Women’s Empowerment is the most discussed yet least achieved target in India. The need to empower women was felt long back in the ‘50s, however, even after six decades women in India are not empowered enough and the need for a new law to empower them is felt almost now and then.
ARTICLE 15 (3) of the Constitution of India 1949
“Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.” It states that even though the state will not discriminate against anyone, they can make special provisions only for women and children to safeguard their interests.
A few of such laws are as follows;
1. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
2. Special Marriage Act, 1954
3. Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
4. The Indian Divorce Act 1969
5. Maternity Benefit Act, 1861
6. Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act,1971
7. Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Act, 2019
8. Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
9. Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act,1986
10. National Commission for Women Act, 1990
11. Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
12. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
13. Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1986
14. POCSO Axt
Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. According to this act, taking or giving of dowry at the time of the marriage to the bride or the bridegroom and their family is a penal offence. The Dowry system, giving and taking of dowry, is a norm in India. Dowry is often asked of the bride and her family by the groom and his family. The system has taken strong roots because women after marriage move in with their spouses and in-laws. Also, over the centuries, the lack of economic independence of women and the taboo towards divorce has resulted in bride burning. When demands for dowry even after marriage are not met by the girl’s families, many women are tortured, beaten, and even burnt. It is one of the major challenges that our society is grappling with. A woman openly complaining about it has helped to spread the word and encourage other women to take a stand.
Maternity Benefit Act, 1861. This act regulates the employment of women and maternity benefits mandated by law. It states that a woman employee who has worked in an organization for a period of at least 80 days during the 12 months preceding the date of her expected delivery is entitled to receive maternity benefits, which include maternity leave, nursing, breaks, medical allowance, etc.
Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. The Act came into effect in 1972, as amended in 1975 and 2002. The Act aims to reduce the occurrence of illegal abortion and consequent maternal mortality and morbidity. It clearly states the conditions under which a pregnancy can be ended or aborted and specifies the persons qualified to conduct the same.
Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Act, 2019. This act is enacted by the Parliament to protect the rights of married Muslim women and to prohibit divorce by pronouncing talaq by their husbands and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. To ensure women’s safety at the workplace, this Act seeks to protect them from sexual harassment at their place of work. Thirty-six percent of Indian companies and 25 percent among MNCs are not compliant with the Sexual Harassment Act according to a FICCI-EY November 2015 report. Sexual harassment at the workplace also includes – the use of language with sexual overtones, invasion of private space with a male colleague hovering too close for comfort, subtle touches, and innuendoes.
Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986. This Act prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisement or in publications, writings, paintings, figures, or in any other manner.
National Commission for Women Act, 1990. The National Commission for Women (NCW) is a statutory body of the Government of India, established in January 1992. The NCW represents the rights of women in India and provides a voice for their issues and concerns. The National Commission for Women Act aims to improve the status of women and worked for their economic empowerment.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. An Act to provide for more effective protection of the rights of women guaranteed under the Constitution who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
LANDMARK Judgments of Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court has given so many judgments empowering women and their rights. Some of the Landmark Judgements are quoted below.
In Vineeta Sharma v Rakesh Sharma(1) the Court held that daughters would have equal coparcenary rights in Hindu Undivided Family property (HUF) by their birth and could not be excluded from inheritance, irrespective of whether they were born before the 2005 amendment to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
The Court framed detailed guidelines in the Vishakha v State of Rajasthan(2) that has to be followed by establishments in dealing with complaints about sexual harassment. These guidelines were eventually formalized as legislation with the passing of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, a vital law to protect millions of women who enter the country’s workforce every year.
In Shayra Bano v Union of India(3), the Court declared that the practice of instant triple talaq (talaq-e-bidat) is against the basic tenets of the Quran. Talaq-e- bidat is a practice that gives a man the right to divorce his wife by uttering ‘talaq’ three times in one sitting, without his wife’s consent. The Court directed the Centre to pass legislation in this regard, which led to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Act, 2019.
In Joseph Shine v. Union of India(4), the Court struck down Section 497 IPC saying that it was unconstitutional as being violative of Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Constitution since the very basis for criminalizing adultery was the assumption that a woman is considered as the property of the husband and cannot have relations outside the marriage. The said section violated the right to privacy as well as the liberty of women by discriminating against married women and perpetuating gender stereotypes. The Supreme Court in Joseph Shine vs. Union of India struck down Section 497 as unconstitutional.
1. Vineeta Sharma v Rakesh Sharm, (2020) 9 SCC 1.
2. Vishakha v State of Rajasthan, (1997) 6 SCC 241.
3. Shayra Bano v Union of India, (2017) 9 SCC 1.
4. Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC Online SC 1676.
1. Mr. Arun Sugavaneshvar, Advocate practicing at Madras High Court, with 10 years of experience in Family, IPR, and Property matters.
2. Sarfaras Feroz, 4th Year student of BBA, LLB (Hons) at Saveetha School of Law, SIMATS, Chennai.