The status and condition of women have improved a lot since India got independent. Before the independence, the conditions of women were in a deprived state due to the dominance of men. Some of the major practices and customs made the lives of women different from men like: sati, widow remarriage, illiteracy, absence of right to property, polygamy, child marriage etc. With Indi’s independence, position started to change after several movements took place. The above practices were soon abolished.
This practice was usually followed by Hindus in India in the Ancient and Medieval era. According to this, if a woman’s husband dies, she had to throw herself in her husband’s funeral pyre. This implicated that men were dominant over the women and their lives were completely dependent on men thereby giving them no separate individuality. 1812 onwards, Raja Ram Mohan Roy was one of the reformers who started campaigns in order to ban the same. It was finally abolished. At present, we have Prevention of Sati Act (1987) which further makes it unlawful to force anyone to commit sati. Punishment for the same is death sentence.
According to this, marriage took place between minors which was later protested against. This practice became a political agenda. young girls were considered as irrational and parents were constantly in fear that she would engage in love relationship and therefore parents used to marry off their girl child at an earlier age. This gave no individuality to women and these girls were bound to follow the obligation. At present, it is banned in India. According to the new bill, Prohibition of Child Marriage Bill 2006, the offenders will be imprisoned and fined if they are found involved in this unlawful practice.
It means that one has more than one wife or husband at the same time. There are two types – polygyny, where one man has more than one wife and the second type is polyandry, where one woman marries more than one man at the same. It was prevalent during the ancient era. But, in the year of 1955, The Hindu Marriage Act came into force which prohibited polygamy. Therefore, both men and women got a right in their sacred marriage relationship.
This is one of the many reasons why women did not get equal status as to men. Widows were allowed to take part in any sort of activities, be it, social, political or in any other field. They were constantly deprived with opportunities. Their condition got better with the Hindu Widow Remarriage Act, 1856 which provided for widow’s rights and opportunities specifically.
It is a practice where girl children are killed just after they are born. During the ancient times there has been a belief that girls are burden to the society and to avoid the same. This practice was followed. But, later on certain acts were passed which prohibited the same. In 1975, this was declared as a murder in Bengal. Pre conception and Pre Natal-Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex selection) Act, 1994 also came into force which imposed fine and imprisonment of three years to any person who is involved in this practice.
Women were also given their rights through Constitutional provisions in or Constitution of India. Below are some of the provisions throwing light on their independence.
- Article 14: – it ensures equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India which further offers equal legal protection to women as well. It also makes way for the overview of various more legislations in order to protect women.
- Article 15: – It provides the prohibition of any sort of discriminationon the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth or any of them within the territory of India. Article 15(3) permits the State to make any different provision for women and children.
- Article 16: – it deals with equal employment opportunity to every citizen of India irrespective of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, and place of birth, residence or any of them. Currently, women are doing really good work in politics and in corporate sector and also, some of the responsible position are held by women. Naming a few would be Chanda Kochhar, Indira Nooyi, Sonia Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj and many more.
- Article 39– it is under Part IV of the Indian Constitution and it safeguards and directs a state to make policies which focus on a men and women have an equal right of adequate means of livelihood and article 39(c) further ensures and focusses on equal pay for equal work doctrine.
- Article 243: – Article 243 of constitution of India ensures reservation of seats in gram panchayat for women. This opportunity of participating in local level process has enhanced the social conditions of women in village areas specially.
Respect towards a fellow human
The constitutional provisions, separate legislations enacted for women specifically does not sign that women should be above the men. The sole objective of these provisions and legislations is that to provide the women with equal opportunities and rights as during the pre-independence era they were not provided with the same. The Preamble of the Constitution emphasises on this fact that thee shall be no discrimination between men and women and both the genders should get equal access to all the opportunities. Therefore, every individual shall respect everyone equally. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution provides that a person shall live her/his life with full liberty. In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, the Supreme Court gave a broader scope to Art. 21 and held that the right to live is not only a physical right but contains within its realm the right to live with human dignity as well.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also played an important role in promoting the term ‘human dignity’. It promises dignity and respect to all the people which is the heart of the Declaration. Articles 1 and 3 of the UDHR deal with human dignity and equality. Article 7 further provides with equal protection of law. In Islamic Jurisprudence also, respecting humans is one of the most integral part.
Indian women have a long way and performing an exceptional job in their respective jobs. It is because of the laws that they are able to stand equally with men as well. Currently, women are also contributing towards the nation’s prosperity and growth. It is not even possible to imagine a society without women. With the help of legal system, women have become independent finally, socially and politically. Although, it is just to ensure that women are equal to men and they do not lack any opportunity. Hence, everyone should deserve respect which is even enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
“The views of the authors are personal“
Ablistion Of Sati by Lord William Bentick, gk today (November,2018) https://www.gktoday.in/gk/abolition-of-sati-by-lord-william-bentinck/
 Aparna Marion, History Of Child Marriage in India, terredasie (October 2010), https://terredasie.com/english/english-articles/history-of-child-marriage-in-india/
1978 AIR 597
Universal Declaration of Human Rights- Six Cross Cutting themes, United Nations Human Rights Office of High Commissioner, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Pages/CrossCuttingThemes.aspx
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
 Respect of Human Beings. Al Islam Organisation, https://www.al-islam.org/principles-sociology-islam/1-respect-human-beings