Who are women and why is there a need for special laws for them?


Conventionally, the word ‘Woman’ connotes all females of the human species but in sort of a restricted legal sense, a female is known as a woman after she has passed through her childhood and adolescence and has reached a certain level of maturity.

Well, historically the Indian Society has been the promulgator of hegemonic patriarchal notions, demanding more exacting standards of purity and chastity solely from women.[1] While the position of women during the early Vedic period was fairly satisfactory,[2] in approximately 500 B.C., the status of women in the society began to plummet which ultimately led to an utter deprivation of their prerogatives during the Medieval period,[3]and apparently even in the 21st century, women are no better- off.

According to an analysis conducted by the World Health Organisation along with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the South Africa Medical Research Council, 35% of women worldwide have been traumatized by physical, emotional or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime.[4]

The Small Arms Survey NGO evaluatesthat about 66,000 women and girls are violently killed every year, accounting for approximately 17 per cent of all victims of intentional homicides.[5]As many as 38% of murders of women in the world are committed by a male intimate partner.

Not only this, almost every woman has experienced the feeling of being mistreated, bullied, trivialized, ignored, assaulted, suppressed or discriminated against because of her gender at least once in her lifetime.[6]Some women even face additional prejudices owing to their ethnicity, nationality, religion, caste or class, health status, marital status, education, disability and socio- economic standards.Women are often put down, subjected to discrimination and even sexually harassed at their workplaces. Of 189 economies assessed in 2018, 104 economies still have legislations obviating the women from working in specific jobs, 59 economies have absolutely no law on sexual harassment at workplace, and in 18 economies, husbands can legally inhibit their wives from engaging in any occupation.[7]

All these statistics manifest the appalling reality of our society today which is still indifferent to the very inherent notions of equality and freedom regardless of all the legislative revamping. All this naturally calls for more stringent, women specific laws that could thwart any such possibility of future violations.

Having said this it is quite pertinent to note that as of February 2019; only 24.3 per cent of all national parliamentarians were women, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995.[8]This clearly indicates that we need to bring more women into the law- making process, which wouldeventually lead to a more eloquent and persuasive pitch for the rights of the women straight from the floor of the democratically elected houses. While increasing the participation of women would in a sense empower them by a fairer representation, it would also ensure that a greater attention is being paid at the national level to the most compelling issues and problems of the women in the country.

In the case of Joseph Shine v. Union of India[9],it has been enunciated that the individual dignity has a sanctified realm in a civilized society.The civility of a civilization procures warmth and respect only when it respects more the individuality of a woman. Any system treating a woman with indignity, inequity and inequality or discrimination invites the wrath of the Constitution that has fashioned out the fundamental rights as being quintessential to the existence of every individual.

The continuum of such vandalisation of the human rights of the women which engenders from the sexist beliefs and values and imbalances of power in the society between the two sexesdeprives the women of their very self- determination and individual identity.All such violence and injustice to which the women are exposed not only severely affects their physical heath but also their mental, sexual and reproductive heath and may even increase the risk of acquiring HIV in some settings.

Unfortunately, all this tends to repudiate and defeat the very essence of our Constitution which guarantees basic human rights and equal protection and dignity to all the citizens of the country regardless of caste, religion, race, sex, decent, place of birth, etc., Combating against such discriminatory practices is very essential for the progress of our women and our whole society. The proliferating crime rate, particularly violent crimes against women has made the criminal sentencing by the courts a subject of serious deliberation especially in the recent years. A comprehensive understanding of the several ways in which the women face discrimination in their everyday lives and are subjected to gruesome treatment is required to develop appropriate strategies and women- specific laws to eradicate the same.

Nonetheless, it really is high time that we start respecting the dignity of women rather than being intolerant and indifferent towards them because even if we go on to implement a myriad of laws that are specifically contrived for uplifting the women, we can expect some serious advancement only when men stop treating women as mere objects of sexual gratification and actually start respecting and upholding their human rights!

“It is not just women who are paying an enormous price for this cultural and religious prejudice. We all suffer when women and girls are abused and their needs are neglected. By denying them security and opportunity, we embed unfairness in our society and fail to make the most of the talents of half the population.”                          

– The Global Elders (2009)

Edited by Ojaswi Gupta

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje


1. Indian Young Lawyers Association v. The State Of Kerala

2. Sophie M. Tharakan and Michael TharakanStatus of Women in India: A Historical Perspective, Social Scientist Vol. 4, No. 4/5, Special Number on Women (Nov. – Dec., 1975)

3. Tauffiqu Ahamad and  Anil Kumar Mishra, Legal status and rights of women in Indian constitution,International Journal of Advanced Education and Research, Volume 1; Issue 1; January 2016;https://www.researchgate.net/publication/290691292_Legal_status_and_rights_of_women_in_Indian_constitution

4 WHO, Violence against Women, https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women (last visited Jan. 15, 2020, 11:53 PM)

5. Small Arms Survey Research Notes, Number 14, February 2012, Femicide: A Global Problem, https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/140363/SAS-Research-Note-14.pdf

6. Rebecca Walker, “Becoming the Third Wave”, from Ms. Magazine, in Leslie L. Heywood (ed.), The Women‘s Movement Today- An Encyclopedia of Third –Wave Feminism 6 (Greenwood Press, U.S.A., 2006)

7. World Bank Women, Business and the Law 2018. (Washington, D.C., 2018)  http://wbl.worldbank.org/

8. Inter-Parliamentary Union, “Women in national parliaments” as of 1 February 2019. http://archive.ipu.org/wmne/classif.htm

9. 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676