WOMEN SAFETY - HOW CAN IT BE EFFICENTLY ENACTED?
By: Prince Kumar, a 1st-year BA.LL.B , Division - A student at Kirit P Mehta school of Law.
Why women's safety?
“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.” – Coco Chanel.
In the old days, women were restricted to the four corners of the house and only did the household work and childbearing. But after globalisation, this changed dramatically. Now we see women working in every section of society from dealing with cases in top corporate businesses to driving public buses. Although their work had significant improvement in these past years, the public perception regarding them hasn’t changed much, to be honest. They are still being objectified and humiliated in every sphere of work, which is such a shame considering the centuries that have passed since globalisation began. So, in order to mitigate the problems that are specific to women, we need to understand the core issues behind them and the reason as to why they occur in the first place.
Challenges/Hurdles in the path
In the early days, women used to face problems pertaining to child marriage, the devadasi system, sati pratha, etc. Although I am delighted to inform you that these kinds of norms are mostly eradicated from our country, there still exist many different sorts of problems in the modern-day which women are used to facing and which need immediate recognition. Let’s take a look at some of these problems.
Gender discrimination: The first and foremost problem being discrimination on the basis of the gender of a person. It is quite prevalent in our country it mostly concerns the women of the country as they are the ones who are being discriminated against in many fields of life on the basis of their gender. For example, due to the patriarchy in the mindsets of the people of our country, women are considered to be inferior when compared to men. This has led to many women quitting their jobs and letting go of many opportunities in life that could have been fruitful for them.
Violence against women: Women of our country are facing several kinds of violence every day and it has become a sort of a norm to hear such news on a daily basis. According to the crime record bureau of the Central home Ministry, a woman is getting kidnapped every 44 minutes and raped every 47 minutes1. We have to ask ourselves why most of the victims of these kinds of balances are women. What kind of education are we providing our country that there is such a vast difference between the treatment of men and women? Why is there a certain mentality prevalent in the country regarding how women should behave? These are questions that need deep contemplation and serious awareness in order to be able to mitigate the same. Even in this uncertain time like the COVID-19 pandemic, the domestic violence against women is all the more growing. The reporting of cases of domestic violence increased significantly during the lockdown period. This means apart from the violence and brutality is that are faced by them outside the home, even inside the homes they aren’t safe.
Female Education: The percentage of women who are educated in India is still very low compared to other countries and it is extremely low in the rural areas in which the more aggravated forms of the abovementioned problems take place.
Unemployment: as mentioned earlier, women are facing brutality is in humiliation in all spheres of work and this is the reason why most of them quit and the unemployment rate of women goes very high. Even for the women who stay in their job, the path isn’t very easy. The bosses in the organisations intentionally give more work to the women employees and constantly make them look inferior to their male counterparts. Again, the main factor behind the same can be linked to the perception and mentality about women in the society which inter-relates the two aspects.
Dowry System: When we are talking about the problems associated with women, we cannot forget an ancient practice still holding up its place in the modern era of the 21st century. The dowry system. It is mind-boggling to imagine that practice of that sort is still prevalent in our country after seeing such a vast development in the overall condition of the country.
‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects under the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. State Governments are thus responsible for safety and security of the citizens including women and girls.2 – Govt. of India.
The government says that the security and safety of women and children is the utmost priority for them, and the Ministry of women and child development has even initiated many of the fruitful enactments that have helped mitigate some of the problems. The fact is that there are enough laws in the country right now which, if implemented well, could possibly eradicate most of the problems that women are facing right now.
Let’s have a look at some of them:
The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.
The Medical termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
The Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Protection and) Act, 2013. Specific Laws for Working Women
Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition
Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1976
Employees State Insurance Act, 1948
Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
Factories (Amendment) Act, 1948
Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (Amended in 1995)
Plantation Labour Act, 19513
As you can see from the abovementioned points, there are several laws that cater to the specific legal rights of women and provide them a remedy against many kinds of problems while making them aware of their empowerment and security. So, the question here isn’t about the enactment of a new law regarding the problems of women rather it is the proper implementation of the existing laws which would make a huge difference in the quality of life for women in our country. So, how can it be done?
Role of the government
The government should specifically target these areas and ensure that the concerned legislation is implemented properly and its effect is enforced throughout the country. There is no point in having a law that is excellent on paper but never sees the light of day. There must be a significant improvement in the infrastructure related to the legislations be it physical or intellectual, in order to protect the rights of women. The government fund should be utilised in a way that provides the required funds to the fast-track courts which could, in turn, provide a one-stop crisis Centre for all the issues pertaining to women. Similarly, shelter homes must be provided with adequate infrastructure and funding in order to be able to ensure that the places are welcoming for women and cater to their needs. Police stations also have to be welcoming to women so that more and more of them register their cases and complaints. The statistics clearly show that crimes against women are under-reported severely in our country. For a democracy like India, it doesn’t help us at the international platform when it comes to relationships with other developed countries. Suppressing the grievances of women only embolden is the perpetrators roaming around in the country and tarnishes the system’s efficiency in the eyes of people.
India was named as the most dangerous country for women after coming fourth in the same survey seven years ago. The world’s second most populous nation, with 1.3 billion people, ranked as the most dangerous on three of the topic questions – the risk of sexual violence and harassment against women, the danger women face from cultural, tribal and traditional practices, and the country where women are most in danger of human trafficking including forced labour, sex slavery and domestic servitude.4
Clearly, something is lacking on the part of govt. also.
Effective policies at work
Corporate companies also have to play their part in making effective policies that deal with sexual harassment at the workplace. They have to formulate policies in such a manner that respects the dignity of women and allows them to register their complaint in a very easy manner without having to go through N number of personnel so that they don’t walk away from many kinds of problems at the workplace. Although the new amendments to the sexual have made at workplace act has mandated most companies to establish a complaint Centre at each of their branches with women officers there, they have to ensure that those measures are actually being followed in each and every branch and check on that every few months so that over time they don’t lose their effectiveness. Also, they should invest in things that encourage cultural organizational behavior in their corporate offices where men and women can work freely without any kind of fear of harassment or pressure. The workplace should be a place where everyone is able to work comfortably and anything besides work should be done by
taking prior consent of all the people involved in it. There are many cases of suicides by employees which would easily be avoided if proper mechanisms are in place and more importantly, are implemented properly. Lastly, there shouldn’t be any kind of discrimination between men and women in the workplace as these kinds of things encourage the perpetrators to commit violence on women and it promotes the mentality of objectifying women in the corporate society and further degrades their integrity.
Although there are many cases in which the government could be blamed for the lack of better than be mentation regarding the policies concerning women, there are a host of instances that the government in fact had acted according to the situation and amended various kind of laws in light of the changing circumstances of women:
The Criminal Law (Amendments), Act 2013 was enacted for effective legal deterrence against sexual offences. Further, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018 was enacted to prescribe even more stringent penal provisions including death penalty for rape of a girl below the age of 12 years. The Act also inter-alia mandates completion of investigation and trials within 2 months each.5
Our government has also taken many initiatives that pertain to the security and safety of women. Some of these are listed below:
Nirbhaya fund- For projects relating to their security and safety of women in India. The concerned authority for the same is the Ministry of women and child development.
ITSSO: a special online tool for the analysis and monitoring of real-time investigation in sexual assault cases. Relates to the criminal amendment law act of 2018.
112: emergency response support system, for computer-based aid to detect the location of distress. Started In 2018-19.
Cybercrime portal: launched by Ministry of home affairs on 20 September 2018. Facilitates the report of obscene content by the citizens of the country. Along with this, cybercrime forensics labs have also been established in many states, and training of a large number of officers for the said purpose has also been initiated.
Though there are many loopholes in the administration of justice in India(which in turn hinder the process on multiple occasions), I think the most important of them is govt. accountability.
The govt. has to take active participation in the dealing of matters in cases pertaining to women. They can’t just watch from the back and have to act also. The first and foremost step in that will be increasing the access to remedial facilities in the rural and semi urban areas.
Secondly, there has to be a dedicated institution that monitors the implementation of the various laws concerning women. Lastly, we as the aware citizens of our country, have to stand for women’s rights and create a healthy environment in which the
women do not hesitate to register any kind of complaint against anyone. I leave you on an open-ended note to contemplate on this matter and acquire an opinion on the same.
The International Journal of Indian Psychology, Volume 4, Issue 2, No. 89
Press Information Bureau, https://pib.gov.in/Pressreleaseshare.aspx?PRID=1575574
Acts, National Portal of India https://www.india.gov.in/my-government/acts
The World’s 10 most Dangerous Countries for Women, Thomson Reuters, https://poll2018.trust.org/
Press Information Bureau, Govt. of India, Ministry of Home Affairs https://pib.gov.in/Pressreleaseshare.aspx?PRID=1575574