In Focus

During independence, women fought for equal rights

By Manu Shrivastava

When India was fighting for Independence, women from all walks of life and across the country came out of their homes and joined the freedom struggle. Post independence, the founding fathers of the nation who were drafting the Indian Constitution included provisions to ensure rights of women are protected and women are empowered so they can live and work as equal citizens with the men.

In time, several laws were enacted by the legislature and policies framed by the executive to protect women, improve their quality of life, ensure they are given equal opportunities for education and employment.

Image for representational purpose only
However, despite provisions in the Indian constitution and myriad laws to protect and empower women, the status of women in the Indian society and among society has still to go a long way before achieving equal status as men.

Law is effective only when it is implemented with the same intention it was made for. In most cases, it is perception in society and practice that obstruct delivery of justice and fair implementation of the law. Members of the bureaucracy, polity, law enforcement and the judiciary are part of the very society that discriminates against women. So, when they come in a position where they have to administer law or deliver justice, their personal prejudice often comes in the way that leads to the women being denied their rights.

So, in order to uplift women and ensure desired implementation of the law and give justice swiftly to uphold the rights granted to women by the constitution, it is imperative to change perception and the resulting practices.

India is one of the few nations in the world with that many laws specifically for women - The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, The Dowry Prohibition Act, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, Special Marriage Act, Maternity Benefit Act, Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, etc. There are, however, glaring gaps that prevent women from asserting their rights owing to societal perception and practices.

In 2018, the #MeToo movement came to India when Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta made allegations of sexual harassment at her workplace, a film set. The movement millions of stories of women from the ‘educated’ middle-class and upper-middle class shook the nation that was left aghast with the extent of exploitation in certain industries. The merits of these allegations can be debated separately but what was important was the fact that so many women could not and did not address the offence of ‘sexual harassment’ despite there being a law in place due to shame and perception where a woman is ‘judged’ for coming out in the open with such allegations.