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Indian Constitution and Principles of Gender Equality

Introduction

What comes to mind when we hear the phrase “gender equality” in our modern minds? a similar strategy for treating men and women? Simply put, it suggests a situation in which everyone is treated equally, regardless of their gender. Gender equality refers to giving everyone access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender; it also refers to valuing the rights of both men and women. This concept was adopted as one of the sustainable development goals in 2015 as part of an international effort to end gender disparities on all continents.[1] Subject to some exceptions, the Constitution of India has granted certain rights to every individual to safeguard their interests in society and to protect them against atrocities caused by gender disparities. Among these are the fundamental rights, which are equally granted to every individual to protect them from gender-based discrimination that arises due to the ills of society, the right to equality. While the rest of the world progresses and makes strides toward achieving gender equality, gender-based discrimination still exists in Indian culture, particularly when it comes to women and girls who still experience injustice and brutality. According to the 2011 census data, India has among the highest rates of birth discrimination based on sex.[2] As a result, the national government launched the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao initiative to provide female children with security and education.

Constitutional Provisions on Gender Equality

In addition to guaranteeing equal rights for men and women, the Indian Constitution contains several provisions related to gender equality in the form of its directive principles, fundamental rights, fundamental duties, and the preamble. These provisions allow the government to take the necessary steps to advance these rights. Some of the constitutional provisions that the Indian Constitution contains for addressing gender inequality are as follows: “Equality before the law” means that every person will be guaranteed equal rights regardless of birth ethnicity race, and “equal protection of the law” refers to unbiased protection of laws for every person within the territory of India. Article 14 of the Constitution authorizes the state to not deny any person or citizen of the country equality before the law and equal protection of laws within the sovereign territory of India, as held in Bandhu Mukti Morcha case.[3] Further, Article 15 prohibits states from discriminating against any Indian citizen based on their sex, creed, religion, or place of birth as held in the Sabrimala Case.[4] It also stipulates that the state authority must make certain provisions for the benefit of women in every field for their social and educational welfare as well as for socially disadvantaged classes like scheduled tribes and scheduled castes.

Gender Disparities in an Indian Society

Gender inequalities continue to be a hindrance to society’s progress and have long been a source of significant worry. When the Indian population is looked at as a whole, it can be ruled out that women are the most affected, even though the Indian constitution guarantees equal rights to both men and women, gender disparities still exist. In India, gender differences are seen as a multifaceted issue in which the ultimate concern is said to be women. However, some segments of society also argue that men are more affected by gender differences. Women’s experiences with gender inequality are a pervasive social ill that exists at every level of Indian society. India has dropped 28 positions, placing it at 140th out of 156 nations, making it the third-worst performer in South Asia, according to the gender development index 2021.[5] India’s standing has remained unimpressive; women’s labour force participation has decreased from 24.8 percent to 22.3 percent, and their representation in technical and professional professions has decreased as well, to 29.2 percent. The number of violent crimes committed against women has also increased; examples include rape, dowry death, and honour killings. Approximately 4,05,861 cases of crime against women were registered in 2019, according to a report by the National Crime Records Bureau titled “Crime in India”.[6] The majority of the cases that were registered under the IPC were “cruelty by husband or his relatives (30.9%), followed by an assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty (21.8%), kidnapping & abduction of women (17.9%), and racial harassment (17.9%)”. According to statistics, Uttar Pradesh had the most cases of dowry deaths (2,410), which occurred at a rate of 2.2, and the largest number of incidents of crimes against women (59,853), which together accounted for 14.7% of all cases nationwide (per lakh population).[7] A woman’s work in mental health is just one of the many facets of her life that are impacted by gender-based discrimination, which also hinders personal growth. Even though India has created stringent laws on critical issues like rape and dowry to stop gender-based discrimination against women, the lives of women are nevertheless affected by discriminatory practices at an alarming pace.

Conclusion

Every element of life is regulated by the laws of India. Despite this, we have not been able to completely remove some of the problems that plague our society, such as violence against women and crimes against women. Although the constitution has several measures to uphold gender justice and equality, they have all been rendered useless for a multitude of reasons. The majority of laws in Nigeria did not have the desired impact because there was a lack of public will to alter society to grant women equality. Therefore, education, seminars, and other social tools should be used to forge a strong public opinion in favour of giving women their proper place in society. Through education, seminars, and other social tools, a strong public attitude should be generated to give women their proper role in society.

Although equal rights and opportunities for women are guaranteed, the reality is often different. Why aren’t people aware that women are just as capable as men in every respect, and that their courage and tenacity prove that no one should undervalue them? Educating men and women about the issue will be the primary duty of those who struggle for gender equality. The legislation can, at most, catalyse a movement to alter society’s attitudes, values, and public opinion. Laws and legal requirements by themselves won’t be sufficient to change people’s opinions. India has to undergo a fresh transition that fosters humanism and respect for each person’s freedom and dignity. Laws must be passed to better the status of women in society, but they must be supported by a strong public will and opinion since laws cannot succeed as long as conservative social thinking is ingrained in society. It is important to note that social changes in social conduct, thought, and legislation will only be successful if a sizable segment of society supports them.

Author(s) Name: Mohd Ayaz Raza (Integral university, Lucknow)

References:

[1]‘In Focus : Sustainable Development Goal 5’ (U.N. Women, 23 August 2022)

<https://www.unwomen.org/en/news-stories/in-focus/2022/08/in-focus-sustainable-development-goal> accessed 19 September 2022

[2] Yunping  Tong, ‘India’s Sex Ratio at Birth begins to Normalize’ (Pew Research Centre, 23 August 2022)

<https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2022/08/23/indias-sex-ratio-at-birth-begins-to-normalize/> accessed 24 August 2022

[3] Bandhua Mukti v Union of India & Ors (1997) 10 SCC 549

[4] Indian Young Lawyers Association v The State of Kerala (2019) 11 SCC 1

[5]‘India ranks 135 out of 146 in Global Gender Gap Index’ (The Hindu, 14 July 2022)

<https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-ranks-135-out-of-146-in-global-gender-gap-index/article65636167.ece> accessed 22 September 2022

[6] Dipankar Ghose, ‘NCRB data: 7% rise in Crimes against Women’ (The Indian Express, 30 September 2020)

<https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ncrb-data-7-rise-in-crimes-against-women-6636529/> accessed 22 September 2022

[7] Akchaya Raj Kumar, ‘25% rise in dowry cases in 2021, reveals NCRB data’ (The News Minute, 30 August 2022)

<https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/25-rise-dowry-cases-2021-reveals-ncrb-data-167352> accessed 24 September 2022