Since forever, women have been taught and rather restricted to follow and abide certain rules and regulations that require them to dress up reasonably, stay indoors during the night, not travel alone, not work till late, not make too many male friends and many more. India might be the only country where goddesses are worshipped while women are pestered and harassed at the same time.
Although women have now become aware and empowered to walk out of home alone, take personal and professional risks, work for passion as well as for money, however, they still require support and proper execution of laws to make them stronger and safer to be able to face the world and do all that they desire for themselves.
The government, society, citizens have realized the need for gender-specific laws for women for their empowerment and betterment of the Indian society at large. But the sad fact is that most women in India are not even aware of their rights. Almost every Indian woman has witnessed situations where they have felt intimidated by men around them.
However, merely having laws don’t completely suffice when they are exploited and misused. Proper implementation and execution are more important. So, to help women know their rights and to empower them against discrimination and exploitation, here are the legal rights that every Indian woman must know.
Right to free legal aid
When a woman visits a police station without being accompanied by a lawyer, she is most of the times either misquoted or is ignored or is humiliated for her statement of facts. However, she should be aware of her right to get the legal aid and that if needed should demand the same and not be embarrassed about it as prescribed under Section- 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
For instance, according to a Delhi High Court ruling, whenever rape is reported in Delhi, the Station House Officer (SHO) has to bring the same to the notice of the Delhi Legal Services Authority. The legal body then arranges for a lawyer for the victim.
Right to privacy
Any woman who has survived rape and sexual exploitation has a right to record her statement in private, i.e. only in front of the Magistrate without being overheard by any other person/ official. Moreover, she also has the freedom to record her statement with a lady constable or a police officer in person. Under Section- 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Police is supposed to give her the privacy she demands without stressing her in front of people.
Right to virtual complaints
To empower and shield women the Delhi Police issued certain guidelines to allow them to lodge online complaints as well as Zero FIR. Hence, a woman has the privilege of lodging a complaint via email as well as through a registered post to a Senior Police Officer of the rank of Deputy Commissioner or the Commissioner of Police. The officer then directs the SHO of the concerned police station of the area where the incident took place, to carry out proper verification/ investigation of the woman (victim) and lodge an FIR. The police can then come to the residence of the victim to note down her statement.
Right to no arrest
The basic thing which needs to be followed by the police during an arrest is that no woman can be arrested before 6 A.M. and after 6 P.M., even if an arrest warrant has been issued against the woman under Section- 46 of Civil Procedure Code of India, 1973.
Right to not being called to the police station
A woman cannot be directed/ forced to come to the police station for interrogation under Section- 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code. This law provides Indian women with the right to not being physically present at the police station for questioning. The police can then interrogate the woman at her residence in the presence of a woman constable and family members or friends.
Right to equal pay
India has always been discriminatory towards the brighter, better-looking gender, i.e. the women thus, making it extremely more challenging for a woman to find a decent job with a favourable and positive work environment with equal wage rate.
Indian women have a right to equal pay. It is one of the most important rights every Indian woman has and must know. According to the provisions under Section- 4 of the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 it is the duty of an employer to pay equal remuneration to men and women workers for same work or work of a similar nature. In other words, no individual can be discriminated on the basis of gender when it comes to salary or wages.
Right against harassment at work
Out of all the important rights mentioned every Indian woman must know, right against harassment at work is the most important, especially, if she is a working woman. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 protects women against sexual harassment of women at the workplace as well as for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Right to anonymity
Indian women are ‘expected’ to maintain the status of the family, which is the sole reason why most of the women avoid filing any complaint. Therefore, right to anonymity is extremely crucial, especially for those who are victims of sexual assault/ harassment. To ensure that woman’s privacy is protected, a woman who has been sexually assaulted can record her statement anonymously before the District Magistrate when the case is under trial, or in the presence of a female police officer under Section- 228 (A) of the Indian Penal Code.
Right against domestic violence
Women in India are told to keep family issues a secret even when they are physically harmed behind closed doors. For such situations, there is a right against domestic violence. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 primarily looks to protect a wife, a female live-in partner or a woman living in a household like a mother or a sister from domestic violence at the hands of a husband, male live-in partner or relatives. The woman or anybody on her behalf can file the complaint.
Right to get maternity benefits
Maternity benefits are not merely a privilege of working woman; they are a right. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 ensures that a new mother does not suffer any loss of earnings following a period of twelve weeks after her delivery, allowing her to rejoin the workforce.
Right against female foeticide
It is a duty imposed on every citizen of India to allow a woman to experience the most basic of all rights i.e. the right to life. The Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994 ensures a woman’s/ mother’s right against female foeticide. It clearly provides for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception, and for the prevention of misuse for sex determination leading to female foeticide.
Right to equal share in the inheritance
The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 allows both women and men equal share in the inheritance, thereby setting new and positive rules and regulations to allow and empower women to get an equal share in the family property.