Gender Justice and the Indian Constitution: The elimination of gender-based discriminations is one of the fundamentals of the constitutional edifice of India. In fact the constitution empowers the state to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favor of women for neutralizing the cumulative discriminations and deprecations’ which women face.
Constitution of India has done a magnificent job in ensuring gender justice in the supreme law of the country. The preamble to the Constitution, inter alia, assures justice, social economic and political, equality of status and opportunity and dignity of the individual. It recognizes women as a class by itself and permits enactment of laws and reservations favoring them. Several articles in our Constitution make express provision for affirmative action in favor of women. It prohibits all types of discrimination against women and lays a carpet for securing equal opportunity to women in all walks of life, including education, employment and participation.
The commitment to gender equality is well entrenched at the highest policy making level in the Constitution of India. A few important provisions for women are mentioned below in briefFundamental Rights (Part III): Article 14 of the constitution of India ensures to women the right to equality. Article 15(1) specifically provides for affirmative and positive action in favor of women by empowering the state to make special provisions for them; and the article 16 of the Constitution provides for equality of opportunity to all, in matters relating to public employment or appointment to any office and specifically forbids discrimination inter-alia on the ground of sex. These articles are all justiciable and form on the basis of our legal Constitutional history.
Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV): Article 38 requires the State to secure a social order in which justice social, economic and political for the promotion of welfare of the people. It requires the state to strive to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities. Clearly the intention of the makers of the Constitution was to ensure that equality would not be only of opportunity but in reality.
Article 39 puts down the principles of policy to be followed by the state which include that the state should direct its policy toward securing the right to an adequate, means of livelihood, that there is equal pay for equal work, that the health and strength of workers men and women, are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.
Article 42 requires the state to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief. Article 46 requires the state to promote with special care the education and economic interest of the weaker sections of the citizen. Clearly then the objective is to strive towards a gender just society.
Fundamental Duties (Part IV: A): In part IV:A of the constitution incorporated through 42nd Amendment Act, 1976, our natural obligation to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women has been elevated to the status of fundamental duty by article 51:A. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, t6he Maternity Benefit Act,
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1961, the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 are some of the enactments which owe their existence to the above mentioned provisions of the Indian Constitution.
4.6. The Constitution 73rd and 74th Amendments Act of 1993: The 73rd and 74th Amendments (1993) to the Indian constitution have served as a major break through towards enhancing the women’s participation in democratic process. These amendments provided for reservation of 33.33 per cent of elected seats. There is also a one-third reservation for women of posts of chairpersons of these local bodies. This is likely to be widened by constitutional amendment for women’s representation in legislatures by reservation.
However, it must be remembered that guaranteeing a right in law does not ensure the ability to access the right in reality. The fact that the historical subjection of women has not come to an end is constantly before us in the form of the reducing number of women in each census. It is falling at an alarming rate which is a matter of concern. Similarly crimes against women have been on the increase. Incidents of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence, cheating etc. have been growing not only in numbers but also in intensity and brutality. The statistics provided by the Crime Bureau of India brings this before us every year. These statistics only reveal the numbers of reported cases. One can easily imagine how much bigger the number would be if one were to take into account the numerous unreported cases. In addition, in the context of an expanding market economy, there has been the increasing objectification of women in the advertisements and the media. Parliament has from time to time either made amendments to the existing laws or enacted new laws to address these various concerns.