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This Women’s Day, let’s take a pledge that as a woman, you will support any other woman who is in a position that you were once in.
Whether you are a lawyer, a student of law, an entrepreneur, a working Mom, a scientist, or a CA; you have all had experiences akin to those described during the #MeTooMovement, or have faced some sort of disparity because of being a woman.
It’s how we perceive the situation and then deal with it that makes us the woman we are.
Women have been empowered by various laws passed by Parliament and by various guidelines issued by the Supreme Court of India from time to time. In fact, the Constitution itself has given a special status to the women of India.
In a recent landmark judgment, the Supreme Court ruled that all women army officers are now eligible for permanent commission, allowing them to be in commanding roles.
Further, in September 2018, the Supreme Court of India ruled that all pilgrims, including women in the menstruating age group, should be allowed entrance to the Sabarimala Temple. The Constitution Bench held that any exception placed on women because of biological differences violates the Constitution and that the ban violates the right to equality under Article 14, and freedom of religion under Article 25.
Parliament has time and again passed several legislations for uplifting the status of women and for their protection. These include The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, and many more.
More importantly, we are witnessing an increasing number of policies being introduced not only to protect women, but also to empower them.
Thus, I feel it is essential to point some such provisions and rights that, when used to their full efficiency, can actually make an impact on society.
Mudra Yojna Scheme
Under the Mudra Yojana for women, aspiring female entrepreneurs can avail funds of up to Rs.10 lakh to start a small or micro-enterprise, provided it is a non-corporate or a non-farm business.
It aims to provide the necessary financial support to eligible females who want to start their own businesses. The scheme providing Pradhan Mantri loan for ladies is also meant for budding female businesspersons wanting to acquire the necessary skills for to make their business operations successful.
The Delhi Police had issued guidelines wherein 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.
The officer then directs the SHO of the police station, of the area where the incident occurred, to conduct proper verification of the complainant and lodge a FIR. The police can then come over to the residence of the victim to take her statement.
In December of 2012, when a young woman was gangraped in New Delhi, the entire country wept at the state of affairs of the country. At that point, the Justice Verma committee was set up to look at amendments to criminal laws in India.
The Committee suggested the concept of a ‘Zero FIR’ – “a document that can be registered by any police station for a cognizable offence, without bothering about whether the case is in their jurisdiction or not.”
Free legal aid
Sometimes when women go to the police station to register their complaint, they are often misled and are not able to pen down their issues. She should be aware of the fact that she has a right to get legal aid and should demand for it.
A helpline emergency number specially for women, which was instituted after 2012 Nirbhaya case.
No arrest before sunrise and after sunset
No woman can be arrested after sunset and before sunrise. In fact, recently, the Bombay High Court in case of Kavita Manikikar v. Central Bureau of Investigation, imposed a fine of Rs. 50,000 on the Central Bureau of Investigation for arresting a woman before sunrise.
Section 354D IPC
It deals with the offence of stalking. A woman can, through virtual means, register a complaint against a person who stalked her in person or through the internet, or phone.
Equal pay for equal work
According to the provisions listed under the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, one cannot be discriminated against on the basis of sex when it comes to salary, pay or wages. Working women have the right to draw an equal salary.
Obviously, this list barely scratches the surface of the initiatives in India that protect and promote women's right. We must not forget that even the Vedas have placed our gender at an exalted position.
India has been at the forefront of women’s rights - sometimes ahead of western society. Small facts that we often forget - India gave women equal voting rights even before the USA. India has had a woman President, Prime Minister and Chief Minister, while the USA is still struggling to get over the preference for pale-male-stale leaders.
It is women who decide the future of our species; we just have to realise it and support one another. You will see that you are second to none, once you know what your rights are and how they are to be implemented.
The author is an Advocate-on-Record at the Supreme Court of India and a Principal Associate at KNM & Partners.