Women have a crucial role in Indian society. They have been revered as “Devi” since the Vedic period. They however have also been exploited in the form of unjust rituals and practices like Jauhar, Purdah, and Sati to name a few. They have gone from being worshipped as Durga the Goddess of Strength to being pitied as an Abla Nari. In terms of their protection and well-being, women have turned into perhaps the most vulnerable group nowadays. In India, a woman is raped every 16 minutes, and every 4 minutes, a woman is subjected to abuse by her in-laws1. They are not secure even in their homes, public spaces, or places of employment.
Even with such staggering statistics, the people who are to be blamed for it are also the women. Many a time politicians and others, place the responsibility for women’s safety on the women themselves by telling them to wear “decent clothes”. Also, recently as per the comments of a member of the women’s commission in UP, the increased usage of smartphones is the reason for increased crime rates against women and the mothers are to be blamed for not keeping an eye on their daughters.2 But if only wearing decent clothes and not using smartphones were the solution to the problem, then a 4-month-old infant3 and a 90-year-old woman4 would not have been subjected to such a heinous crime.
Several laws have been passed in our country by the State as well as the Central governments where women are given special protection. Laws giving equality to women in India begin at the top, in the form of Article 15(1) of the Constitution, prohibiting the state from discrimination against an individual based on religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. Furthermore, the state is allowed to establish special provisions for women under Article 15(3).
PREVAILING STATUTES IN INDIA FOR WOMEN’S SAFETY
In India besides the Constitutional Provisions, there are various laws to safeguard women which can be segregated into 2 categories – a) Women Specific Legislation and b) Women related legislation
- Some of the Women Specific legislations are –
- Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
- The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act,2005
- The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act,1956
- The Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act,1986
- Muslim Women (Protection of rights on divorce) Act,1986
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act,2013
- Some of the women related legislation are –
- Indian Penal Code,1860 (section 498A, 304B, 376)
- The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Section 125 -128)
EFFECTS OF THE PREVAILING LAWS
- Dowry Harassment and Bride Burning – The pressure for dowry followed by the bride’s death because of bride burning or suicide has become a fairly common occurrence for failing to provide an acceptable dowry. Despite, the passage of the Dowry Prohibition Act, the cases remain on the rise. According to a report, every hour one life is lost because of this menace.5
The Crime in India – 2015, report by NCRB shows that more than 7,000 dowry deaths are reported every year since 2011, which shows the ineffectiveness of the law.6
Reported Cases of Dowry Death
- Domestic Violence – Assaulting and battery by intoxicated husbands are those examples of domestic violence which go unnoticed. The main cause of which is the man forcing his wife to give her the money which she earned after her hard work and labour to support his drinking habits. Also, extramarital affairs and interference by in-laws are reasons for domestic violence against women. But only a few of these cases are reported because of the societal pressure since the wife feels embarrassed and ashamed of talking about it.
It is a shame that the women feel reluctant to approach the police or the court because of a lack of alternative assistance. As it can be inferred from the Crime in India – 2015, report by NCRB7, the cases of domestic violence have risen over the years and at present with the ongoing situation of lockdown due to covid, more women are forced to stay at home with their abusive husbands and relatives.8
Reported Cruelty by husband or relative
- Rape – Rape is a common occurrence, especially it is the young girls who are the main victim in India. According to the NCRB report, a girl is raped every 16 minutes and gang-raped every 30 hours in India. Many times, due to the family’s status and the difficulty of police processes, the family is hesitant to pursue legal action.9 This is a harrowing statistic and the sad reality of today’s world and even after the enactment of stringent laws punishing the perpetrators, the cases don’t see a considerable decline.
According to a report, there is a possibility that the instances of rape might have increased during the pandemic.10 Every year more than 30,000 cases of rape are reported in India since 2013, according to the Crime in India – 2015, report by NCRB.11
Reported Rape Cases
HOW TO PUT A STOP TO THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
The following steps could be taken to safeguard women and prevent violence against them –
- Patriarchy – Patriarchy has been cited as one of the main causes of violence against women. Our society is dominated by male. So, we have to work towards changing the mindset of society and how they perceive a woman.
- Change in the socioeconomic status of women – Women in our country have a poorer socioeconomic status as compared to their male counterparts. In most cases, women who are housewives face violence at the hands of their spouses. Hence, there is a need to change the socioeconomic status of women to prevent crimes against them.
- Custom Of Dowry – The custom of dowry is still prevalent in the Indian culture and it leads to dowry deaths. Therefore, stricter laws should be enforced with stern punishments.
- Legal Awareness – There is a lack of legal awareness among women about their rights. Hence, the Government should take appropriate measures to educate the women about their rights and remedies.
- Enforceability of existing laws – The existing laws should be enforced properly by the administration and police.
In India, there are many laws for the protection of women but there is a lack of enforceability of those laws. Furthermore, there is a large pendency of cases and the conviction rates are extremely low.12 Because of illiteracy and restrictive traditions, most of the women suffer quietly throughout their lives. A girl has to fight from the moment she is conceived for her survival against female foeticide. Hence, better and stricter laws should be made and properly implemented to protect 48 per cent of the population.
Author(s) Name: Subhankori Banerji (Student, Bennett University, Greater Noida)