Protection of Women’s Human Rights by the Constitution of India

The constitution of India confers special rights upon women. The constitution-makers were well aware of the subordinate and backward position of women in society. They made some efforts to uplift women in our society.

The Indian state is directed to provide maternity relief to female workers under Article 42 of the Constitution, whereas Article 51-A declares it as a fundamental duty of every Indian citizen to renounce practices to respect the dignity of women.

Indian Parliament has passed the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, to properly implement Article 51-A. Indian Parliament over the years has taken significant steps through legislation to achieve the goal of empowering women in India.

The significant among them are the Equal Remuneration Act, the Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act, the Sati (Widow Burning the rights of) Prevention Act, and the Dowry Prohibition Act, etc. Apart from these, the 73rd and 74th Constitution (Amendment) Acts provided for 33% reservation for women in both Panchayat and Nagarpalika institutions as well as for the positions of chairpersons of these bodies. These two amendments removed the bottlenecks from the paths of women empowerment at the local level.

In fact, it has been found that Karnataka sends a maximum number of women to the PRIs followed by Kerala and Manipur. To facilitate equal participation of women at the national and state-level politics, the bill providing for 33% reservation of seats for women in national and States legislatures has been introduced in Parliament.

Besides this, the government in India has enacted a variety of laws like the Dowry Prohibition Act, Sati prevention Act, etc to guarantee women’s rights. Apart from this, in India, National Commission for Women had been established in 1990 to look into the women’s problem.

NCW has engaged them to deal with the cases relating to the violation of women’s rights. They have pressured the government to pass stricter laws to deal with rape cases, domestic violence, create a separate criminal code for women, etc.

Human rights and fundamental freedoms should be birthrights, but across the globe, some countries fail to accord human rights to women. Moreover, women are often victims of human rights abuses. Women’s human rights are abused when they cannot participate in decisions that affect their lives and are denied political participation and fair representation when they are prevented from going to school or receiving health care when they face discrimination in employment when they are denied equal rights to own land and property, when they suffer from violence within their homes and when they are subjected to harmful traditional practices such as genital mutilation and honor killings.

Recognition of women’s rights began in some countries as they evolved from feudal into more representative forms of government. In the United States, awareness of women’s rights came with the ideals of the American Revolution.

Strong and intelligent women such as Abigail Adams, wife of the second U.S. president, John Adams, demanded fair and equal treatment, and warned presciently, “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” She also advocated equal access to education for girls, writing to her husband, who then represented the new American republic in Paris: “I regret the trifling narrow contracted education of the females of my own country.” Women’s suffrage movements began in the United States and Great Britain in the mid-19th century and in a few European countries in the early 20th century.

Women’s human rights only emerged as a global movement during the United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985), when women from many different geographic, cultural, religious, racial, and class backgrounds came together and organized to improve the status of women.

It was during this decade that the United Nations sponsored several women’s conferences — Mexico City in 1975, Copenhagen in 1980, and Nairobi in 1985 — to evaluate the status of women and to formulate strategies for women’s advancement.

Then-U.S. first lady Hillary Clinton famously declared at the 1995 Beijing conference that “human rights are women’s rights,” adding, “Women must enjoy the right to participate fully in the social and political lives of their countries if we want freedom and democracy to thrive and endure.”

The principles and practices related to women’s human rights are continuously evolving. The large body of international covenants, agreements, and commitments to women’s human rights developed over the past several decades provides women with an alternative vision and vocabulary to confront violations of their human rights. Such guidelines are important tools for political activism and a framework for developing concrete strategies for change.

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