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Dear Indian woman, get familia..

"To be liberated, a woman must feel free to be herself, not in rivalry to man but in context of her own capacity and her personality "

– Indira Gandhi

India has travelled a long way in pursuit of women’s rights in society. When we look back at the history of feminism in India since the 19th-century, women have played a predominant role in establishing and defending equal political, social and economic rights against all odds. Despite the progress made by Indian feminist movements, women in modern society still face much discrimination. The status of the modern woman saw a humungous transformation over the past few decades. They are well-educated, independent and strong. Sadly, the majority of women in India continue to face atrocities like rape, dowry killing, forced prostitution, female infanticide, gender-selective abortion, domestic violence and many more.

Crime against women is increasing day by day and minute by minute. Safety of a woman seems to be in jeopardy uncontrollably. Women are not safe no matter wherever it may be either in their houses or in public places or even at the workplace. Every day newspapers and social media carry stories of women and girl child being exploited irrespective of their age, background or education. Why do you think the problem still continues in spite of various laws in the amendment? One, there is a general denial that the problem exists and another, the fact that girls and women are unaware of their rights.

Knowledge is power. As a parent, wife, mother, daughter, employee it is important to be aware of the rights that are set in place to protect a woman. The judicial system of the country has created several laws in favor of women not just to empower them but also to protect them. Women rights in India can be classified into constitutional rights and legal rights under the grounds of gender equality. The constitutional rights are fundamental rights that provide protection to a woman like the right of women against exploitation, right to freedom of women and political representation. On the other hand legal rights sometimes also called moral rights refers to the rights according to the rules of legislation based on society’s custom, laws, statutes or actions by legislatures.

Let’s quickly look at the important legal rights every woman should be aware off

Sexual exploitation and Rape

  1. Sexual harassment of women at workplace act.2013- According to the legislation, various forms of sexual harassment such as passing lewd comments, making sexual advancements in spite of refusal, sharing and capturing pictures of a woman without consent at the workplace is criminalised under the Indian penal code
  2. IPC Sec 67 of Information technology act – protects women against crime committed by sexual predators online.
  3. Indecent representation of women (prohibition) act, 1986- any indecent representation of women is banned by this act.
  4. IPC sec 375 and 376 (2) criminalise rape that spells 7 years and 10 years imprisonment as a punishment. Unfortunately, marital rape has not yet been criminalised bringing disappointment to the much-awaited recommendations made by the 172nd law commission report for a substantial change in law with regards to rape

The next set of 9 important rights will educate what to do when reporting sexual assault and the rights that are available while approaching the police.

  1. Under the criminal procedure code, a woman cannot be called for interrogation to the police station. The police can interrogate a woman in the presence of a woman constable and family members.
  2. According to the Supreme Court rule, a woman cannot be arrested after sunset or before sunrise unless special permission is granted by the magistrate.
  3. A zero FIR can be lodged at any police station irrespective of the place of the incident or the correct jurisdiction. The concept of Zero FIR means under the legal obligation the station officer should lodge your FIR.
  4. In the case of rape/molestation, the police cannot refuse to register an FIR even if the considerable amount of time lapses.
  5. When reporting an incident of rape it is the duty of the police to keep up to the women’s right to privacy while recording the statement in the presence of woman constable under section 164 of the criminal procedure code.
  6. In cases of rape women are entitled to free legal aid. Meaning if a rape case is reported the station officer brings to the notice of states legal service authority who then arranges a lawyer for the victim. If unaccompanied there are risks of FIR statements misquoted. The police may also treat the situation light and not lodge an FIR.
  7. A rape survivor can approach the medical practitioner even without filing an FIR. It is now mandatory of the doctor to provide first aid before informing the police.
  8. A written complaint about the incidence of harassment can be lodged through e-mail.
  9. A doctor cannot conclude whether the rape has occurred or not. The only statement that can be made by a medical officer is evidence of recent sexual activity.

Marriage and Family

  1. Prohibition of child marriage act, 2006 – Marriage of children either boy or a girl below the age of 18 years of age is prohibited by this law
  2. Medical termination of pregnancy act 1971 – this act prevents termination of gender abortion in India. Right now it is not even easy to get an abortion in cases of rape. But this act is soon to be amended.
  3. The protection of women from domestic violence act - Domestic violence in the form of physical violence, emotional abuse, sexual assault, honor killing, dowry-related abuse and death is considered as a criminal offence according to IPC Section 498A. Certain provisions of the Indian evidence act and Criminal procedure code deals with this act.
  4. Dowry prohibition act, 1961- A separate law to battle this social evil is set to protect women from facing harassment from their in-laws. The offender faces both the section of punishment.

There are many organizations that voice for the issues and concerns representing women rights like National Commission for women, One stop crisis centre, Nirbhaya centre, National Association of rural women India etc., There are a lot of NGOs that work for the upliftment and protection of women. It’s always better to be aware of women rights not just to protect oneself against this cruel society but also to empower other women to know of their rights.