women in the country. There was a time in India when women used to face heavy discrimination in pay. But, after the advent of this Act, women have been able to sue malpractices prevailing in their workplace.
7.3 Factories Act, 1948:- In 1833 the Government passed a Factory Act to improve conditions for children working in factories. Young children were working very long hours in workplaces where conditions were often terrible. The basic act was as follows: no child workers under nine years of age. The Factories Act, 1948 is social legislation which has been enacted for occupational safety, health and welfare of workers at work places. The objective of the Act is to regulate the conditions of work in manufacturing establishments coming within the definition of the term ‘factory’ as used in the Act.
8. International Commitments on Convention:
8.1 Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, 1979:- Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. Described as an international bill of rights for women, it was instituted on 3 September 1981 and has been ratified by 189 states. Over fifty countries that have ratified the Convention have done so subject to certain declarations, reservations, and objections, including 38 countries who rejected the enforcement article 29, which addresses means of settlement for disputes concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention. Australia’s declaration noted the limitations on central government power resulting from its federal constitutional system. The United States and Palau have signed, but not ratified the treaty. The Holy See, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, and Tonga are not signatories to CEDAW.
The Convention has a similar format to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, “both with regard to the scope of its substantive obligations and its international monitoring mechanisms”. The Convention is structured in six parts with 30 articles total.
8.2 Declaration on the elimination of violence against women, 1993:- The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (abbreviated as DEVAW) was adopted without vote by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 48/104 of 20 December 1993. Contained within it is the recognition of “the urgent need for the universal application to women of the rights and principles with regard to equality, security, liberty, integrity and dignity of all human beings”. The resolution is often seen as complementary to, and a strengthening of, the work of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. It recalls and embodies the same rights and principles as those enshrined in such instruments as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 1 and 2 provide the most widely used definition of violence against women. As a consequence of the resolution, in 1999, the General Assembly, led by the representative from the Dominican Republic, designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
8.3 Beijing Conference, 1995:- The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted at the September 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW) by representatives from 189 countries. The Platform reflects a new international commitment to the goals of equality, development and peace for all women everywhere. It builds on commitments made during the United Nations Decade for Women, 1976-1985 and on related commitments made in the cycle of United Nations global conferences held in the 1990s
Beijing + 5 was a Special Session of the General Assembly entitled “Women: 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-First Century” that took place in June 2000 at UN Headquarters in New York. At that session, governments reaffirmed their commitment to the goals of the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and also considered future actions and initiatives for the year 2000 and beyond.
8.4 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against women, 1999:- The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (OP-CEDAW) is an international treaty which establishes complaint and inquiry mechanisms for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Parties to the Protocol allow the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to hear complaints from individuals or inquire into “grave or systematic violations” of the Convention. The Protocol has led to a number of decisions against member states on issues such as domestic violence, parental leave and forced sterilization, as well as an investigation into the systematic killing of women in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.
The Protocol was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 6 October 1999, and in force from 22 December 2000. As of April 2020, the Protocol has 80 signatories and 114 parties.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women outlaws discrimination on the basis of gender, and obliges its parties to repeal discriminatory laws and guarantee equality in the fields of health, employment, and education. The Optional Protocol is a subsidiary agreement to the Convention. It does not establish any new rights, but rather allows the rights guaranteed in the Convention to be enforced.
9. Status of Women Internationally:
Throughout history, the central role of women in society has ensured the stability, progress and long-term development of nations. Globally, women comprise 43 percent of the world’s agricultural labour force – rising to 70 percent in some countries. For instance, across Africa, 80 percent of the agricultural production comes from small farmers, most of whom are rural women.
Women are the primary caretakers of children and elders in every country of the world. International studies demonstrate that when the economy and political organization of a society change, women take the lead in helping the family adjust to new realities and challenges. They are likely to be the prime initiator of outside assistance, and play an important role in facilitating (or hindering) changes in family life.
The contribution of women to a society’s transition from pre-literate to literate likewise is undeniable. Basic education is key to a nation’s ability to develop and achieve sustainability targets.
Today, the median female share of the global workforce is 45.4 percent. Women’s formal and informal labour can transform a community from a relatively autonomous society to a participant in the national economy. Despite significant obstacles, women’s small businesses in rural developing communities not only can be an extended family’s lifeline, but can form a networked economic foundation for future generations. The role of women in the urban and rural workforce has expanded exponentially in recent decades.
The overarching conclusion of this report finds evidence on how the status of women changes during time. It finds that women are effectively second class citizens, with both cultural traditions and laws reinforcing gender stereotypes. Rate of gender-based violence are high, and the acceptance of such violence as justified by majority of people in society. Significant inequalities between men and women persist in areas such as education, employment and public life.
This article has been authored by Suparna Sarkar & Joydeep Dutta, student of B.A.LL.B (Hons) at University of North Bengal, Department of Law.
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