Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics, and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman, and child can realize his or her full potential.
- Kofi Annan
Legal literacy is highly important. With the help of the constitutional mechanisms, a lot of issues can be dealt with, constructively. It acts as an important tool in situations of emergencies and empowers women in terms of dealing with the problem in hand.
Here is a list of a few rights and laws that women should be aware of:
1) Women can register their complaints via email to the Deputy Commissioner or the Commissioner of Police. The complaint is then forwarded to the respective SHO (Station House Officer), who then verifies it and lodges an FIR.
2) Women CANNOT be arrested after sunset or before sunrise.
3) A woman can only be arrested or taken into custody in the presence of a woman officer.
4) From the period of 6 pm and 6 am, women can only be stopped, detained, questioned by women officers. If female officers are not present, a woman cannot be questioned or taken away.
5) A woman cannot be called to the police station for questioning. She has a right to be questioned on the premises of her own residence.
6) Stalking is considered a culpable offense under the Criminal Law. Legal actions can be taken against the offender. Stalking is defined as follows by the laws, “To follow a woman and contact, or attempt to contact, that woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman; or monitor the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication.”
7) Whosoever, regardless of him/her being the husband or any other close relative, subjects the women to cruelty, shall be punished with imprisonment for 3 years and also be liable to fine. The complaint made against the offender will also be non-bailable to ensure the woman’s safety. The assault can be physical, emotional or sexual.
8) Article 42 of Indian Constitution says that the state has to provide safe and humane working conditions and maternity relief for pregnant women.
9) A woman who has been sexually harassed can file a written complaint to an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) within a period of 3 months, according to the Sexual Harassment Act. The complaint is then taken up to the Local Complaints Committee at a District Level. An investigation is carried out if the proper actions are not taken up by the employer. Any legal heir can also file the complaint on behalf of the victim.
10) The Indian Divorce Act allows the dissolution of marriage, mutual consent, nullity of marriage, judicial separation and restitution of conjugal rights. Family Courts are established to file, hear and dispose of such cases.
11) Victims of sexual assault have a right to anonymity. To ensure that her privacy is protected, a woman who has been sexually assaulted may record her statement alone before the district magistrate when the case is under trial or in the presence of a female police officer.
12) In the event that an accused is a woman, any medical examination procedure on her must be performed by or in the presence of another woman.
The best advocate for yourself is no one but you. It’s very important to be aware of your rights as a woman so that you are in a better position to self-advocate by being assertive, fair, curious and aware of one’s legal position. Self-advocacy is a valuable tool for people who are committed to making a positive change in their lives and equips you to deal with situations rightly.
Were you aware of these rights already? Do you have something to share with us related to this article? Let us know in the comments below.