Thursday, November 25, 2010

Know the Law - Indian Constitution and Women

The constitution is the basic document guaranteeing our rights, duties and declares the principles governing the operations of the organs of the Government. The Indian constitution guarantees political, economic and social rights to its citizens, special provisions are also made n the constitution for women and children.

Article 14 guarantees right to equality and Article 15 provides that there will be no discrimination on the grounds of sex. Article 16 provides equal opportunities for all and prohibits discrimination against women.

Article 15 :

Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth

(1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them

(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to

(a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and palaces of public entertainment; or

(b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public

(3) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children

(4) Nothing in this article or in clause ( 2 ) of Article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes

Justice Krishna Iyer stroke down the arguments put forth in favour of women employees compulsory retiring in case of marriage in the case of Air India Vs Nargis Dutta. Article 15 was used to prove that discrimination against women on the basis of sex. Another landmark judgement which paved the way for gender equality was the case of Gita Hariharan Vs Reserve Bank of India. For the first time the court recognized that the mother can be the natural guardian of a minor.

Article 21 guarantees right to life and liberty. An LIC questionnaire which sought to know about the menstrual cycle of women candidates was consideres a violation of Article 21 in the case of Neera Mathur Vs LIC. The unforgettable Vishaka Vs State of Rajasthan reiterated the need for laws on sexual harassment and right to work with dignity as recognized by the Indian Constitution.

Right against exploitation is recognized under Article 23 of the Indian Constitution. The Article prohibits trafficking.

The Directive Principles of State Policy also can be used to reiterate our rights but unfortunately these rights as guaranteed by the directive principles are not enforceable. Article 39 guarantees equal pay for equal work for men and women.

Article 39

Certain principles of policy to be followed by the State: The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing

(a) that the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means to livelihood;

(b) that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good;

(c) that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment;

(d) that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women;

(e) that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength;

(f) that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment

Women’s representation in local bodies is guaranteed by the 73rd and the 74th amendments. Thus the Indian Constitution offers adequate rights to women, its implementation is however the question lingering on all minds.

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