August 26 is celebrated every year as Women’s Equality Day in the US. It was first observed in 1971 to commemorate the event of the 1920 adoption of the 19th Amendment to the US constitution which granted American women the constitutional right to vote. Women’s Equality Day is an attempt to eradicate gender discrimination and ensure equal opportunities for women in every walks of life. For a society to evolve, it is imperative that women are protected by laws, and are aware of their rights.
“Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all”- Hilary Clinton was quoted saying this during the Fourth World Conference, 1995.
On International Women’s Equality Day, let’s take a look at 5 crucial constitutional rights that protect women in India:
Right against domestic violence
According to Section 498 of the Indian Constitution, women (be it wife, mother, sister, female live-in partner) have the right to be protected against domestic violence (verbal, financial, emotional, sexual) meted out by men within. Such domestic violence is treated as a punishable offence with a non-bailable imprisonment for a term (may be upto 3 years with a fine).
Right to zero FIR
Women have the legal right to file an FIR at any police station regardless of the location in which the incident occurred. This decision by the Supreme Court was crucial as it protected the victim from wasting time in searching for the right police station and in the process losing time, while the offender gets time to flee. The FIR can be shifted to the police station (that is under the specific jurisdiction) later on.
Right against workplace sexual harassment
As per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, a woman can submit a written complaint to an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) if she experiences any sort of sexual harassment at her workplace.
Right to equal pay
This is one of the constitutional rights that guarantees women protection against inequality in pay scale. As per the provisions mentioned under Equal Remuneration Act, women must not be discriminated on the basis of sex, pertaining to salary.
Right against being stalked
If someone disturbs a woman by following her everywhere, or stalking or monitoring her online, or trying to forcefully interact with her despite being clearly told not to do so (shown absolute disinterest by the woman); as per Section 354D of the IPC, legal action will be taken against the stalker.