Author: Radhika Soni NMIMS School of Law, Mumbai
Women, whether a girl, a housewife, a mom, or a grandmother, are essential members of any family. It is said that, without a woman, the world is incomplete. Law is a system of laws that are implemented to regulate individual’s behaviour. Women have been considered as a lesser element of society since a long time back and they’ve been the targets of crimes such as “murder, eve teasing, forced marriages, dowry, family violence, child marriage, and acid pouring etc.” They have only been permitted to live under their spouses’ and parents’ command. But now laws are being enacted to protect females from the brutality of their family and cultures, as well as to ensure the freedoms to which they have been entitled. The article seeks to address some of the issues that women experience in India, and indicates the importance of judicial decisions which are taken for the development of women in the society.
LEGAL STATUS OF WOMEN IN INDIA
Following independence, there was a need to enact relevant statutory regulations in order to ensure the well-being and security of women. Taking into consideration this requirement, certain legislative improvements have been adopted by the Indian law with a specified ultimate objective to provide dignified life to Indian Women. Some of them are mentioned below:
“Adultery”- Adultery is a serious offence against Indian women, and it has a negative impact on married women in general. In simple terms, “infidelity” means engaging in sexual activity with someone who is not married to your life spouse. Such offence of adultery is governed by “Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.” Initially, only men have been punished under the legislation of adultery in India, but now both men and women are (The Indian Penal Code, 1860) equally responsible for conducting out the crime of adultery. As per section 497 the accused might well be sentenced to imprisonment for a duration of up to “five years, a fine, or both.” In such a circumstance, the husband must not be held responsible as a hidden offender.
“Child marriage”- Child marriage is a serious act against children since it not only hampers their future but also threatens their social standing. Child marriage restricts societal development while also reducing educational and business opportunities in the global market. “The Law Commission of India made a significant step forward by establishing the minimum legal age for marriage as 18 years for young women and 21 years for young men.” Another significant advancement was necessary mandatory education for young females with the prospect of free education which is offered by the Government of India.
“Female infanticide”- Female feticide refers to the separation and killing of a female baby prior to her birth. It is considered to be the most horrible manner of murdering females. The government has developed a technique to raise awareness among citizens about the consequences of this violation. The government is leading a number of awareness programmes to increase understanding of the fact, psychological, and public consequences of this practice. “The Pre-Origination and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Determination) Act, 1994, recommends a three-year prison sentence and a Rs. 10,000 fines for the offence of female feticides. To ensure this amendment in the Pre-Origination and Pre Natal-Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Choice) Act, 1994, (PCPNDT Act, 1994) would be necessary (Pre-Origination and Pre Natal-Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Choice) Act,1994). This approach will classify this violation as murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).”
“Rape and murder”- Rape is yet another serious violation committed against women, and it is spreading like a wildfire. Disclosure of assault and kidnapping cases has proven out to be exceedingly common in newspapers and magazines, which is unquestionably a really huge problem for everyone. “In its simplest form, the term “assault” refers to sex or sexual interference by anyone without the consent of the other individual or victim.” Penalties for assault are detailed in “sections 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.” Section 376 provides punishment towards the offence of assault, while section 375 specifies the pre-conditions that are required to establish the offence of assault. According to section 376, whosoever commits the offence of assault must be imprisoned for a period that would not be “less than seven years and may be forever,” or for a duration that could extend up to ten years and could also be fined.
JUDICIAL APPROACH TOWARDS DEVELOPMENT OF WOMEN IN SOCIETY
The Indian Judiciary’s judicial judgements have altered and resulted about many substantial improvements in the modern society typical norms.
In the case of “Air India vs. Nergesh Meerza,” Indian airlines enacted rules that have been found to be in violation of “Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.” The condition was that air hostesses will not be allow to marry for the first four years of their employment, will forfeit their employment when they become pregnant, and would get retired just at 35 years of age except if the general manager extends it at his authority. The Supreme Court gave the judgment that terminating someone’ service based on the first delivery violated Section 14, and also that the executive producer’s continuation of the employment also breaches the principle of equality imposed by Article 14 since this condition leaves unrestricted emphasis on the importance of one individual.
In the case of Shah Bano Begum, the Supreme Court of India directed the legislature to develop a universal civil law governing a “Muslim husband’s obligation to provide maintenance to his divorced wife who now has to support oneself after the period of iddat.” The court provided the judgement that, “Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973,” was interpreted and it will be applicable to all spouses, regardless of their religion and caste, and the husband was ordered to support his divorced wife.
The Supreme Court ruled in “Vishakha vs. State of Rajasthan” that gender equality could be formulated via powers granted under Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution, and “that sexual harassment at work is a clear violation of these fundamental rights, which in turn violates the principle of gender equality.” Also, since, there is no proper domestic legislation that can handle the issue of sexual harassment, so instead support could be obtained from international human rights law and regulations as far as it will not clash with any national law or the Indian Constitution. Employers were given strict guidelines in order to provide a reasonable, secure, and agreeable workplace for employees, particularly women.
CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS
With the help of the above analysis, it can be concluded that, women must be granted the same rights as males in our culture since women make up a large portion of the Indian population and women’s happiness is critical for socially and economically well-being on a worldwide scale. The legal status of women is becoming strong after the enactment of various laws and statues. Since, women have been suffering from a lot crimes such as adultery, rape, murder, etc., so several laws have been established to stop each of these crimes happening again in the nation. The Indian penal code and other statues have included specific legislations that helped in reducing such crimes which in turn protect legal rights of the women. The Indian judiciary have played great role in prioritizing the women rights and also laid down specific legislation for women which were earlier not present in the Constitution.
Further, it is suggested that, there should be proper and appropriate statute for every crime. Such as, in sexual harassment in workplace, there is no proper statute, instead judiciary has laid down several rules and regulation. So, appropriate legislation should be adopted such as in the cases of acid attack to women, eve teasing, fraudulent marriage, so that proper punishment should be availed to person if he/she broke the law. Also, the law must be revised to accommodate all “unfair and gender-biased provisions.” This could be accomplished by judicial analyses, legislative revision, transitory extraordinary provisions, awareness campaigns, specialized funding, and the nomination of females to judicial positions.
 Sutapa Saryal, Women’s Rights in India: Problems and Prospects, 3 International Research Journal of Social Sciences, 49-53 (2014)
 THE CONSTITUTIONAL STATUS OF WOMEN IN INDIA, 120 International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics, 1865-1882 (2018)
 Tauffiqu Ahamad, Legal status and rights of women in Indian constitution, 1 International Journal of Advanced Education and Research, 39-42 (2016)
 Air India vs. Nergesh Meerza, 1981 AIR 1829, 1982 SCR (1) 438
 Case Law Summary: Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum and Others (1985 AIR 945)- iPleaders iPleaders, https://blog.ipleaders.in/case-law-summary-mohd-ahmed-khan-v-shah-bano-begum-others-1985-air-945/ (last visited Jul 26, 2021)
 Vishakha vs. State of Rajasthan, ((1997) 6 SCC 241)
 Vishakha and others v State of Rajasthan – Wikipedia En.wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishakha_and_others_v_State_of_Rajasthan (last visited Jul 26, 2021)
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