This article on ‘Role of Indian Legal System in Protecting Gender Equality in India’ was written by an intern at Legal Upanishad.
Gender Equality is a problem that does not arise in the 21st century but it started a long time back when we not have got independence. We are very well aware of the gender equality that from the beginning where everybody is discriminating men and women. If we will look at our historic era in the late 90s where the people in society set up their minds that women are different from men and men are different from women on the basis of work, caste, religion and many more.
Men are considered to be bread earners in the family whereas, on the other hand, women are considered to be a housewife who can perform all household activities. At that time women are not allowed to do the job because it was a mindset of the people that it is the duty of the male to do the job not the duty of the women.
From this, we can say that gender equality is not a situation that occurs in the present time but it occurs from that time when India is not even free from British rule and the reality is that our people have only created this discrimination between women and men. At that time if there is any kind of violation occurred of the rights of the people the judiciary was not accountable for that because there was no law that was there to protect individual rights at that time. The enactment of the constitution has given the fundamental rights and freedom to the people to claim the same in court for any kind of injustice that happens to them.
Following history now as we are in the 21st century where we cannot say by surety that gender equality has been deleted from our nation. But the Indian Constitution which we have is given us the right to enjoy our life without any restrictions. In our Indian Constitution, there are so many provisions that deal with gender equality but the conditions are not invisible to us. Inequality has affected both men and women but women are at the back of men in many professions. Women’s access to assets held in their names is prohibited, which limits their ability to make domestic decisions and take advantage of financial possibilities.
The law must consider how disparities in social, economic, and legal rights between men and women impact how each group perceives the rule of law and the administration of justice in their everyday routines. The Indian Constitution has given the judiciary a bigger role to play in protecting the citizens of India’s basic rights. The judiciary’s role is to comprehend and evaluate the legislation, and while putting the legislation into practice, the principles of justice and equality are taken into account.
In this article, the author would be going to cover the role played by the judiciary in the matter of gender equality supporting the case laws Vishaka and Ors. V. State of Rajasthan. The author will discuss the provisions of the constitution provided to the people in the case of gender equality. Followed by this the author will discuss the initiatives taken by the government to reduce gender equality. The author will conclude the paper by giving his own suggestions with references.
PROVISIONS MENTIONED UNDER THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION WITH RESPECT TO EQUALITY
The balance of equality in India is greatly influenced by the Indian legal system. Inequality exists, and that is a fact that cannot be ignored. In addition, there are numerous legal regulations that address the problem of gender inequality.
Gender equality is a principle that the Indian Constitution upholds in its Directive Principles, Basic Responsibilities, Preamble, and Fundamental Rights. The Indian Constitution not only ensures that women have equal rights, but it also gives the Central the power to enact effective anti-inequity measures in favour of women. Many significant constitutional clauses that address the matter are:
- Article 14: It states that equal protection should be given to all citizens and ensure equality of law without any discrimination.
- Article 15(1): It prohibits the State from discriminating against anyone on the basis of their sex, ethnicity, race, nationality, caste, or any combination of these.
- Article 15(3): The State is given the authority to provide specific provisions for women and children under Article 15(3).
- Article 16: In accordance with Article 16, everyone has the same chance to be hired by the government and appointed to any post. It expressly outlaws sexism as a basis for discrimination.
- Article 39(a): requires the State to treat men and women equally in safeguarding the right to a fair standard of living.
- Article 42: requires the State to set up fair and appropriate employment terms as well as maternity aid.
- According to Article 51(A)(e) of the Constitution, it is every individual’s responsibility to abandon behaviours that are disrespectful of women’s integrity.
ROLE OF THE JUDICIARY IN COMBATING GENDER EQUALITY
When it functions impartially and promotes gender equality, the judiciary can make significant improvements in the community. In some nations where there are no statutes, a functioning judicial system has established rules and standards. For instance, there are rules and guidelines framed by the Supreme Court for sexual harassment cases and SC says that sexual harassment is prohibited by the Constitution because as of now we don’t have any statute related to sexual harassment these rules and guidelines are applicable to all the individuals in India until the legislature establishes any law regarding this matter.
The women judge of the SC has provided their experience and taken a step forward on the schemes which were proposed by the government with regard to gender equality which is considered a beneficial influence. In the process of judicial review, the judiciary assesses the constitutionality of governmental actions and laws. The judiciary also ensures that the core guidelines and provisions mentioned in the Constitution are upheld. The SC has made so many decisions with respect to gender equality.
An activist named Bhanwari Devi was gang-raped by her employers in the landmark case of Vishaka and Ors. v. the State of Rajasthan and Ors. This incitement among activists and NGOs resulted in the woman’s rights group “Vishaka,” the petitioner, deciding to file a PIL stating the need for legislation regarding sexual harassment of women in the workplace. The Supreme Court ruled that the fundamental freedoms protected by Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution can be used to promote gender equality.
In addition, the Supreme Court declared that the International Conventions must be taken into consideration because India does not have any laws against sexual harassment. In order to maintain gender equality and the safety of women at work, the Court set detailed guidelines that employers and other responsible individuals in the workplace must abide by. These directives were to be taken into consideration as legislation in accordance with Article 141 of the Constitution. The Vishakha rules were then adopted until no act of legislation had been passed by that point.
The Supreme Court of India ordered the parliament to draft a universal civil law regarding the responsibility of a Muslim husband to provide maintenance to his divorced wife who is unable to support herself after the iddat period in the case of Mohammed Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum. The court further ruled that everyone, regardless of faith, must abide by section 125 of the CrPC and that the husband is responsible for ensuring that his divorced wife may be maintained.
INITIATIVES TAKEN BY THE GOVERNMENT
So we have studies that how the judiciary has played a great role in ensuring gender equality likewise government has also initiated schemes for the enforcement of gender equality. These programs concentrate on improving conditions on a general socioeconomic level.
Kishori Sakti Yojna: The main aim of this program is to support young women between the ages of 11 to 18 and provide them with life skills, education in health and nutrition and social economic understanding, among other things.
Beti Bachao and Beti Padhao: The goal of this program is to convey the dropping child sex ratio as well as concerns related to empowering women and elevating women in the field of education.
Mahila E-Haats: It is a special direct digital advertising portal for female business owners who want to turn their ideas into profitable ventures.
There are many more laws which are passed by the government to protect the women such as the Dowry and Prohibition Act, 1961, Abolition of Sati Act, 1861, Muslim Women (Protection of Rights and Divorce) Act, 1986, etc.
After the steps taken by the judiciary and by the government there are changes which have occurred in our country but gender inequality has not been erased fully at some point of view and somewhere because gender inequality is not a thought process that arises instantly it has occurred a long time back between men and women and it is because of the thought process of the people in our country and moreover it’s their own thinking which discriminates between themselves.
Despite the directions given by the SC still, crimes against women are arising like there are rape cases, acid attack cases and many more which really need to be abolished. Society itself is responsible for discrimination so, in my opinion, it is very important that the change should be taken ourselves our thinking is the way to promote gender equality otherwise gender inequality will always be there with us.
As normal human beings, we need that all should be treated equally and that’s exactly what our constitution says. Through this paper, we have discussed the important major decision taken by the Indian legal system with the help of the landmark case law where the SC has not only framed rules and guidelines against sexual harassment but made it mandatory for all individuals to stick to that and follow those guidelines. On the other hand, the government has also provided certain schemes for the empowerment of women with respect to inequality happens to them.
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