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The legal system of India provides few legal rights which are exclusive to the women in the country. Here are 7 such laws you must be aware of.
‘’You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women”
– Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru.
The Indian society is a labyrinth of cultures, customs, traditions and complexities. Perhaps the most amazing puzzle in India, even today, is the way we treat our women. We have made woman the custodian of family and community honour; she is seen as the guardians our heritage and traditions; she is the harbinger of life and idolised as symbols of prosperity, knowledge, and strength. Ironically, it is the same woman who has been the subject of patriarchal discrimination, domination and violence in India for ages.
To mitigate the maimed condition of women in Indian society, we have seen several attempts to empower her, being designed and implemented over decades. One of the most significant ways of empowering women has been to give, and strengthen, her constitutional and fundamental rights through legislation. Laws and rules definitely help to keep a check on the horrendous acts of crime committed against women; but a closer assessment of women’s condition in the country will reveal that decades of legislation has not been able to effectively alter the status of women’s empowerment on ground. Having laws in not sufficient, unless the ones for whom they are made are aware of these laws and know how to use them effectively. Here in lies the problem of legal empowerment of women. Most women in India are unaware of their legal rights. This lack of awareness makes women easy victims of violation of fundamental and legal rights.
Given the times that we are living in, here is a brief overview of some important legal rights and recommendations for women that everyone must be aware of.
Often when a woman goes to the police station unaided by a lawyer to get her statement recorded, she runs the risk of being misquoted, ignored, humiliated and denied permission to register her complaint. She should be aware of the fact that she has a right to get the legal aid and that she should demand for it. According to a Delhi High Court ruling, whenever a rape is reported, the senior house officer has to bring this to the notice of the Delhi Legal Services Authority. The legal body then arranges for a lawyer for the victim.
Under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, a woman who has been raped can record her statement before the district magistrate when the case is under trial, and no one else needs to be present. Alternatively, she can record the statement with only one police officer and woman constable in a convenient place that is not crowded and does not provide any possibility of the statement being overheard by a fourth person. The cops have to, by law, upkeep the woman’s right to privacy. It’s important for the person to feel comfortable and not be under any kind of stress while narrating the incident.
The police cannot refuse to register an FIR even if a considerable period of time has elapsed since the incident of rape or molestation took place. There are many reasons as to why a woman would postpone going to the police to lodge a complaint.Rape is a horrifying incident for any woman, so it’s natural for her to go into shock and not want to report it immediately. She may also fear for her safety and the reputation and dignity of her family. Taking these into consideration the Supreme Court has ruled that a woman can report a case of sexual crime against her even after considerable time has passed between the actual occurrence of the event and the time of registering the complaint.
There have been several instances of women being harassed by policemen in the wee hours. But the Supreme Court clearly rules against this, stating that women arrested after sunset and before sunrise.Women have the right of being present in the police station only during the daytime. Even if there is a woman constable accompanying the officers, the police can’t arrest a woman at night. In case the woman has committed a serious crime, the police have to get it in writing from the magistrate explaining why the arrest is necessary during the night. Also, Women cannot be called to the police station for interrogation under Section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code. This law provides Indian women the right of not being physically present at the police station for interrogation.
According to the guidelines issued by the Delhi Police, a woman has the privilege of lodging a complaint via email or registered post. If, for some reason, a woman can’t go to the police station, she can send a written complaint through an email or registered post addressed to a senior police officer of the level of Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner of Police.Additionally, a rape victim can register her police complaint from any police station under the Zero FIR ruling by Supreme Court. No police station can deny registering the FIR on the pretext that it doesn’t come under their area.
Under no circumstances can the identity of a rape victim be revealed. Neither the police nor media can make known the name of the victim in public. Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code makes the disclosure of a victim’s identity a punishable offense. Printing or publishing the name or any matter which may make known the identity of a woman against whom an offense has been committed is punishable.
With more women participating actively in the public sphere, this is one of the most relevant laws to be aware of. It is the duty of every employer to create a Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee within the organization for complaints. According to a guideline issued by the Supreme Court, it is mandatory for all firms, public and private, to set up these committees to resolve matters of sexual harassment. It is also necessary that the committee be headed by a woman and comprise of 50% women, as members. Also, one of the members should be from a women’s welfare group.
Apart from these existing legal rights, there are some important recommendations, which have come up in the recent years, aimed to strengthen the legal entitlements of women:
Cover image via Shutterstock
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