This article on ‘Rights of a Married Woman in India: All You Need to Know‘ was written by Rishi Paleja an intern at Legal Upanishad.
We all deserve to be treated equally without any discrimination. It is our constitutional right. Women have been treated with the maximum possible discrimination throughout history. Only a few decades ago, they were not allowed to vote, not allowed to freely express their opinion, not allowed to work. It was believed that women’s place was at home taking care of children and doing house chores. Of course, India is not immune to this discrimination. For centuries, women in India have faced extreme discrimination. They were made to stay at home, girls were not sent to school, and they faced violence at home. This article will take a look at the legal rights of a married woman in India.
Legal rights of a married woman in India
Marriage has been defined as a union between a man and a woman which is recognized by the law and by which they become husband and wife. It is also a social union between the two and their families and it also brings certain rights and duties which both need to follow.
1- Right to Streedhan
‘Streedhan’ is a gift in the form of property that a woman receives at the time of her marriage. This is not the same as dowry because this is a voluntary gift that can be before or after the marriage. The Courts have held that the woman has the complete right over their Streedhan even if the custody is with the husband or the in-laws.
2- Right to residence
The courts have also held that a woman has the right to live or reside in the same household as her husband, it doesn’t matter if the house is an ancestral homeland, a joint family or even a house that is a rental. She cannot be denied the right to live with her husband.
3- Right to a committed relationship
A woman also has the right to a faithful partner. A Hindu male cannot have an affair with another girl or marry another girl while he is married. If the husband is engaged in an extramarital affair then he can be charged with adultery under section 497 of the IPC. Subsequently, the wife can file for divorce on the same grounds.
4- Right to maintenance
If a Hindu wife has sought divorce from her husband on any grounds like cruelty, desertion, extramarital affair, or if he has any kind of venereal disease, she can claim maintenance from the husband under section 18 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. She can also claim permanent maintenance and alimony under section 25 of the same Act. The wife can file a petition in any court that has jurisdiction under this Act.
The wife can also seek the maintenance of their minor child if she is incapable of earning herself.
5- Right against domestic violence
Under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005, every woman is entitled to rights against Domestic Violence. The term Domestic violence includes physical, emotional, sexual, and economic abuse. In the case of domestic violence, the police are bound to register an FIR. Women are also protected under Section 498A. If they are a subject of domestic violence, the husband or anyone involved can be imprisoned for a period of up to 3 years.
Laws protecting the rights of a married woman in India
1- The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
Dowry is the exchange of goods, cash, or property demanded from the bride’s family in exchange for money. Dowry is a cruel system because the groom’s family generally makes demands which are out of the financial capacity of the bride’s family. The family is burdened by the demands and sometimes even goes into debt to fulfill these demands.
This is the reason the Parliament enacted the Dowry Prohibition Act. Section 3 of The Act states the punishment which is a minimum of 5 years of imprisonment and/or a fine of more than Rs. 15000, or the amount of the dowry, whichever is higher. This penalty is not applicable if the presents were made willfully by the bride’s parents.
3- The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987
Sati is a barbaric system in which a widow sits on the top of the funeral pyre of her dead husband, thereby sacrificing herself. Because “she has nothing to live for after the death of her husband”.
This Act was first enacted by the Government of Rajasthan. It later became an Act of Parliament of India. This Act sought to abolish the Sati system and prohibit its glorification.
4- The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
Women are subject to widespread domestic violence in India. Bhartiben Bipinbhai Tamboli v. the State of Gujarat the four types of abuses mentioned are physical, sexual, emotional, and economic. In the case, the court said that domestic violence in India is rampant. It doesn’t matter if the woman is a wife, daughter, mother, or sister, many women face domestic violence in India in several forms. Despite this, it is the least reported form of cruelty mostly because of the “social shame” attached to the word.
Until 2005, the protection available was quite limited. The only remedy available was either initiating a divorce proceeding or going to the criminal court for the offense of Section 498A of the IPC. Further, extramarital affairs were not under the scope of this Act. For these reasons The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was enacted to provide a wide range of protection to women.
Women have been mistreated for almost the entire history of mankind worldwide, especially in India. Although The Government has enacted multiple legislations to protect the rights of married women in India and the rights of women in general, domestic abuse still largely exists mainly because of “what will the society think”. There is an urgent need to stop thinking about what people will think of us and start thinking about ourselves and our mental and physical health.
- Legal Rights of a married woman in India, https://www.nrilegalservices.com/legal-rights-of-wife/#:~:text=Right%20to%20live%20with%20dignity,provide%20for%20their%20minor%20child. Accessed 26 July, 2022
- Yukta Joshi, Eight most important rights every Indian woman should know about, https://blog.ipleaders.in/eight-important-rights-every-indian-woman-know/#Right_against_domestic_violence accessed 26 July, 2022
- Srishti Kaushal, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, https://blog.ipleaders.in/protection-of-women-from-domestic-violence-act/#Types_of_Abuse_covered_by_the_Act accessed 26 July, 2022