- The Indian Constitution: The Constitution of India grants women equal rights to men in many areas, including the right to vote, the right to property, and the right to equality under the law.
- The Indian Penal Code: The Indian Penal Code includes provisions that criminalize offenses such as rape, sexual harassment, and domestic violence.
- The Dowry Prohibition Act: This law prohibits the giving or taking of dowry in connection with a marriage.
- The Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act: This law aims to protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace.
- The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act: This law regulates the termination of pregnancy in India.
- The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act: This law provides protection to women from domestic violence by their husbands or other family members.
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act: This law prohibits marriage for children below age 18 for girls and 21 for boys.
- The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act: This law prohibits prostitution and human trafficking.
These are a few examples of laws, but not an exhaustive list. These laws are aimed to protect the rights of women in India, but the effectiveness of their implementation varies.
The POSH Act defines sexual harassment as any unwanted behavior of a sexual nature that affects an individual’s dignity or creates a hostile or intimidating work environment. This includes physical, verbal, and non-verbal conduct, as well as advances or demands for sexual favors.
Under the POSH Act, employers are required to take steps to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace. This includes setting up an internal complaints committee (ICC) to investigate complaints of sexual harassment, as well as providing for an appeal mechanism. Employers are also required to provide their employees with awareness and training on the issue of sexual harassment.
The law also provides for the punishment of the offender and protection to the complainant, who should not be discriminated or terminated from their job because of lodging complaint.
However, it is important to note that while the POSH Act is a positive step towards protecting women from sexual harassment in the workplace, the effectiveness of its implementation varies. Due to lack of awareness, lack of enforcement and certain cultural norms, many workplaces still do not have a functional ICC or do not have adequate procedures in place to handle complaints of sexual harassment.
Under the Dowry Prohibition Act, it is illegal to give or take dowry, and it is also illegal to demand dowry. Penalties for violating the law include imprisonment for a term of up to five years, and/or a fine.
The law also makes it a criminal offense to harass or mistreat a woman or her relatives for not giving or not giving enough dowry. This can lead to imprisonment for a term of up to three years.
However, it is important to note that despite the Dowry Prohibition Act, the practice of giving and taking dowry continues in India, and enforcement of the law is often weak. This could be due to societal pressures and cultural norms, lack of awareness and enforcement, and also corruption. Furthermore, it is also important to note that the law does not directly address the issue of dowry-related deaths, which still occur in India.
Under the Act, a pregnancy can be terminated by a registered medical practitioner up to 20 weeks of pregnancy if the pregnancy poses a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or to her physical or mental health. If the pregnancy is between 12 and 20 weeks, the opinion of two registered medical practitioners is necessary. After 20 weeks, termination of pregnancy is allowed only in exceptional circumstances (eg, risk of death or grave injury to the pregnant woman, fetal abnormality).
The Act also requires that the medical practitioner inform the pregnant woman of the nature of the procedure and the potential risks, and get her written consent. And also that the practitioner maintains the records and reports it to the appropriate authorities in the prescribed format
The MTP act also provides for certain restrictions on the termination of pregnancy, such as requiring that the procedure be performed by a registered medical practitioner in a registered facility, and that certain conditions be met for the termination of pregnancy after 20 weeks.
It is important to note that despite the MTP act, there are still significant challenges to accessing safe and legal abortion services in India, particularly for women living in rural or low-income areas, due to a shortage of facilities, lack of information and education, and social stigma.
Under the PWDVA, a woman who has been subjected to domestic violence can apply for a protection order from a court, which can include measures such as requiring the abuser to refrain from further acts of violence, to vacate the shared residence, and to provide financial support to the woman and her children. The Act also provides for the appointment of protection officers and service providers who can assist the woman in obtaining a protection order, as well as support services such as counseling, medical care, and legal aid.
The Act also provides for the appointment of Protection Officers who can help the aggrieved person in obtaining protection orders and filing complaints, and Service providers like medical facilities, shelters and legal aid.
The PWDVA, when applied in practice, can help in providing protection and security to the women subjected to domestic violence, but as with any law, its implementation and effectiveness of the law can vary due to factors such as lack of awareness, lack of enforcement and corruption. Furthermore, societal attitudes and cultural norms that minimize or justify domestic violence also remain a significant challenge in addressing the problem.
The Act provides for a punishment for anyone who performs, conducts, directs or abets any child marriage and also for anyone who negligently fails to prevent a child marriage from taking place in their presence. Punishment includes imprisonment for a term which may extend up to two years and also fine.
The Act also provides for the annulment of a child marriage, which means the marriage is considered void and invalid, this can be applied within two years of the marriage.
The PCMA along with the Prohibition of Child Marriage Rules (PCMR) 2007, also places an obligation on the parents and guardians to report any child marriage that comes to their knowledge.
It is important to note that despite the PCMA, child marriage is still a widespread practice in India, and enforcement of the law is often weak. This could be due to a lack of awareness, cultural norms and also poverty. The law itself is also facing criticism from some rights groups and activists, who argue that the law should not only criminalize child marriages but also provide comprehensive support and protection for child brides and grooms.
- Soliciting for the purpose of prostitution
- Living on the earnings of a prostitute
- Keeping a brothel or allowing a premise to be used as a brothel
- Procuring, inducing or taking a person for the sake of prostitution
The law also provides for the rescue and rehabilitation of victims of prostitution and trafficking. This includes the establishment of “protective homes” where victims can receive care and support, as well as legal aid and vocational training.
The ITPA also empowers the police to raid and close down brothels and to arrest anyone found engaging in prostitution or trafficking activities.
It is important to note that while the ITPA is a significant law to curb prostitution and human trafficking, it has been criticized for focusing mainly on penalizing the sex workers and not the client, it also does not address the underlying issues that drive individuals, particularly women and children, into prostitution, such as poverty, lack of education and opportunities. Furthermore, enforcement of the law is often weak and corruption among police and officials is also an issue.