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An Analytical Study On The Constitutional Safeguards Of Women In India

Women do play major role in shaping the society by providing moral force at home. They have very unique position at every society whether it is developed, undeveloped or developing. Women have gained a lot in almost every field. It is said that to understand things in a better manner we need look upon the history.

There was a time in history when women were forced to live within the four walls and they were not even allowed to raise their opinion. Now, in the modern days we find woman in every campaign and both men and women are bread earner of the family. Both the spouses are sharing the responsibilities and the stereotypical roles placed on women are slowly dissolving. Women are the embodiment of Shakti, the Creator and the Destroyer of human race.

Since Independence the position of Indian women is no better. On one hand she is held high, worshiped, considered as the epitome of virtues and the one who could just sacrifice everything for their family. But on the other hand she has been the victim of miseries, hardships and atrocities that are caused due the male dominating society. They are most deprived and backward section of the society. She had been the victim of tyranny.

As a solution to every problems mainly the gender discrimination, women empowerment is the need of hour. It is high time to provide women equal rights, opportunities in decision making and they should be recognized as the builders and moulders of the nation's destiny.

"The day a woman can walk freely on the roads at night, that day we can say that India has achieved independence." - Mahatma Gandhi

Introduction
According to a report published by United Nations in 1980 it was found that women do constitute the half of the world's total population. They do perform nearly about two-thirds of work hours and they receive one tenth of the world's income. They own less than one hundred percent of the world's property.1

According to the Apex Court of India's observation in the case Madhu krishna v. State of Bihar 2 women constitute half of the Indian population. They have always been the discriminated section of the society and have suffered a lot. In spite, the number of sacrifices they have been treated as the inferiors.

With the aim to provide women protection against their sufferings, the framers of the Indian Constitution have incorporated special provisions. These provisions would enable a woman to develop in all spheres of life.

The Preamble

The preamble of our constitution is non- discriminatory where all sections are treated equally and alike. But when we look at the history of India, suppression of women is very old and long. The framers have historically examined the situation and incorporated provisions with the view to grant equal status to women in terms of all spheres.3

The preamble of the Indian Constitution declares social, economic and political justice to all its citizens. The mentioning of the terms simply means that neither men nor women should be denied from the fruits of justice.

Social Justice when interpreted simply means that larger goal must be achieved and nobody should be deprived of their legal rights. It also means that state should make all those positive laws that are required for the development of society. The expression "social and economic" means that all should have equal opportunities and injustice should not be done even to unequal of the society.4

Fundamental Rights

The Part III5 of the India Constitution primarily deals with fundamental rights. Even though Articles 12-35 are applicable to all citizens and no discrimination is made on the basis of sex but certain special provisions has been made for the protection of rights of the women.

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guarantees equality before law and equal protection of the law. Thus, a woman of the Indian society enjoys same treatment and protection to that of men as guaranteed by Indian Constitution. Article 15 of the Indian Constitution prohibits discrimination against women.

When we talk about clause 1 of Article 15 it states that state should not make any discrimination against any citizen mainly on the grounds of religion, caste, sex of place or any of them. On the other hand, Article 15(3) lifts that ignominy and permits the state will not hesitate to make positive discriminatory laws for women to meet up their special needs.

The intention of the f framers could be seen that in order to protect the interest of women such specific clause has been inserted. The concept of Article 15(3) was justified by Honorable Justice S. Manohar.

He observed that clause 3 of Article 15 recognises that fact that women have been deprived of their rights since ages and they have been socially and economically handicapped. Dr. G.B Reddy also stated that clause 3 of Article 15 is in favour of women and states are empowered to make special provisions to ameliorate their social, economic and political condition. The object of the Article 15(3) is to eliminate socio- economic backwardness of women.6 Again in the case of Charan Singh v Union of India, 7

The Honorable Court observed:
that women should be treated as class and their social, economic and political condition should be compared with men.

Article 16 talks about equal opportunity in matters of public employment and Article 16(1) states that no discrimination should be made in opportunity and employment to any office under state. In the case, C.B. Muthamma v Union of India,8 the rules requiring female employees to get permission before marriage and denial of right to employment to married women were held to be discriminatory and violative of Article-16 of the Indian Constitution.

Now Article 16(4) talks about empowerment of the backward and deprived communities to give them proper share in administrative apparatus. Here the question may arise that whether women are included in the deprived and backward community.

Talking into account their condition, position and status they fulfill almost all the characteristics and hence they must be given benefit. Article 19 to 22 deals with right to freedom that must be guaranteed to both men and women. Article 21 states that:
No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except by the procedure established by law.

This section has been widely interpreted in Maneka Gandhi's Case.9 Article 23 of the Indian Constitution talks about prohibits human trafficking. In the case, Vishal Jeet v Union of India,10 the court observed that trafficking in India is prevalent since ages in the form of prostitution and buying and selling of human beings. And every citizen as per Articles 32 to 35 has right to constitutional remedies.

Now taking into consideration the above discussion certain questions may arise.
  1. Can a woman be denied a job merely because she is a woman?
    In the landmark case, Air India v. Nargesh Meerza11, the Apex Court held that woman should not be denied employment merely on the ground that she is a woman. It is gross violation of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
     
  2. Can a person be denied of seniority promotion on the ground of sex?
    The same question arose and was Indian Foreign Service was challenged in the case Miss C.B. Muthamma v. Union of India.12 It was held by the court that rules relating to seniority and promotions in India Foreign Services which makes discrimination on the ground of sex only was not only unconstitutional but also a hangover of masculine culture.
     
  3. Whether beauty contests are violation of constitutional provisions?
    This question arouse in the case of C. Rajakumari v. Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad.13 The Honorable Court held that beauty contest that is likely to degrade, deprive, corrupt or injure the public mortality is violative of Articles 14, 21 and 51-A of the Indian Constitution.
     
  4. Can a woman make reproductive choice?
    The Honorable Supreme Court in the case of Suchita Srivastava and Another v. Chandigarh Administration 14 observed that women do have right to make reproductive 
    choice and is covered under Article 21.
     
  5. Can there be reservation of seats for women in college?
    The Honorable Bombay High Court in Dettatreya v. State of Bombay, 15 held that reservation of seats for women in college in not unconditional.
     
  6. What is the relation between immoral trafficking and the Indian Constitution?
    Article 23 of the Indian Constitution prohibits human trafficking. In the case, Vishal Jeet v Union of India,16 the court observed that trafficking in India is prevalent since ages in the form of prostitution and buying and selling of human beings.
     
  7. Can a mother act as a natural guardian during the lifetime of father?
    The Apex Court in the case, Githa Hariharan v. Reserve Bank of India17 held that father cannot alone was the natural guardian which was violation of Articles 14 and 15 of the Indian Constitution. Hence, the mother can also be the natural guardian during the lifetime of father.
     

Directive Principles Of State Policy

Under the Constitution of India, 1950 the concept of directive principles of state policy is the reflection of democratic governance.The Constitution in Part IV18 directs the state to take certain remedial measures. The policy includes equal rights to work, equal pay for equal work, adequate means of decent and dignified livelihood to both men and women.

These are guaranteed under the directive principles of State policy. Article 38, 39(a), 39(b) and 39(e), 42, 44 and 45 deals with the welfare and development of women.
  1. Principle of "equal work" is a constitutional goal 
    The Honorable Court in Randhir Singh v. Union of India, 19 expressed the opinion that the principle of "equal work" is not a constitutional right guaranteed by the constitution but a constitutional goal. Article 39(d) declares that State must direct measures to ensure equal work for both men and women.
     
  2. Right as to plurality of marriage is not conferred on husband
    In the case Lily Thomas v. Union of India, 20 it was settled that mere conversion does not bring to an end the marital ties unless a decree for divorce is obtained from the court
     
  3. Protection of women from prostitution and rehabilitation of their children
    In a landmark case of Gaurav Jain v. Union of India, 21 the court held that it is the duty of government and voluntary non- governmental organizations to take all necessary steps for protection of women from prostitution and rehabilitation of their children. They must be provided opportunity for education, financial support, legal aid and free counseling assistance.

Conclusion
In the post-Independence period the Indian Constitution has extended and several special provisions were made for the women. The states are continuously directed to take measures for the empowerment of women. Several legislations are enacted to bring the position of women not only at par with men but also they have been granted privileged position against men.

All these provisions, acts, legislations, etc. clearly mentions that steps have been taken to uplift the women but the condition still remained unimproved because there is no satisfactory result. The nation has long way to go as the real issues remain unattended.

References:
  1. Dr. S.C. Tripathi, Women and Criminal Law 15 (Central Law Publications, Allahabad, 2nd Edn, Reprint 2020
  2. (1956) 5 SCC 148
  3. Preamble of the Indian Constitution, available: (https://doj.gov.in/sites/default/files/preamble-eng.pdf last visited 30th October, 2021)
  4. Ibid.
  5. Part III of the Indian Constitution, 1950, available at: (https://www.mea.gov.in/Images/pdf1/Part3.pdf last visited 31st October, 2021)
  6. Government of Andhra Pradesh v. P.B. Vijay Kumar AIR 1995 SC 1648 at p. 1651
  7. (1979) S. L. J. 26 at P. 32
  8. AIR 1979 SC 1868
  9. AIR 1978 SC 597
  10. AIR 1990 SC 1412
  11. AIR 1981 SC 1829
  12. AIR 1979 SC 1868
  13. AIR 1998 A.P. 302
  14. 2009 (9) SCC 1
  15. AIR 1953 Bom. 311
  16. Supra Note 6
  17. AIR 1999 SC 1149
  18. Part IV of Indian Constitution, available at: (https://www.mea.gov.in/Images/pdf1/Part4.pdf last visited 31st October)
  19. AIR 1982 SC 879
  20. AIR 2000 SC 1650
  21. AIR 1997 SC 3201

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