Navaratri, a nine-day Hindu festival is a celebration of women’s power. Nine avatars of goddess Durga are worshipped in nine days of Navratri. Vijayadashami or dussehra, the tenth day, celebrates the victory of goddess durga against demon mahishasura. Durga is the symbol of women’s power. Dussehra fell on 8th October this year, as the celebrations of Navratri wrapped I felt disgusted that we live in a world where goddesses are worshipped and women are harassed, abused, oppressed, raped and kidnapped every day. India was ranked as the world’s most dangerous nation by Thomas Reuters Foundation- the philanthropic arm of Reuters media company in a report released in June 2018. Lack of access to justice in rape cases, child marriage, female foeticide, and human trafficking was cited as the main reason behind the ranking given to India. Though the report ignited a debate on social media, it pointed towards the crimes that are widely prevalent against women in India. Every day newspapers are full of incidences of crimes against women and of delayed or no justice at all in such cases. One of the main reasons behind the crimes not being reported or policemen harassing female victims is that women aren’t aware of the rights and laws provided by the constitution of India.
The Indian Constitution has embodied within itself grounds for gender equality. The Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles of State Policy together work towards shaping policies and putting safeguards not just for women empowerment in India but also for protection. Women should be well aware of these laws and rights. Apart from the constitutional safeguards under Fundamental Rights, there are rights further guaranteed to women under the law.
- The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. Dowry is one of the main reasons behind the crimes against women by husband and in-laws. Dowry is criminalized by this act. Females and their families can register complaints and demand justice against dowry-related crimes under this act.
- The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. According to the provisions of this act, one cannot be discriminated against on the basis of sex when it comes to paying or salary. Working women have the right to draw an equal salary as men.
- The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. The female victim of domestic violence or anybody on her behalf can file a complaint against domestic violence under this act. The act provides protection to a wife, a female live-in partner or a woman living in a household like a mother, sister or any other relative from domestic violence at the hands of a husband, male live-in partner or relatives.
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. The child has been defined as a male under the age of 21 and a female under the age of 18 years by this act. Child marriage is a punishable offense under this act.
- The Sexual harassment of women at workplace Act, 2013. A complaint can be filed against sexual harassment at the workplace under this act. Under this act, she can submit a written complaint to an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at a branch office within a period of 3 months. The complaint can also be filed by legal heirs of females on her behalf.
- Right to anonymity for sexual assault victims. Victims of sexual assault have a right to anonymity. To ensure that her privacy is protected, a woman who has been sexually abused may record her statement alone before the district magistrate, or in the presence of a female police officer.
- Right to get free legal aid. Under the Legal Services Authorities Act, all-female rape victims have the right to get free legal aid.
- The provision of zero FIR. An FIR can be lodged at any police station by female victims irrespective of the location of the crime or specific jurisdiction it comes under. The FIR can be later moved to the police station under whose jurisdiction the case falls.
- The right to register a complaint virtually. In case a woman is not in a position to physically go to a police station to file a complaint, under this law of women rights in India, she can file complaints virtually via e-mail or send in writing from a valid postal address.