Women’s Rights and Violence Against Women

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AUTHORED BY: Jyotsna Bhardwaj

LC-1, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi


WOMEN’S RIGHTS AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

This Article talks about Women’s Rights & Violence against them. It talks about how the situation of women is changing from time to time.

This Article is divided into three parts. In the first part there is a brief introduction of Women’s Rights as Human Rights and how women are devoid of these rights.

It highlights the Notable names behind the women’s rights movements, such as, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony. It talks about their contribution towards women development and how they fought for their right to vote.

They both started an Organisation, The National Women Suffrage Association. Susan B Anthony has said that “Women could not achieve equality unless they have the Right to Vote”.

The second part of the Article pointed out the different kind of violence which women are facing across the world. Different forms of Violence against Women have been challenged as tradition in certain communities. For Example; Dowry violence, Bride burning, Acid throwing, Honor killing, Female genital mutilation, Marriage by abduction and child marriage.

The Third part of the Article talks about the Position of Women in India. How women are being treated in India. It talks about various statues in India that governs the Rights for women. That are mainly categorised as Constitutional Rights and Legal rights.

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INTRODUCTION

Women’s rights are basically the Human Rights laid down by United Nations for every human being. Human rights include the Right to live free from violence, slavery and discrimination, right to be educated, right to own property, right to vote, right to work, right to fair and equal wages etc.

Undoubtedly women are entitled to all these rights but still they are always denied of their rights, mainly because of their Gender.

The very first wave of women’s right movement was started in 1860s in USA by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In her book “Declaration of Sentiments” she pointed out the situation of women and enumerate areas of life where women were treated Unjustly.

One of the renowned names and an icon in the early Women’s right movement was Susan B. Anthony, who was a lifelong supporter of gender and racial equality.

Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, met in 1850 and developed a lifetime alliance as Women’s Rights activists. They both were the part in the abolitionist movement. They fought against the denial of basic economic freedoms to women.

They edited and published a women’s newspaper, “the Revolution”, from 1868 to 1870. In 1869, they formed the National Woman Suffrage Association. They travelled all over the country and abroad to promote woman’s rights.

There was a time when women did not even have the basic rights. They had to fight and struggle for almost every right such as equal employment rights, right to vote, Property rights, right to education and many more.

For the decades women’s rights differed somewhat from culture to culture. There was a time when, women were essentially regarded as slaves or children under the authority of their husbands or fathers. Women were always confined to the home. There was a belief that a significant kind of work is associated with a particular Gender. Still, these kind of Gender stereotypes are rooted in our society. A number of these concerns and others continued to be problems for women even since now.

In the centuries since, women have advocated for these rights and more, but the struggle for equality hasn’t ended yet. Women still face employment discrimination and lack of healthcare.

Susan B. Anthony was one of the notable and famous activists who fought for Women’s right to vote. She quoted that, ‘Women could not achieve equality unless they have the Right to Vote’. She and Elizabeth Cady started a new Organisation, The National Women Suffrage Association.

In 1893, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the World to grant Right to Vote to the Women. Nine years later, Australia also passed the suffrage act for women. After that many countries followed and accepted this act. Like, Finland in 1906, Norway in 1913, Denmark in 1915 and many more.

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In 2011, Saudi Arabia, became the most recent country in 21st Century to grant Right to vote to the Women.

There is still a country left in the world which still has not granted women the Right to vote i.e. Vatican City.

Vatican City, in Rome, is the only place in the world that still prevents women from voting

That means, things are changing but still there is a long way to go.

VOILENCE AGAINST WOMEN

In spite of many years of struggle and involvement of many feminist activist organisations the issue of violence against women still remains one of the most extensive forms of human rights violations worldwide.

Violence against Women is also known a Gender Based Violence. Gender based violence is violence that is particularly connected with an Individual’s gender identity. That includes Physical, Sexual, threats, coercion and economic or educational deprivation.

Gender based violence is considered as one of the notable human rights violations within our societies. Although Boys, Men and gender Minorities also experienced gender-based violence, but women and girls are most at risk and most effected by gender-based violence.

Gender based violence and Violence against women are often used interchangeable as most of gender-based violence are associated with women and girls.

According to a report of United Nation’s population fund, 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

According to United Nations, “There is no region in the world, no country and no culture in which women’s freedom from violence has been secured”

Different forms of Violence against Women have been challenged as tradition in certain communities.

For example,

  1. Dowry Violence and Bride burning is associated with India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
  2. Acid throwing is associated with these countries, as well as, with the Southeast Asia and Cambodia.
  3. Honor killing is with the Middle east and South Asia.
  4. Female genital mutilation is found mostly in Africa.
  5. Marriage by abduction in Ethiopia, Central Asia and the cancans.

Child Marriage is also one of the biggest crimes against boys and girls, but it mainly effects girls, from their health, education and social development perspectives.

About 650 Million women and girls in the world today gets Married before age Eighteen.

According to a report of UN Women.Org 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either Sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives.

It is estimated that of the 87,000 women were intentionally killed in 2017 globally by intimate partner or family members, meaning that 137 women across the world are killed by a member of their own family every day.

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women states, “violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanism by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men”

That means women are always considered as subordinate to men. And this is quite evident everywhere in the society, be in the home or at the workplace.

From the ages, women are being oppressed, judged, and treated as Secondary. This kind of oppression and violence, mainly comes from men’s desire for power and control.

That means, a sense of Entitlement, Superiority, Misogyny leads to such kind of violence.

POSITION IN INDIA

India is a country of vast culture, different religions and many languages. Also, India is one of the fastest developing countries. Every day it is achieving so many things be in technology, in science or in infrastructure. But also, one of the most unsafe country for the women.

That means about half of the population in this country are unsafe. As the country is developing, the crime against women is also increasing.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, In 2016, about 3,38,954 incidents (Crime rate- 55.2) were reported on Crime against women which mainly includes cruelty by husband or his relatives, Assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty, kidnapping and abduction and rape.

Crime against women has become the biggest bane for the development effort of this country.

India has various statues that governs the Rights for women. Mainly, in India the rights available to women are categorised as Constitutional Rights and Legal rights

The Constitutional Rights are provided in the various provisions of the constitution.

For Example; Article 15(3) states that, the state is empowered to make any special provision for women.

Article 39(a) States that, the state to secure for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood

Article 39(d), states that, the state to secure equal pay for equal work for both Indian men and women. And many more.

The Legal Rights are provided in the various acts of the Parliament and the State Legislatures.

Some of the legislations contain rights and safeguards for women are;

Immoral Traffic prevention Act, 1956; Dowry prohibition act, 1961; The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971; Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013; Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005.

Before the Hindu Succession (Amendment) act, 2005, the Daughters, Wives and widows had no claim in the ancestral property of their families. Coparcenary property was only limited to the male members of the family

But, after the 2005 amendment the dynamics of share in coparcenary property has granted equal rights to women and daughters in the Hindu Mitakshara coparcenary property.

In this recent case of Danamma @ Suman Surpur & Anr. V. Amar & ors.[1], the Supreme Court categorically expressed its view on two legal propositions governing rights of daughters on coparcenary property.

Firstly, the Court held that the Amendment Act of 2005 is applicable to living daughters of living coparceners on the date on which the Act came into force. Secondly, that daughter becomes coparcener by birth in the same manner as the son.

Several times, the Supreme court has tried to empower the women of the country, by delivering landmark judgments like in Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan[2].                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             On August 13, 1997, the Supreme Court commissioned the Vishaka Guidelines that defined Sexual harassment and put the responsibility on the employers to provide a safe working environment for the Women.

In Laxmi V. Union of India[3], taking notice of the number of cases relating to acid attacks against women on the rise, the Supreme court imposed rigorous regulations on the sale of acid in 2013. In Mary Roy V. State of Kerala[4], the Supreme court delivered a landmark judgement that granted Syrian Christian women the right to seek an equal share in their father’s property.

In the recent years as well, The Supreme Court has delivered several important judgements that includes women. Such as;

  • Lifting ban on entry of women inside Sabrimala temple, in this case Supreme court states that, biological reasons should not be considered for the continuation of an age-old tradition.
  • Decriminalizing Adultery (Joseph Shine V. Union of India[5]), In this case Chief Justice of India (then) Dipak Mishra’s opines that, Section 497 treats a married woman as nothing more than her husband’s property.
  • Declaring Instant triple talaq as unconstitutional (Shayara bano v. Union of India &others[6]). In August 2017, the Supreme court struck down the age-old practice under which a Muslim man could divorce his wife by uttering the word “talaq” thrice.

CONCLUSION

Maya Angelou, A famous American poet has said “Each time a woman stands for herself, she stands for all women”.

The verdicts in all these cases, that delivered to provide justice to one woman, brings hopes to several other women who are victim of such circumstances.

Women empowerment is one of the most crucial ways for a country’s development and it cannot be ignored. If almost half of the population of one country remains suppressed or unsafe, then it will be impossible to think that a country will ever be developed in the next few centuries also.

That is why, the Supreme court is trying its best to break and do away with all such traditional norms that look down upon women, and gives judgments to prevent violence against women and to put them equally as men in the society.

In the ancient history, the condition of women was not same like this. In the Vedic period, women had equal rights as men, they were educated and they also have the right to choose their own husband in a practice called “Swayamvar”.

There are various stories of strong women from the history. Such as, Rani of Jhansi, Akka Mahade, Rudrama Devi, who was one of the few women to rule as a monarch in the Indian subcontinental and many more.

In Mahabharata, the Story of Draupadi having Five husbands is very popular. Though it was not her choice to marry them but she was bold enough to put up with five husband and brave enough to take a stand when honor of a women was at stake.

There is an opinion that The Muslim conquest in the Indian Subcontinent brought changes to Indian society.

The practice of johar became a custom among Rajput after invasion of Turco-Afghan.

The Rajput women had to perform Johar to avoid being enslaved and lose their honour or be tortured. The Rights of the Muslim women were affected by the custom of Hijab

Initially, the practice of burqah or Hijab was only present in the West India but after some time it became a part of regal practice under the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire. Later on, the purdah system was adopted by Hindus in North India as well.

During that period also, there were some cases of women becoming prominent in the fields of politics, literature and education. For Example, Razia Sultana, became the only woman monarch to ever ruled Delhi.

There were various conservative customs in the past like Sati, Dowry, Child Marriage, purdah, Devadasi and many more, at that time.

Many of these practices are still present in our society.

There is a famous Shloka in Sanskrit that says “yatra naryastu pujyante, tatra devta ramante” that means, where women are worshipped, there God resides.

But women don’t want to be worshipped. All they want is equal rights and a better place in the society. They want people to realise that women are also a very crucial part of this society, who are also working hard for the betterment of the society. We can see women working in all fields like aeronautics, politics, banks, schools, sports, business, army and many more. There is nothing they can’t do. So, it is not wrong to ask for equal rights as men, or treat them as a human at least and not as a property of men. A safe working culture, a secure environment, is all what a woman wants. They just want this country to become more secure and safe for them so that they can enjoy their rights and freedom.


[1] CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 188-189 OF 2018

[2] AIR 1997 SC 3011

[3] WRIT PETITION (C)NO.129 OF 2006

[4]  1986 AIR 1011, 1986 SCR (1) 371

[5] WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 194 OF 2017

[6] Writ Petition (Civil) 118 of 2016


Authored By: Jyotsna Bhardwaj

LC-1, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi


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