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“THE CONTINUED LEGACY OF VIOLATION OF WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN INDIA”

Updated: Feb 22


Author: Ramandeep Yadav, Amity Law School Delhi







ABSTRACT:

“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity”

-Nelson Mandela



The Constitution of every country bestows upon its citizens certain human rights to make them more conscious of their fundamental freedoms and hence better equipped to stand for themselves. Like any other country, the Constitution of India bestows upon its citizens certain rights known as the FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS (Part-3, Article 13-35) to shield oneself against any prejudice but the concept of Human Rights is absolutely worthless without its enforcement system with respect to the Rule of Law in a “sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic and republic India” subjecting to equality, good faith, justice, good conscience and morality. The Indian Constitution also enshrines upon the concept of gender equality even in relation to human rights where it not only grants equality to women but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of its women citizens if and when needed. With these human rights, the initiation of a bright future for a country as diverse as India is, in every aspect, has begun BUT where and what would this future lead to if the right implementation of these human rights that have been endowed upon us by the Indian Constitution doesn’t take place? Hence via this research report I intend to understand and draw a conclusion upon the following:

· Women’s rights as human rights and violation of the same.

· Types of violations that persist.

· Loopholes in the Indian Law with respect to Human rights of women.


Key Words: Human Rights, Constitution of India, Gender equality, Women.



WOMEN RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS. IS IT RHETORIC?

Bird’s eye view of the low status of the women in India

We have all heard of the phrase that goes by,” Everyone is equal in the eyes of law”, but is it really so? As a law student or even as a part of the legal framework, this question is frequently raised. As a gender and an integral part of the Human Society, women have toiled and contributed ceaselessly as much as men have, they have labored and produced incessantly BUT they have also been discriminated invariably. Human Rights are the minimum rights that are guaranteed to every person by the Indian Constitution without there being any gender bias nut in the sphere of women’s human rights in India, there is a wide gap between theory and reality. Despite the fact that Indian women have been given more rights as compared to men YET the condition of women in India is miserable. To say it is said that the women enjoy rights equal to that of women but the ground reality lies in the fact that women have been the more oppressed gender right from the past whether it was the practice of Purdah ie a practice requiring women to cover their bodies to conceal themselves or Sati ie the practice in which the widow was burnt alive on her husband’s funeral pyre.


Shocking statistics: a reality check

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) had predicted that growth rate of crime against women would be higher than the population growth by 2012, and this has become true. The 2012 Survey did by the NCRB in the five major cities shows the growth in crime rates against women in India [1]:



According to the “Crimes in India-2018” Report compiled by the Nation Crime Record Bureau a total of 50,74, 634 cognizable offences crimes comprising of 31, 32, 954 IPC and 19, 41680 Special and Local Laws (SLL) crimes were registered in India in 2018 which was a 1.3% increases in registered cases in comparison to 50,07,044 cases registered in 2017 [2]. As very evident from the data as sated above, there has been a constant increase in the violation of women’s rights thereby putting their safety at stake.


DIAGRAMMING THE VIOLATION OF WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN INDIA

The Fourth Conference of Women has defined the terminology of “violence against women” as “any act of gender based violence, which results in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.” [3] Therefore violence against women, irrespective of its nature would be regarded as a human right violation. Well, it is believed that women enjoy rights equal to those of men, but in actual reality the Indian women have been victims of subjugation from the past and even today, continue to face dishonor and injustice.

Violation of the Right to Equality

According to Article 14 of the Constitution of India, every person shall be viewed equally in the eyes of law and is entitles to equal protection within the territory of the country. This ideally should be applicable to every individual irrespective of gender. This is what theory states but the practical approach is totally different. The ground reality lies in the fact that the discrimination against the girl child starts right from the time she enters into her mother’s womb, in some cases even before that when illegal methods like sex-determination tests occur that eventually lead to feticide and girl infanticide. In the patriarchal set up in our country, the men are considered to be the more superior sex.


Violation of the Right to Education

The right to education is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India that is imperative for moulding the personality of an individual but sadly the position of women’s education in India is dissatisfactory. Young girls are denied their right to education and made to believe that their sole purpose is to serve the role of a housewife. The literacy rate in the 2011 census for India was74.04%: 65.5% among women and 82.1% among males. [4] Over the years the literacy rate has been improving but not at a substantial pace. It is due to this human right violation in specific that women are not aware of their fundamental rights and hence not able to stand for themselves.


Violation of Political Rights

The status of Indian women in politics is far from satisfactory especially with respect to their representation in the higher political institutions ie of the Parliament and provincial Legislation. “India ranks 148 globally in terms of representation of women in the executive government and parliament. In terms of women ministers, India ranks 88 with only 5 ministers i.e 18.5% in the cabinet” [5]. This very evidently depicts that the level of domination that persists in the field of politics despite the fact that the government has availed 33% reservation of seats for women in these higher political institutions but, due to lack of support from family members, Indian women even though willing, aren’t able to make representation for the same.


Violation of Right to Health

The violation of women’s rights in India is usually on account of malnutrition as a result of which a large number of women suffering from that eventually results in female infertility. The high maternal mortality rate witnessed in our country could be on account of lack of nutrition and medical facilities made available at their disposal. Indian women follow the tradition of having their meals only after the male member of the family does so. Mainly in rural areas, due to poor health facilities and poor quality of food intake women suffer from weight loss and anemia. Anemia is widespread with almost 56.2% women suffering from anemia in comparison to only 24.3% men suffer from the same. [6]


Violation of the Right to equal opportunity work and equal pay of wages for the same

The laws in the Constitution do not differentiate between men and women and demands equal opportunities at work and also equal payment of wages for equal hours of work to be provided to both irrespective of gender .However, in India employers paying women less as compared to men for the same hours of work is a common DISCRIMINATORY PRACTISE. The present situation is such that, in the Indian Markets, women only work in the small scale industries and are restricted from participating in the large scale and technology based industries.


Violation of the Right to Life

The Right to life that has been explained under article 21 is also inclusive of the Right to live a life of dignity which is applicable to both sexes. The word “dignity” refers to a right of every individual to be valued and treated ethically. This dignity is also entitled to every Indian woman of the country but every time an act of eve-teasing or any other such form of sexual abuse occurs, it deprives the women of their fundamental right to live a life of dignity and move around freely as it instills an instant inferiority complex in their minds .


Violation of the Right to Property

Earlier, in the Indian households, women hardly held any inheritance or succession rights in relation to property ie they either had little or no access at all to the property. In other words, the women of the house did not have any personal property and weren’t even entitled to a share in their parent’s property. This made it obvious to state the land and property rights at the time weren’t in favour of women. Discrimination was evident where, on side of the spectrum the sons had an independent share in the ancestral property but on the other hand the daughter’s inheritance was dependent on the father’s share in the case of which, the chances of disinheritance was high if the father decided to renounce his property.

Over the years, the land and property laws have turned tables and have slowly started favoring women. Like for instance, the 2005 amendment of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 granted daughters’ equal inheritance rights and made them coparceners at par with the men of the family. In the case of Vineeta Sharma vs. Rakesh Sharma [7], the Supreme Court held that, the daughter is a coparcener by birth and whether the father died before or was alive on the date of amendment was irrelevant. This amendment of 2005, set standards for equality in rights for both men and women having considered both the genders at par [8]. In a recent case of Danamma and Ors vs. Amar and Ors [9], the Supreme Court took a landmark judgment stating that, “Daughters would have an equal share in the ancestral property that will apply irrespective of whether they were born before or after the coming of law.”

This Judgment delivered by the Supreme Court was indeed a game changer in terms of providing equality to the women of the country at par with the men, thereby seeking to perceived prejudice that they have been subjugated to for years together. This amendment in particular would benefit only those women born into families that own/ have acquired ancestral property and wouldn’t apply to self-acquired property. This means in today’s times, where most of the properties are self-acquired, they would follow different principles of succession under different succession laws. Hence, this wouldn’t really favour every woman of the country. In my personal opinion, justice cannot be provided to one category of women at the expense of the other ie either it should be provided for every woman or none.


Violation of the right to protection against family system and society


Ø Child Marriage

One of the problems that have been passed on from ages is that of child marriage that continues to be a traditional practice till date. The laws in India state that the girl child cannot be married until she has attained the age of 18 but there is a huge gulf between theory and reality. In actual reality, the girl child is perceived to be a burden to the family and is hence married off at an early age, usually due to reasons of poverty, the problem of dowry, illiteracy and other practices. In comparison to the women, the males have to endure less due to the patriarchal set-up and mostly the young girls being illiterate, aren’t even aware of their fundamental rights in order to stand for themselves.


Ø Dowry Harassment

Another traditional practice that continues till date in that of demand for dowry. In most Indian families the demand for dowry at the time of marriage of the girl child has become “The new normal”. According to the national crime data for 2017 by the NCRB, “the state of Bihar records the second highest number of dowry deaths (1081 dowry deaths in 2017) and murders after UP” [10]. Despite the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 passed that makes demanding dowry illegal, the incidents of harassment in the name of dowry continues to persist in our country.


Ø Domestic Violence

We have had some laudable pieces of legislations like the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 that have been enforced by the Indian Parliament rightly with the intention of protecting its women against hideous cases of domestic violence and also to encourage them to gear up-take control even under such situations fight for what they deserve in the true sense of it- justice but despite such laws passed, acts of domestic violence whether in the form of verbal abuse, physical abuse or any other kind of mistreatment continues till date. The reasons for this could possibly be due to health issues, demand for a male child, financial issues, demand for a male child and many other unknown reasons.


Ø Rape

Day in and day out women as a gender have been victims of rape that is recognized as a vicious crime that is said to have been committed when a man forcefully tries to have intercourse with another person against their free will, it can be said to be a form of coercion resulting from some feeling of resentment or hostility or enimity. This form of criminal act is used as a strategy to exercise power over the other to make themselves feel superior. After some shocking cases of rapes like the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape case, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 had been passed to deal with rape cases. With an increase in the number of rape cases, the Government of India is constantly modifying laws and has set up fast-track courts to deal with such crimes.

The 2013 rape case of Lillu vs. State of Haryana [11] was a landmark judgment with respect to upholding the dignity of rape victims. This was the first case that addressed the trauma of the rape victims and stated that the two-finger test that during that time was a standard of conducting forensic examination of the rape victim violated their right to privacy, physical and mental integrity and dignity and hence shouldn’t be adopted. The rape victims should have better access to medical procedures that respects their right to consent.


Ø Sexual Harassment at workplace:

Sexual Harassment at the workplace is one of the biggest problems that the women in the country have to face. In India, in both urban and rural areas, women entrepreneurs aren’t financially supported by family members to start up their own businesses and in cases where they work under an employer; they are highly discriminated in terms of remuneration given to them. Women aren’t safe at their workplace, where they are sexually harassed which at times the women have to give into, against their own will due to need for finances and many other reasons.

The landmark judgment that paved a way for protection of women at their workplace was the one given in the case of Vishaka and Ors vs. State of Rajasthan [12] in which Bhanwari Devi was gang raped by Ramakant Gujjar with five of his men as a way of seeking revenge for her attempt at trying to stop the child marriage of a 1 year old infant post which a writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court on the issue of sexual harassment on women at their workplace and also absence of protection. The judgment was of prima facie importance as it set out for the first time guidelines for the protection of women at their workplace that eventually formed the roots of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013-a game changer that was needed for the working women who have to step out of their homes to earn a living.

Well, these are only some of the issues that women face. There are many other instances like molestation, kidnapping and abduction, women trafficking in India in which the very human rights of the women of our country are at stake due to which the concept of safety of women in our country continues to remain a question mark.



LOOPHOLES IN INDIAN LAW WITH RESPECT TO HUMAN RIGHTS FOR WOMEN

Loopholes in the Indian Judicial System

An issue that is rarely addressed in the judicial system is an increase in the number of women suicides due to encounters with experiences of domestic violence in the examination cases that eventually lead to abandonment of cases.

Some of the issues that create domestic pressures on the victim are as follows:

  • Standard of proof in criminal cases in very high

  • Lac of medical evidence e.g.: like in rape cases unless the DNA evidence is collected within 72 hours in order to be analyzed by the crime lab, it is difficult for the forensic to prove that the rape.

  • Personal experiences of judiciary and corruption.

  • It takes almost 610 months to bring the case for trial.

  • Long pending cases taking upto 4-5 years for judgement.

  • Most women cases are tried out in open courts.

  • Due to prolonged trials most victims go hostile.

  • Cross examination of women victims gets more humiliating than the crime in itself.

  • Sometimes the parents of the victim get hostile in cases of dowry death cases.

  • Sometimes lawyers/judges may involve themselves in sexual abuse of the client.

  • Hence a way to deal with these issues needs to be brought up first.




CONCLUSION

Hence, from this research paper, what I can conclude is that the scene of women in India for years together has been sadistic and women have since long, always been viewed as the WEAK SEX in India-that has led to their subjugation throughout the times. Sadly, in our Indian Society, domestic violence is a reality, a truism. In our patriarchal set up, it is an acceptable practice to abuse women, but I strongly believe in the words of William Golding that go as follows,


I think women are fools to pretend that they are equal to men, they are more superior and always have been.”

Because women have since the very beginning, been the most important member for the right functioning of the family which is the base of every healthy family.

Lastly I would like to end my research paper on this note that:


When there is a light in a soul, there is beauty in person, and when beauty in a person is, there is harmony in the house,

When there is harmony in the house, there is order in the nation and when there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world.”

And this light can be ignited in a soul when we start looking at every person as one and also treat everyone the same and when this happens I’m sure the concept of “VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS” in itself wouldn’t exist.







References

[1] http://www.wbja.nic.in/wbja_adm/files/Statistics2012_1.pdf

[2] IANS, Domestic violence tops crime against women in 2018: NCRB, National Herald (Jan. 9, 2020, 10:00 PM), https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/national/domestic-violence-tops-crime-against-women-in-2018-ncrb

[3] 1995, Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women, United Nations Publication.

[4] https://censusindia.gov.in/2011-prov-results/data_files/mp/07Literacy.pdf

[5] Doel Sengupta, India ranks 148 in representation of women in government, The New Indian Express (Mar. 17, 2017, 3:23 AM), https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2017/mar/17/india-ranks-148-in-representation-of-women-in-government-1582359.html

[6] https://motherchildnutrition.org/india/resources.html#nfhs3

[7] Civil Appeal 32601/2018.

[8] V. Venkatesan, Interview | ‘The Project of Reforming the Hindu Succession Act Is Far From Over’: Dr Saumya Uma, The Wire (Aug. 17, 2020), https://thewire.in/law/hindu-succession-act-women-supreme-court

[9] (2018) 3 SCC 343.

[10] Debashish Karmakar, Bihar second in dowry deaths and murders: NCRB report, The times of India (Oct. 23, 2019, 6:57 IST) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/bihar-second-in-dowry-deaths-and-murders-ncrb-report/articleshow/71710851.cms.

[11] (2013) 14 SCC 643-B.

[12] (1997) 6 SCC 241.

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