The laws in any developing country are framed by keeping in mind the various differences in the society. It seeks to eradicate inequality and promote an all inclusive societal welfare. India’s Constitution was also framed in a similar manner. For instance, Article 15(3) of the India Constitution provides for special provisions to be made for women. It has been framed with objective of providing an equal share of opportunities to the section of society, which has been subjected to an irrational notion of male superiority for centuries i.e. women. In order to make an attempt to do the same, various laws have been made to prevent discrimination, provide opportunities and promote the growth of women. The following are a few of those legislative remedies for the development of women.
The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976:
The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 is an Act of the Parliament of India implemented in order to provide for an equal payment of remuneration to workers, irrespective of their genders under Section 4 of this Act. This Industrial law aims to prohibit discrimination at the time of recruitment on the basis of sex under Section 5 of the Act. Moreover, this Act also makes a mention of a Central Advisory Committee that aims to achieve the objective of creating more employment opportunities for women. Further, the said committee also reviews and examines the steps that have been taken for the effective implementation of this Act.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was enacted by the Parliament of India in order to provide protection to the women who fall prey to the evil of domestic violence. It is a civil law and a criminal one. The provision of such protection extends to wives, female live-in partners and women living in a household such as sisters, mothers or widows from various abuses such as physical, mental, verbal, economical, sexual and emotional. It covers the harassment at the hands of not just the husbands or male live-in partners but also their relatives. There might be an actual execution of any such abuse or a threat to do the same in order to constitute harassment under this Act. The other relief provided to women under this Act is her right to reside in matrimonial or shared household, irrespective of any title in the household. The Act also provided the power to the court to pass orders, like the protection orders, Residence orders, Compensation orders, Custodial orders, Monetary relief, that can be enforced to prevent the abuser from either aiding or committing any kind of harassment. It also aims to curb the ages old malpractice of dowry.
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, 2013 is a legislative Act passed by the Parliament of India, which aims to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work. The legislative Act came after the Vishaka guidelines, which were provided by the honorable Supreme Court in the case, Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan[i]. The Supreme Court in this case held that any Act which degrades the dignity of a woman is a violation of her right to equality (Article 14), right to life and liberty under the Constitution (Article 21) and a woman’s right to freedom to choose whatever business, occupation or trade she wanted (Article 19(1g)). This Act provides a definition of sexual harassment and hostile environment at the place of work and creates a mechanism to redress the same. The Act has provision of imposition of penalty on the employers who don’t comply with the Act. The said penalty consists of punishment with a fine, which may extend to ₹ 50,000. The repetition of such non compliances may lead to higher degree of penalties and even the cancellation of the employer’s license and deregistration of their business. This Act seeks to promote women employment by making an attempt to eradicate one of the biggest obstacles, i.e. Sexual harassment at their work place. However, there is one shortcoming of this Act that the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, unlike many sexual harassment legislations in different countries, does not provide protection to men from the same. But, the Act still proves to be of great importance to the working women.
The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986:
The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 is an Act, which was enacted by the Parliament of India, to interdict the indecent representation of women through advertisements, writings, publications, paintings, book, pamphlet, paper, slide, film[ii] or in any other possible manner. The Act not only covers the offender but also an accomplice, who might have played a role in the degradation of a woman’s dignity. It aims to put an end to the demeaning portrayal of women. Any person who contravenes this provision of the Act shall be punishable on first non-compliance with imprisonment which may extend to two years, and with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees. Moreover, in the case of second contravention penalty consists of imprisonment for six months and which may extend to five years and also with a fine for the same not less than ten thousand rupees extendable to one lakh rupees.
The Maternity Benefit Act:
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 was introduced to combat the obstacles that arise in the professional sphere of a woman when she gets pregnant or becomes a mother. This Act is applicable to the factories, plantations, mines, government establishments, shops and establishments under government Legislative or others recognized by the central government in which ten or more persons are employed or were employed on any day of the preceding twelve months. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 was amended in March 2017. The amendment increased the duration of paid maternity leave available for women employees 26 weeks from the existing 12 weeks. This act was also based on article 42 of the Indian Constitution which lays down the provision for just and humane working conditions and maternity relief. Moreover, it was made mandatory for the employers to educate the women, at the time of their appointment, about the maternity benefits available to them. Further, the provisions like the availability of “work from home” option to women even after their delivery strengthens the probability of the attainment of the objectives of this Act. The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 has emerged as the most relevant legislation in the arena of maternity laws.
The above-mentioned Acts have been enacted to curb the discriminatory practices, eradicate the various impediments in the development of a woman’s position and to promote an overall condition of the women in India. Other Acts like the Plantations Labor Act of 1951 and the Mines Act of 1952, which have a provision relating to working hours for women, are other examples. We have a number of separate legislations for the welfare of women and also our law has special provisions for women in general codes and Acts also. These laws are an attempt to compensate the years of injustice done to the women and develop their position in our country.
Edited by Ojaswi Gupta
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
[i] Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan, (1997) 6 SCC 241.
[ii] THE INDECENT REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN (PROHIBITION) ACT, 1986 (NO. 60 OF 1986)