Women's rights are multiracial and transnational. The problems of women in
various regions differ from one another and are influenced by a variety of
elements, including individual consciousness and, familial, societal, racial,
marital, economic, and religious considerations. Both ancient and contemporary
Indiisre are firmly steeped in patriarchy and sexism.
Age, ordinal rank, relationships to men through their families of origin,
marriage and childbearing, and patriarchal characteristics are just a few of the
repressive social structures that Indian women must negotiations survive.
Dowry, having sons, kinship, caste, colour, community, village, market, and the
state are a few examples of patriarchal traits. Despite the difficulties,
several women's rights had been restricted, and their involvement in public life
had been constrained by Indian society, which had experienced a significant
transformation since the Vedic eras.
Despite the progress, there are still several issues that prevent women from
fully utilising their rights and possibilities in India. Religious expectations,
personal laws, and other regulations frequently conflict with the Indian
Constitution and deprive women of legal rights and authority. The Indian
Constitution recognises this desire for a developing India, hence the founders
saw the necessity of including it as a basic right under Article 15 after
realising its necessity.
First Phase: 1825-1915
Caste and gender-related social reform initiatives were brought about by the
colonial foray into modernity, the emergence of nationalism, and the reflection
on discriminatory practices. Men started this first stage of women's freedom and
rights in India to eradicate the social ills of sati, permit widow remarriage,
forbid child marriage, and lower illiteracy.
They also did this to control the legal consent age and guarantee property
rights through government intervention. Along with this, some Hindu women from
the upper castes rebelled against the restrictions imposed by brahminical
During the British colonial march, women were in charge of several Indian
states, including Jhansi (Rani Laxmibai), Kittur (Rani Chennama), Bhopal (Quidisa
Begum), and Punjab (Jind Kaur).
Many reformers worked to improve the status of women during the British Raj,
including Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, and Jyotirao Phule.
- Through Raja Rammohan Roy's efforts, Sati was abolished in 1829 by
Governor-General William Cavendish-Bentinck.
- In 1847, Peary Charan Sarkar, a former student of Hindu College in
Calcutta and a member of "Young Bengal," founded the first free school for
females in India in the Barasat neighbourhood of Calcutta (the institution
later went by the name Kalikrishna Girls' High School).
- The Widow Remarriage Act of 1856 was a result of Ishwar Chandra
Vidyasagar's campaign to alleviate the plight of widows. Many female
reformers, like Pandita Ramabai, aided in the advancement of women's rights.
- John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune founded the Bethune School in 1849 and
Bethune Institution in 1879, making the latter the first women's college in
- Chandramukhi Basu and Kadambini Ganguly graduated in 1883, making
history for both India and the British Empire as the first female graduates.
- The first Indian women to study Western medicine were Kadambini Ganguly
and Anandi Gopal Joshi, who did so in 1886.
Second Phase: 1915�1947
The fight against colonial control became more serious at this time. The
dominant cause evolved into nationalism. By involving them in the nonviolent
civil disobedience movement against the British Raj, Mahatma Gandhi broadened
and legitimised the public actions of Indian women. He created a place for them
in the public sphere by elevating their feminine roles of compassion,
self-sacrifice, tolerance, and care.
In the rural satyagrahas of Borsad and Bardoli, peasant women played a
significant part. The National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) and the All
India Women's Conference (AIWC) are examples of organisations that are
exclusively for women. Women were debating topics such as the extent of women's
political engagement, women's voting rights, social honours, and party
- Dhondo Keshav Karve, a social reformer, launched the first women's
university, SNDT Women's University, on June 2, 1916, with only five
- Sarojini Naidu was elected president of the Indian National Congress for
the first time as a woman in 1925.
- In 1927, the All India Women's Conference was established.
- Under Indian law, child marriage was banned in 1929, and the legal age
of marriage for women was established at 14 years.
Right after India gained its independence in 1947, feminist agendas and
activities waned as nationalist organisations focused on nation-building grabbed
the lead. These groups opposed "colonial interference," and in the middle to end
of the nineteenth century, there was a national form of opposition to any
attempts by the British to "modernise" the Hindu family.
This includes the Age of Consent dispute that arose after the British attempted
to raise the age of marriage for women to prevent children from being coerced
into marriage and engaging in sexual actions.
Through their involvement in the battle for independence, women in independent
India gained a critical awareness of their place and rights. In the 1970s, women
tried to overturn existing injustices by challenging them. These injustices
included the underpayment of women, the confinement of women to "unskilled"
fields of employment, and the use of women as a reserve labour force.
The goal was to end the practice of using women for free as what amounted to
cheap labour. Women also started to recognise the disparities within power
structures, including caste, tribe, language, religion, region, and class, in
addition to those between genders. As a result, they started making efforts to
ensure that meeting the needs of one group did not result in further disparities
Early in the twenty-first decade, the focus of the Indian woman expanded beyond
seeing women as contributing members of society and as having a right to parity
to include having the authority to direct the path of their own life and the
right to self-determination.
- To outlaw, the trafficking of young girls and women, the Immoral Traffic
(Prevention) Act was passed in 1956.
- The Dowry Prohibition Act, established by the Indian government in 1961,
outlaws the use of dowries as part of wedding preparations.
- Indira Gandhi was inaugurated as India's first female prime minister in
1966. She led India's government for four years totalling three terms
(1980�1984) after having held the position for three terms in a row
- In India, the Equal Remuneration Act was established in 1976,
outlawing sex-based pay discrimination.
- The Indian Penal Code was amended in 2013 by the Criminal Law
(Amendment) Act, making sexual harassment an express offence under Section
354 A, punishable by up to three years in jail and/or a fine. The Amendment
also added new provisions establishing offences out of actions like
stripping a woman without her consent, stalking, and engaging in sexual
activities with someone in power.
- To stop sexual harassment of women at work, the Sexual Harassment of
Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act went into
effect in December 2013.
- The Indian government said that female fighter pilots will be allowed to
join the Indian Air Force in 2015. (IAF)
- In 2016, a Delhi High Court decision that said the "Karta" of a Hindu
Undivided Family might be the oldest female member became public.
- The Supreme Court of India said in 2020 that female officers in the
Indian Army are eligible for command positions on an equal basis with male
Role Of the Judiciary In Recognizing Women's Rights
Throughout history, gender equality has been a nebulous idea hampered by social
barriers that took a devilish glee in repressing women's rights. Even the legal
system continued to be ignorant about women's rights. The inherent and normal
shyness and delicacy that belong to the female sex make it unsuited for many of
the vocations of civic life, according to Justice Bradley of the US Supreme
Court in Bradwell v. State of Illinois
The lofty and benevolent offices of wife and mother are the everlasting destiny
and vocation of a woman. The Creator's law is included in this. The U.S. Supreme
Court recognised the significance of women's roles in society as early as 1908
when it declared in Muller v. Oregon
 that "It is apparent that a
woman's physical structure and the discharge of maternity duties place her at a
disadvantage for sustenance." Women have always depended on men, as history
The numerous types of control he developed over her have persisted to the day,
but with lessening intensity. But until the second part of the 20th century,
little had changed regarding the position of women. The state may enact specific
legislation for the protection of women's and children's rights under Article
15(3) of the Constitution.
Because "women's physical structure and the performance of maternal functions
place her at a disadvantage in the struggle for subsistence and [her] physical
well-being] becomes an object of public interest and care to preserve the
strength and vigour of the race," such laws were passed.
The Supreme Court ruled in Air India v. Nargesh Meerza
 that Air
India's policy of terminating an air hostess if she became pregnant within four
years of employment was arbitrary and unconstitutional. This was the first case
in India involving women's rights. This decision will go down in the annals of
women's rights as an advocate for organisations to control the working
conditions of women on an equal footing with those of men.
No matter a woman's religion, the declining state of women's rights in India has
a strong connection to the mediaeval period and British rule, which, in
attempting to create a secular society with secular laws, made a direct attack
on diversity, heterogeneity, and religious beliefs of Indian society.
This paradox in the colonial mission, in which women of different religions
experienced significant inequalities in legal rights and political action, is
directly responsible for the development of modern India.
History has consistently demonstrated the significance of gender-neutral
legislation, which has resulted in several modifications to the social structure
of society. In this nation, there is a close relationship between the law and
religion since the two are interdependent, with the former receiving its legal
support from the latter.
This article explored the role of various immigrants, from the historical to
contemporary periods, who have significantly influenced the nation's current
legal system. It recognised gender as one form of reference and difference that
intersects with various forms of experiences, such as religion, caste, status,
- Narender Aggarwal, Gender Justice Ideology and the Indian Constitution:
Analysing Equality Rights, 4 Indian J.L. & Just. 111 (2013).
- Equal Remuneration Act 1979
- Indian Penal Code 1860
- 83 US 130 (1973)
- 208 U.S. 412
- (1981) 4 SCC 335