Update Yourself On These Legal Rights For Women That Every Woman Must Know

People in India are NOT aware about legal rights for women, essential in a society that is patriarchal, and violence against women is almost normalized.

Arjun and Meera had been married for three miserable years when he realized a self-respecting, independent Meera was too much for his privileged, spoilt brat, business scion existence. The initial veil of college romance had already worn off the day after the wedding. One slap across the cheek became two and then it didn’t take long for the merciless beatings to become a common occurrence. One afternoon, his anger at her insolence was the fuel, her shameless audacity the catalyst, a steel tray his weapon, an inebriated Arjun gave vent to his frustrations and hatred.

The above fictional scene from Radhika Tabrez’s book In the Light of Darkness, is a nightmarish reality for a surprisingly large number of real-life Meeras.

Educate and empower yourselves about the legal rights for women.

Right to Maternity Benefits

Legal rights for mothers – single or married –  around maternity benefits have recently been amended.

As per the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, women are entitled to full paid leaves from work.

An amendment introduced in 2016 increased the duration of this leave to 26 weeks (earlier was 12 weeks).

Furthermore, this rule is applicable only to organizations with more than 10 employees.

Right to Streedhan

Streedhan (not Dowry) is voluntary gifts given to a woman (for her sole ownership), during her lifetime, by her parents, siblings, relatives or in-laws.

Includes moveable as well as immoveable property.

In November 2015, the Supreme Court passed judgements that stated the woman’s right of ownership over streedhan, even if the couple were separated (not divorced).

Misuse and/or refusal to hand over streedhan constitutes to ‘criminal breach of trust’ and is a criminal act as per the Domestic Violence Act.

Streedhan from family and relatives is non-taxable under Income Tax Act.

Legal Rights for Women Regarding FIRs

Zero FIR – ‘First Information Report’ of an incident filed at any police station, irrespective of the jurisdiction the incident occurred in.

Women cannot be arrested between sunset and sunrise. An arrested woman can be granted bail on weekends and hearings be conducted at a judge’s residence.

To lodge a complaint, a woman need not visit the police station; she can email or registered post to Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner of Police. Further proceedings are conducted by SHO.

A woman can refuse to go to police station for interrogation. Section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code states that a woman can refuse to being physically present at the police station for interrogation. The interrogation can be conducted at her residence in presence of woman constable and trusted witnesses.

Legal Rights regarding Sexual Crimes

95% of sex-offenders were familiar with the survivors/victims…
… and while rape by strangers is very less these are highly violent in nature!

A doctor cannot dismiss rape and a doctor’s statement is not the final word of evidence. The only proof is the medical report stating whether evidence of sexual activity has been detected (or not). Judgement on incidence of rape cannot be made by a doctor. Additionally, the doctor cannot refuse to conduct a medical examination and treatment without an FIR. As per guidelines laid down in Forensic Medical Care For Victims Of Sexual Assault, the doctor should advise the victim/survivor of the medical procedures and seek her written permission.

Police cannot refuse to file a complaint or FIR in case there is time lag between the time of the sexual violence and reporting.

The Supreme Court has directed all organizations to set up a committee for grievance and redressal of sexual violence complaints. Some of the guidelines laid down for the constitution of these committees are –

  • Should be headed by a woman
  • Should have 50% women members.
  • One of the members should be from a women’s welfare group.

The Sexual Harassment Act, 2013 protects women from sexual harassment. This rule is applicable in public and private sector (organized or unorganized). The act stipulates inappropriate behavior as sexual harassment if it is:

  • ‘quid pro quo’ (meaning preferential treatment offered or given in exchange for sexual favours) and
  • ‘creating a hostile work environment’ (by creating an intimidating, soliciting or coercing sexual favours and rewarding punishment in the event of refusal).

Maitri – a Delhi-based NGO spreading awareness, changing perceptions, and advocating legal rights for women and gender equality. They regularly conduct workshops and trainings, counselling sessions and consultations for sexual and domestic abuse survivors.

Marital Rape is still not a crime in India but women subjected to marital rape have an alternative recourse available under the Domestic Violence Act of 2005. This act should be enforced as a substitute for Marital Rape as it covers physical as well as sexual violence.

Parivartan, initiated by Delhi Police, conducts workshops in schools and colleges to spread awareness about the legal rights for women and laws against rape, domestic violence, and gender based discrimination and violence.

Right to Free Legal Advice

The Constitution of India has given every citizen fundamental rights. One of these fundamental and legal rights for women is the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 that states a woman (or a child) is entitled to free legal aid and services. During the conduct of legal proceedings in any court, tribunal or authority the woman (or child) is entitled to all fees, charges and payments for provision of legal services, documentation, and other legal proceedings are waived.

Rita, a child bride, was pushed into prostitution after her husband’s death. But when a similar fate was awaiting her daughter, she fought, and with the support of Apne Aap activists secured a life of dignity and freedom. Apne Aap Women Worldwide is working towards the empowerment and education of sex workers and end sex-trafficking. They have presence in Delhi, Kolkatta, and Bihar.

Right to Medical Termination of Pregnancy

This covers undesirable pregnancies resulting from rape, failure of contraceptive measures or pregnancies that threaten the mother or child’s health.

Termination of a pregnancy is legally permissible if –

Right to Maintenance

As per the Indian legislation system, legal rights for women of all religions protect them in the event of dissolution of marriage and divorce.

The Hindu Marriage Act of 1951, Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936, The Indian Christian Marriage Act of 1872, as well as The Muslim Women Act of 1986 are part of the Indian legal system and are quite specific in stating and laying down laws and legal rights that are in accordance of the customs and practices and religious texts of these religions.

Among these, The Muslim Women Act is detrimental and discriminatory as it denies Muslim women their right to alimony after the completion of 90 days from the divorce (iddat). However, in later judgements this regulation was overturned and nullified. Furthermore, in later amendments the earlier limit of Rs. 500/- as monthly payment were revoked. The Courts have been quite particular and deliberate in interpreting the terms within the Act loosely in favour of women to provide fair and just provisions for the divorced women.

Additionally, these acts also state various possible scenarios (live-in relationship, fraudulent marriages, etc) where a woman in illegal matrimony is lawfully entitled to maintenance.

Haiyya, founded by Aprajita Pandey, works towards promoting sexual health and thus, creating a safe space for women. They use a combination of campaigns, coaching, and consulting programs to spread awareness, increase participation, and provide support.

NoteAbove laws aren’t applicable to State of Jammu and Kashmir which has its own laws.

DisclaimerAbove information regarding rights and laws for women is indicative and by no means is legal advice in its entirety.

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Piyusha is a sometime sane reader, part-time crazy writer and full-time wacky alien.

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  1. Thank you so much for this piece if information

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