Rights that Protect: Laws every Indian Woman should know


Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 consolidated the anti-dowry laws which had been passed on certain states. This legislation provides for a penalty in section 3 if any person gives, takes or abets giving or receiving of dowry. The punishment could be imprisonment for minimum 5 years and a fine more than ₹15,000 or the value of the dowry received, whichever is higher. Dowry in the Act is defined as any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given in connection with the marriage. The penalty for giving or taking dowry is not applicable in case of presents which are given at the time of marriage without any demand having been made.

In spite of this act, there are concerns about its enforcement. The problem of dowry continues to be a serious social evil among and dowry deaths and murders are often reported from many parts of India

The Medical Termination Of The Pregnancy Act (1971)

The Indian abortion laws fall under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act that was passed by the Indian Parliament with an intention of reducing the incidence of illegal abortion and consequent maternal mortality and health-related issues. The MTP Act came into effect from 1 April 1972 and was amended in the years 1975 and 2002.

Pregnancies not exceeding 12 weeks may be terminated based on a single opinion formed in good faith. In case of pregnancies exceeding 12 weeks but less than 20 weeks, termination needs an opinion of two doctors. The MTP Act clearly states the conditions under which a pregnancy can be aborted and the persons who are qualified to conduct the abortion.

A survey conducted in 2007 by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare suggests that only 22.9% of men and 28% of women were aware that medical abortions are possible and available!  A large number of people still remain unaware that by law, they have the right to access abortions in India.

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (PWDV) Act 2005 is an Act of the Parliament of India aimed at protecting women from violence in domestic relationships.

For the first time in India law, the Act provides a broad definition of “domestic violence”, including not only physical violence, but also other forms of violence such as emotional/verbal, sexual, and economic abuse. It is a civil law meant primarily for protection orders and not meant to penalize criminally. Additionally, the Act also provides relief to domestic violence committed by both male and female relatives of the husband or male partner.

Under PWDV Act, an aggrieved person can get the following reliefs/orders:

  •  Protection orders (protection from an act of domestic violence)
  • Monetary relief
  • Child Custody orders
  • Compensation orders
  • Residence orders (right to reside)

Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act,1986

The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 an Act of the Parliament of India which was enacted to prohibit indecent representation of women through advertisement or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner.

The act defines indecent representation of women as “the depiction in any manner of the figure of a woman; her form or body or any part thereof in such way as to have the effect of being indecent, or derogatory to, or denigrating women, or is likely to deprive, corrupt or injure the public morality or morals.”

Any paper, pamphlet, slide, film, writing drawing photos, figures that contain an indecent representation of women cannot be produced, sold or let to hire by any person but with some exceptions. With exceptions like, it shall not apply to any book, paper, pamphlet, painting, writing, photograph, or any figure that is done for public good or in the interest of science, art, and literature.

The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2012 sought to ensure that more effective protection is provided against indecent representation of women by covering newer forms of communication like the internet, multimedia messaging etc., beyond the print and audio-visual media. This would aid in addressing the problem of increased objectification of women thereby ensuring the dignity of women.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006

For a long time, India has been grappling with the issue of  Child marriage. With its roots tied to traditional, religious and cultural practices it has been a difficult fight to win. Child marriage is also interlinked with other evil practices like dowry . Some of the harmful consequences of child marriage include sexual exploitation, early pregnancy and health risks, child more vulnerable to domestic violence, etc

on 1 November 2007, The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 came into effect in India. This act defines child marriage as a marriage in which either the girl and/or the boy is underage (i.e. the girl is under 18 years and the boy is younger than 21 years of age.)

If a male adult above eighteen years contracts a child marriage shall be punishable unto two years imprisonment and/or a fine with may extend to Rs. 1 lakh. The same punishment will be given to a person who performs, conducts or directs a child marriage. Unless proved otherwise, the parents or guardian of the child is considered to have failed to prevent the child marriage and hence are also held accountable.

In October 2017, Supreme Court of India gave a landmark judgment criminalizing sex with a child bride, hence removing an exception in India’s legal system which had until then given a legal protection to men who had sex (raped) their minor wives.

The Hindu Succession Act (Amendment) (2005)

Until the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, was amended in 2005, the property rights of sons and daughters were different. While sons had a complete right to their father’s property, daughters enjoyed this right only until they got married. After marriage, a daughter was supposed to become part of her husband’s family.

According to Hindu Succession Amendment Act, 2005, every daughter, whether married or unmarried, is considered a member of her father’s HUF and can even be appointed as ‘karta’ (who manages) of his HUF property. The amendment now grants daughters the same rights, duties, liabilities, and disabilities that were earlier limited to sons.

The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976

In 1976, the Equal Remuneration Act was passed with the aim of providing equal remuneration to men and women workers and to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender in all matters relating to employment and employment opportunities.

This legislation not only provides women with a right to demand equal pay, but any inequality with respect to recruitment processes, job training, promotions, and transfers within the organization can also be challenged under this Act. The Supreme Court of India has also stated that discrimination on the basis of gender only arises when men and women perform the same work or work of a similar nature.

The Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act (1994)

Sex selection and female foeticide is a problem India is battling for a long time. Social discrimination against women and a preference for a male child has led female foeticide in various forms skewing the sex ratio of the country towards men.

Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act came into effect in 1994. The main purpose of enacting the act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques after conception and prevent the misuse of the prenatal diagnostic technique for sex-selective abortion. The act also regulates the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, like ultrasound and amniocentesis. Under this act is it also an offense to advertise techniques used for the purpose of sex-determination

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act came me into force from 9 December 2013 and seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious factor that renders women’s involvement in works unsafe and affects right to work with dignity. It is unwelcome verbal, visual or physical conduct that may affect the victim’s job performance or undermine the victim’s personal dignity.

According to the Press Information Bureau of the Government of India, this Act will ensure that women are protected against sexual harassment at all the workplaces, be it in public or private. This will contribute to the realization of their right to gender equality, life and liberty and equality in working conditions everywhere. The sense of security at the workplace will improve women’s participation in work, resulting in their economic empowerment and inclusive growth.

Every workplace that employees more than 10 workers are required to constitute an Internal Complains Committee (ICC). However, according to a FICCI-EY’s November 2015 report, 36% of Indian companies and 25% among MNCs are not compliant with the Sexual Harassment Act, 2013.

The Maternity (Amendment) Bill 2017

The Maternity (Amendment) Bill 2017 is an amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. The act received an assent from President of India on March 27, 2017, and has been effective from April 01, 2017. The Act is applicable to all establishments which are factories, mines, plantations, Government establishments, shops and establishments under the relevantly applicable legislation, or any other establishment as may be notified by the Central Government.

As per the Act, to be eligible for maternity benefit, a woman must have been working as an employee in an establishment for a period of at least 80 days in the past 12 months Payment during the leave period is based on the average daily wage for the period of actual absence.

Under the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act, the duration of paid maternity leaves available for women employees from the existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks. This benefit could be availed by women for a period extending up to 8 weeks before the expected delivery date and remaining 18 weeks can be availed post childbirth. For women who are expecting after having 2 children, the duration of paid maternity leave shall be 12 weeks (i.e., 6 weeks pre and 6 weeks post expected date of delivery).

Th other key amendments to the bill include: Maternity leave for adoptive and commissioning mothers, Work from Home option and Crèche facility.

While these women-rights laws are enacted by the Indian parliament & the judiciary, just having these laws won’t suffice. It is for every woman to be aware of these laws and use it to shelve against prejudice, injustice, discrimination and to protect their interests. In fact, it is not just a “right”, but also a “duty”.


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