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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Justice D.Y Chandrachud observed that, "there is no one identity for women as a group or a class. There are multiple identities within the large class of women for whom the law has entitled the conferment of rights. It is important for us to understand that there must be an intersectional approach to discrimination and violence which women”
  • He went on to say that in a recent judgement where he came across discrimination against scheduled caste women, the judge observed that when a woman's identity intersects with her caste, class, religion, disability, and sexual orientation, she may face violence and discrimination on two or more grounds. "For example, transwomen may encounter assault as a result of their unorthodox gender identification," he explained.
  • The judge was addressing at NALSA's nationwide launch of legal awareness programmes in partnership with the National Commission for Women on 'EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN THROUGH LEGAL AWARENESS.'

INTRODUCTION

The rights and privileges claimed by women and girls around the world are known as women's rights. They were the foundation for the 19th-century women's rights movement as well as the feminist movements of the 20th and 21st centuries. These rights are institutionalised or reinforced by legislation, local custom, and conduct in certain countries, but they are ignored and suppressed in others. They diverge from broader concepts of human rights. In that, they allege an underlying historical and traditional prejudice against women and girls exercising their rights in favour of males and boys.

The right to bodily integrity and autonomy, to be free from sexual violence, to vote, to hold public office, to enter into legal contracts, to have equal rights in family law, to work, to fair wages or equal pay, to have reproductive rights, to own property, and to education are all issues commonly associated with notions of women's rights.

Over the course of documented Indian history, the status of women has changed dramatically. Their social status worsened early in India's ancient period, particularly in Indo-Aryan speaking regions, and their subjugation was reinforced well into India's early modern period. Many reformers, such as Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, and Jyotirao Phule, battled for the development of women throughout the British Raj. In 1829, Governor-General William Cavendish-Bentinck abolished sati as a result of Raja Rammohan Roy's efforts. The Widow Remarriage Act of 1856 was the result of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar's struggle for bettering the plight of widows. Pandita Ramabai, for example, was a woman reformer who aided the cause of women.

Situation for women changed after Independence. Women now have equal access to education, sports, politics, the media, art and culture, the service sector, science and technology, and other fields in India. Indira Gandhi is the world's longest-serving female Prime Minister, having served as Prime Minister of India for a total of fifteen years. All Indian women are guaranteed equality (Article 14), no discrimination by the state (Article 15(1)), equality of opportunity (Article 16), equal pay for equal work (Article 39(d)), and Article 42 in the Indian Constitution. Furthermore, it permits the State to make special measures in favour of women and children (Article 15(3)), renounces behaviours that are demeaning to women's dignity (Article 51(A) (e)), and authorises the State to make rules for assuring reasonable and humane working conditions and maternity relief (Article 42).

EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN THROUGH LEGAL AWARENESS

Legal awareness is an essential to safeguard the rights of women. Education is important for girls because it gives them a chance to lead dignified lives. The National Commission for Women (NCW) and the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) launched a pan-India legal awareness campaign to educate people about their legal rights and remedies under various women's laws.

The "Empowerment of Women through Legal Awareness" programme, which began in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, aims to reach all states and Union Territories across the country through regular sessions to educate women about the various mechanisms of the justice delivery system that are available to them for redressing their grievances.

"The basis of these programmes initially has been that we are teaching teachers who will in turn be training various women in cross-sections of society and would make them aware of their legal rights," Justice UU Lalit, judge of the Supreme Court of India, stated at the program's launch.

Women and girls will be educated on their rights under numerous laws, including the Indian Penal Code, as part of this programme. The project will also educate people on how to approach and use the different channels available for grievance redress, such as the police, the executive, and the judiciary.

"It has become imperative for women to be aware of the rights conferred upon them by the Constitution, as well as the procedures for redressing the situation or seeking justice if those rights are violated," NCW Chairperson Rekha Sharma said. On 15 August 2020, the Commission began a pilot programme called "Legal Awareness Programme" in partnership with NALSA for women at the grassroots level. Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Assam were among the states included by the pilot initiative.

WHAT IS MEANT BY WOMEN EMPOWERMENT?

The process of empowering women, also known as female empowerment is known as women's empowerment. It can be described in a variety of ways, including accepting or attempting to seek out women's perspectives, and elevating women's status through education, awareness, literacy, and training. Women's empowerment equips and empowers women to make life-changing decisions in the face of societal issues. They may be able to redefine gender roles or other similar responsibilities, giving them more freedom to pursue their own goals.

Women's empowerment has become a major topic of debate in the fields of development and economics. Women's economic empowerment empowers them to have control over their resources, possessions, and income. It also improves women's well-being and their ability to manage risk. It may lead to strategies to assist trivialised genders in a specific political or social environment. While the terms are often used interchangeably, gender empowerment refers to persons of any gender, emphasising the contrast between biology and gender as a function. Women's empowerment aims to improve women's status by promoting literacy, education, training, and awareness. Women's empowerment also refers to women's ability to make strategic life decisions that were previously unavailable to them.

Women's empowerment and achieving gender equality contribute to a country's long-term growth. Many world leaders and academics have claimed that without gender equality and women's empowerment, sustainable development is impossible. Environmental protection, social and economic development, as well as women's empowerment, are all part of sustainable development. When it comes to women and development, empowerment must involve more independent choices for women. Another way to economically empower women is to improve their access to property inheritance and land rights. This would provide them with the assets, capital, and bargaining power they need to overcome gender inequities. Women in undeveloped and underdeveloped countries are frequently legally barred from their land based only on their gender. Having a claim to their land provides women with a level of bargaining leverage that they would not otherwise have; it also provides them with more options for economic independence and access to formal banking institutions.

In both the public and private realms, political empowerment advocates for measures that promote gender equality and agency for women. Affirmative action programmes with a quota for the number of women in policy making and legislative positions have been proposed as methods. Women hold 23.6 percent of lower house and single house parliament positions globally as of 2017. Women's voting rights, the capacity to express their thoughts, and the ability to run for office with a fair chance of getting elected have also been recommended. Women devote less time to entering the labour market and maintaining their businesses since they are often connected with child care and domestic chores at home. Policies that account for divorce, policies that improve women's well being, and policies that allow women authority over resources are all examples of policies that boost their negotiating power in the home (such as property rights). Participation, on the other hand, is not restricted to politics. Participation in the household, in schools, and the ability to make decisions for oneself are all examples. Some thinkers feel that domestic bargaining power and agency must be attained before moving on to broader political participation.

We must cease considering culture solely as a barrier and a hindrance to women's rights as a progressive society advocating for their emancipation. Culture is an important and vital aspect of diversity, as well as a tool for ensuring women's equality. It recognises people's right to be proud of their ideals, whether they are traditional or modern. This isn't to imply that generations of cruelty cloaked in the guise of culture should be tolerated, much less glorified. Traditions clothed in the idea of empowerment should, without a doubt, be challenged in light of feminism. According to several studies, women only have an equal probability of having their written work published in peer-reviewed journals if the reviewers are completely unaware of the author's gender. This is the product of past habitual culture, which has resulted in a paucity of female representation in literature, demonstrating why no cultural legacies can or should be embraced or fostered.

RIGHTS SPECIFIC TO WOMEN

Here are certain rights that an Indian woman has in India based on gender equality:

  • Equal pay for men and women is a legal right

When it comes to salary, pay, or earnings, one cannot be discriminated against on the basis of sex, according to the Equal Remuneration Act's rules. Working women have the right to be paid equally to working males.

  • Women have the right to be treated with respect and decency.

Any medical examination process on the accused must be performed by — or in the presence of — another woman if the accused is a woman.

  • Women have a right to be free of workplace harassment

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act allows a woman the ability to make a complaint at her workplace if she is subjected to any form of sexual harassment. A woman has three months to file a written complaint with an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at a branch office under this Act.

  • Women have a right against domestic violence

Domestic violence (including verbal, economic, emotional, and sexual) by a husband, male live-in partner, or family is prohibited under Section 498 of the Indian Constitution.

The accused will be sentenced to a term of non-bailable imprisonment of up to three years, as well as a fine.

  • Female sexual assault victims have the right to keep their identity anonymous

Victims of sexual assault against women have the right to remain anonymous. A woman who has been sexually assaulted may record her statement alone before a district magistrate when the matter is under trial, or in the presence of a female police officer, to ensure that her privacy is respected.

  • Women have the right to free legal aid

Female rape victims have the right under the Legal Services Authorities Act to get free legal aid or assistance from the Legal Services Authority, which is responsible for finding her a lawyer.

  • Women have the right not to be detained in the middle of the night

A woman cannot be arrested after sunset and before daybreak unless there is an extraordinary case on the orders of a first-class magistrate. Furthermore, the rule stipulates that a woman can only be interrogated at her home by the police in the company of a female constable and family members or friends.

  • Women have the right to file virtual grievances

Women can file virtual complaints by e-mail or write a complaint and mail it to a police station from a registered postal address, according to the law. In addition, the SHO sent a police officer to her residence to document her complaint. If a woman is unable to physically go to a police station and submit a report, this option is available.

  • Women have a right to be free from indecent representation

It is illegal to depict a woman's figure (her form or any aspect of her body) in any way that is indecent, disparaging, or likely to deprave, corrupt, or impair public decency or morals.

  • Women have the right to be free from stalking

If an offender follows a woman, tries to contact her to encourage physical engagement frequently despite a clear indication of disinterest, or monitors a woman's usage of the internet, email, or any other kind of electronic communication, he or she may face legal action under Section 354D of the IPC.

  • Women have a right to Zero FIR

The Zero FIR is a type of police report that can be submitted at any police station, regardless of where the incident occurred or what jurisdiction it falls under. The Zero FIR can then be transferred to the police station that has jurisdiction over the matter. The Supreme Court made this decision to save the victim's time and prevent a perpetrator from walking free.

CONCLUSION

"The basis of unfairness within our society often resides in a lack of understanding and resources to take advantage of the rules," Justice Ramana stated in his presidential address.

Women are frequently prevented from taking benefit of progressive policies due to a lack of information and legal awareness. As a result, coupled with regulatory improvements, broad-based awareness initiatives are required. Patriarchal ideology, prevalent custom, and conventions have historically discriminated against women. Women's standing has changed as a result of the liberalisation and revitalization of women's empowerment movements. Women have a better chance to compete with males in any sector if they have financial freedom and education.


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