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Womens Status In Industrial Set-Up

There is vision and values of founding fathers behind every constitution in the world which is based on peoples’ faith and aspirations and socio-economic status of people in that country. Constitution of India underlines the very basic principle of gender equality. It enables the Government to frame and implement policies aimed at the promotion of women in all walks of life. It has thus always been an attempt of the legislature to encourage socio-economic development of women through cross-cutting policies and programs; highlighting general concern; creating awareness about their rights and to provide institutional and legislative assistance to enable them to fully access their rights and develop to their full potential.

It has always been emphasized by various organizations that women living with dignity and ability to contribute to the development of social and economic aspects have been considered as an asset to the country. Women employees as equal partners in these efforts of development are encouraged to make suggestions for improvement in their working conditions. To ensure the safety and dignity of women at the workplace the government has provided various provisions in the Constitution of India and various other legislation. Despite all the efforts of the legislature, it has been seen that law is far more effective on paper than in practice.

So, the question here is what do women at workplace need: better laws or more liberal workspace? This paper will attempt to describe and outline the provisions under law relating to women workers on various issues such as equal pay for the equal worker; protection of women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace; maternity Benefits; Payment bonuses; equality among workers and protection of modesty of women and similarly many other issues. The focus of the paper is also towards giving practical suggestions for creating a workplace which is not only safe but also ensures the protection of rights of women as provided under the Constitution.

Introduction
With the frequent changes in the employment market, new opportunities and possibilities for women worker has surfaced which are both empowering and challenging. Along with persisting socio-economic problems there has also been hindrance to gender equality and overall empowerment of women.

Further, the deep-rooted problem of patriarchy has constructed the position of women in dispirited social and economic status that has hindered them in realization of their rights. The present scenario of women’s condition with respect to human development criterion, legal rights of women regarding freedom from abuse, socio-economic discrimination and their rights to equality and equity manifests that there is a long way before women can experience real sense of independence.

Therefore it is necessary, to strengthen the rights-based approach for ensuring environment in which women can enjoy their rights to the fullest.

Empowerment of women has always been a socio-political agenda visualized in respect to the broader framework of women’s rights. It has been a process that lead women to realize their full potential, their rights to have equal access to opportunities, resources and choices with the independence of making decision both within and outside home. Empowerment would be achieved only if advancement within the conditions of women and their ability to influence the direction of social change. Such changes be gained through equal opportunities in economic, social and political aspects of life.

Regardless of the Constitutional mandate, the dialogue on women’s empowerment has gradually evolved over the last few decades, wherein paradigm shifts have occurred – from seeing women as mere recipients of welfare advantages to mainstreaming gender considerations and involving them within the development strategy of the country.

In our country’s annual income there has been subsequent increase in contribution of women in recent years. They have exercised their rights and entitlements and contributed to the development process.

Therefore, there has been felt the need to formulate a new policy that can guide the transformative shift required for making gender equality a reality, addressing women’s issues in all its aspects, capturing emerging challenges and ultimately positioning women as equal partners of sustained development progress that the country is experiencing presently. The re-scripting of women’s empowerment has been envisaged as a socially inclusive right based approach while reinforcing the rights and entitlements provided under the Constitution of India. The policy will enable women to claim their rights and entitlements control over resources and formulation of strategic choices in realization of the principles of gender equality and justice.

Historical Background

From ancient to modern period, women’s condition-socially, politically and economically- has not remained same and it kept changing with times. In ancient India, women enjoyed equal status with men; in early Vedic period they were educated and there are references of women sages such as Maitrayi in our ancient texts. But with the coming of famous treatise of Manu i.e. Manusmriti, the status of women was relegated to a subordinate position to men.

Their right to education, right to work and right to decide for themselves were taken away.

During medieval period the condition of women got worsened with the advent of Muslim rulers in India; as also during the British period. During freedom movement, almost all the leaders of the struggle were of the view that women should be given equal status in the free India and all types of discriminatory practices must stop.

Need for making women favoring laws arose due to centuries of domination and discrimination done by men over women. They are the target of varied types of violence and discriminatory practices done by men all over the world. India is no different. And for that these reasons the Constitution of India grants constitutional and legal rights which would help in eliminating age-old exploitative customs and traditions and also such provisions would help in empowering women socially, economically and politically.

Constitutional Privileges

Our Nation’s founding fathers were very determined to provide equal rights to both women and men. The Constitution of India is one of the finest equality documents in the world. It states provisions to secure equality in general and gender equality in particular. Various articles in the Constitution safeguard women’s rights by putting at equal position with men socially, politically and economically. The principle of gender equality is in the Indian Constitution in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties, and Directive Principles of State Policy.

The constitution not only grants equality to women, but also empowers the law makers to adopt measures of the positive discrimination in favour of women. Within the framework of a democratic polity, over laws, development policies, plans and programmes have aimed at women’s advancement in different spheres.

Preamble:

The Preamble to the Constitution of India assures justice socially, economically and politically; equality of status, opportunity and dignity to all individuals. Thus it treats both men and women equal.[1]

Fundamental Rights:

The policy of women empowerment is well entrenched in the Fundamental Rights enshrined in our Constitution. For instance:

  • Article 14 ensures to women the right to equality.[2]
  • Article 15(1) specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.[3]
  • Article 15(3) empowers the State to take affirmative actions in favor of women.[4]
  • Article 16 provides for equal opportunity for all in matters related to employment or appointment to any office.[5]

These rights being fundamental rights are justiciable in court of law and the Government has obligation to ensure that citizen’s fundamental right is not violated.

Directive Principles Of State Policy

Directive principles of State Policy contains some very important provisions regarding women empowerment and it is the duty of the government to apply these principles while making laws or formulating any policy. Though these are not justiciable in the Court but these are essential for governance nonetheless.

Some of them are:
Article 39 (a) provides that the State to direct its policy towards securing for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood.[6]
Article 39 (d) mandates equal pay for equal work for both men and women.[7]

Article 42 provides that the State to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.[8]

Fundamental Duties:

Fundamental duties are manifested in Part IV-A of the Constitution and are basic duties for the citizen of India to abide by. It also contains a duty related to women’s rights:
Article 51 (A) (e)[9] expects from the citizen of the country to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood among all the citizen of India and to renounce practices which are degrading to the dignity of women.

Other Constitutional Provisions

With this 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment of 1993 women were given 33.33 percent reservation in seats at different levels of elections in local governance i.e. at Panchayat, Block and Municipality elections. This was landmark initiative in direction of women empowerment in India.

Thus it can be seen that these Constitutional provisions are very empowering for women and the State is duty bound to apply these principles in taking policy decisions as well as in enacting laws.

Penal Code
Through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, Section 354 was added to the Indian Penal Code,1860 that states clearly what consists of a sexual harassment offence and what the penalties for accused committing such an offence are. Penalties may extend from one to three years imprisonment and/or a fine. Additionally, with sexual harassment being a crime, employers are obligated to report offences.[10]

Specific Laws For Women In India

The list below is of some specific laws which were enacted by the Parliament in order to fulfill Constitutional obligation of women empowerment:

  1. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
  2. The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
  3. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.
  4. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.
  5. The Medical termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
  6. The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987.
  7. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
  8. The Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994.
  9. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Protection and) Act, 2013.
  10. The Contract Labor (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1976
  11. The Plantation Labour Act, 1951
  12. The Employee’s State Insurance Act, 1948
  13. The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972
  14. The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965
  15. The Workmens’ Compensation Act, 1923

Above mentioned and several other laws are there which not only provide specific legal rights to women but also gives them a sense of security and empowerment.

The Maternity Benefits Act, 1961

This act aims to regulate the employment of women in certain establishment for specific time before and after child-birth and to provide for maternity benefits and certain other benefits.[11]
This rule applies to all establishments employing 10 or more employees. The recent amendment to the Act increased maternity benefits from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for 2 surviving children and 12 weeks for more than children.[12]

The Act conjointly created provisions for "work from home". The mandatory provision of crèches in respect of establishment having 50 or more employees. The maternity benefits or any other amount payable by the employer to pregnant employee, he/she shall pay such benefits or any other amount payable to the person nominated by the women in the notice or to her legal representative, in case she dies.[13] In addition to above provision the act also provides for paid leave in cases of miscarriage.[14]

The Sexual Harassment of Women At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013

This Act provides provisions against sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and addressing complaints of sexual harassment and for connected matters[15].
This Act was passed in legislature almost after 16 years of landmark judgment of Supreme Court of India in the matter of Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan[16], popularly known as "Vishaka Judgement".

The Vishaka Judgment[17] laid down certain guidelines making it incumbent for every employer to provide for redressal grievance machinery pertaining to sexual harassment at work and enforce the right to gender equality working women. The employer is duty bound to provide safe working environment; display legible marks showing the penal consequences of indulging in acts that may constitutes sexual harassment and composition of Internal Complaints Committee (ICC); organize workshops and awareness programs at regular intervals for sensitizing employees on the issue; and treat sexual harassment as a misconduct under the service rules and initiate action for the same.

The Factories Act, 1948

The Factories Act 1948 is a legislation securing to workers employed in factories health, safety, welfare, leave, proper working hours and other benefits. The said Act provides for washing facilities, restrictions on the employment of women, prohibition of nightwork, work on or near machinery in motion, creches and the like for women employees. Any factory wherein more than 30 women workers are employed there shall be provided and maintained a suitable room(s) for the use of children under the age of 6 years of such women[18].

No woman shall be allowed to clean, lubricate or adjust or for pressing cottons[19] in any part of the machine while it is in motion. No women worker shall be allowed to work in any factory except between the hours of 6 am and 7 pm. The shift timings of a woman worker cannot be changed except after a weekly holiday or any other holiday. Hence women employees are entitled to get at least 24 hour notice for their shift timing change.

The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976

This Act laid down provisions for the payment of equal remuneration to men and women workers and for prevention of discrimination against them on the ground of sex, in the matters of employment course and for matters connected with it.[20]

The Act gives effect to the goals enshrined under Article 39 of the Constitution[21] which contains a directive principle of equal pay for equal work for both men and women. No employer shall make any discrimination against women while making recruitment for the same or work of similar nature.[22] No employer shall pay to any worker employed by him remuneration at rates less favorable than those at which remuneration is paid by him to the workers of opposite sex for performing the same work or work of similar nature.[23]

The Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970

This Act also provides for crèches where 20 or more women are employed as contract labor. Any contractor shall employ Female contract labor between 6am and 7 pm except mid-wives and nurses in hospitals and dispensaries.

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005

The Government of India took a major step in order to facilitate 100 days wage employment to the manual unskilled labor. This ensures wage employment in every financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. While allocating work priority is given to women. The core element of this poverty eradication scheme is gender equality with equal wages for both men and women. In order to increase the women's participation in labor force no wage discrimination shall exist, which in turn will enhance their health, child welfare and socioeconomic status.

The Employee's State Insurance Act, 1948

This Act has been enacted to provide for various benefits in different junctures. The insured women worker get sickness benefits, disablement benefits, medical benefit and funeral expenses along with insured men workers. Maternity benefits in case of certain happenings arise out of pregnancy, confinement, miscarriage, sickness arising out of pregnancy, premature birth of child or miscarriage and death. In the event of death of an insured woman, the maternity benefits is payable to her nominee or legal representative for the whole period if the child survives.

Suggestion
‌There is need to raise awareness among employers and employees about issues of harassment and violence at workplace.

‌Training and education would help employers to understand and respond to what is happening in their workplaces.

‌Employers should be encouraged to try to resolve issues internally and should be given flexibility to decide how to do this before bringing in a neutral third party.

‌Employers should be obliged to consider any recommendations made by a neutral third party and that complainants should have access to recourse if an employer refuses to implement a recommendation without offering a valid explanation.

‌Clear, written policies on how organizations should respond to allegations of workplace violence and harassment.

‌Policies must include explicit protection against retaliation for reporting an incident.

Improve internal professional network.

Lack of social interaction leads to sexual harassment and violence.

If big companies want to attract future generation, they need to create a workplace where they are happy and creative.

Bibliography
Statue:

  1. The Constitution of India
  2. Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  3. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
  4. The Factories Act, 1948
  5. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.
  6. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Protection And Redressal) Act, 2013.
  7. The Contract Labor (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1976.
  8. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005.
  9. The Employee’s State Insurance Act, 1948.
  10. The Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923.


Cases:

  1. Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1997 SC 3011


End-Notes:

  1. The Constitution of India, Preamble
  2. The Constitution of India, art. 14.
  3. The Constitution of India, art. 15(1)
  4. The Constitution of India, art. 15(3)
  5. The Constitution of India, art. 16
  6. The Constitution of India, art. 39(a)
  7. The Constitution of India, art. 39(d)
  8. The Constitution of India, art. 42
  9. The Constitution of India, art. 51(A) (e)
  10. Criminal Law act, 2013
  11. The Maternity Benefits Act,1961,Premable
  12. Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Act, 2017
  13. The Maternity Benefits Act,1961, s.7
  14. The Maternity Benefits Act,1961, s.9
  15. The Sexual Harassment Of Women At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013, Preamble.
  16. AIR 1997 SC 3011
  17. Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1997 SC 3011
  18. The Factories Act, 1948, s.48
  19. The Factories Act, 1948, s.27
  20. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, Preamble
  21. The Constitution of India, art.39
  22. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, s.4
  23. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, s.5

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