Indian Woman Acts
Crimes Against Women
- Sexual Harassment
By the crime statistics of year 1990, half of the total criminal offenses against women reported comprised of sexual harassment and teasing of women at work places. Eve teasing has been used as a garb by males to sexually harass the women at offices, market places and public transport vehicles. There is a view of many activists and experts that rising number of sexual harassment cases against women is an adverse effect of westernized lifestyle. To contain and prohibit an indecent display of woman in advertisements, publications, paintings or any other medium, an act, ‘The indecent representation of women (prohibition) Act, 1986, was passed by the government. In a historic judgment in 1997, the Supreme Court of India took a strong stand against women’s sexual harassment at work places.
Dowry takes forms of payment in cash or gifting of jewelry, appliances, furniture, vehicles, utensils or even immovable properties, by bride’s family to bridegroom or his family as a precondition of marriage. This is an age old evil in Indian society that has always brought immense financial burden to bride’s family. Most of the time, the dowry system has led to crimes against women that take forms of emotional abuse, injuries and even deaths.Although the payment of dowry has been prohibited under The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 that established the demands made for dowry as illegal and punishable acts, there have been uncountable reported incidents of dowry related domestic violence, suicides and murders, in which women were the main victims. Even in decades of 70s and 80s, thousands of dowry related culpable crimes against women were registered. In 1985, the government set up some rules to combat the evils of dowry – ‘The dowry prohibition (Maintenance of lists of presents to the bride and bridegroom) rules, 1985’. According to these rules, a list has to be prepared and maintained which shall bear all the details of gifts given to bride and bridegroom during their wedding ceremony. This list shall include the articles of gifts, their approximate monetary value, the name of presenters and their relationships with bride and bridegroom. Although this was a comprehensive set of rules, it is doubtful whether the concerned parties have been making any such lists during the marriages of their wards.
In the year 1997, a report suggested that every year at least 5000 women lose their lives due to dowry related crimes, the most common being so called “kitchen fires”. This bride burning has taken the ugliest of forms in India and is condemnable by one and all. Although the educated urban communities have witnessed a fall in such cases, the incidents of bride burning are still rampant in rural areas.
- Child Marriage
Child Marriage has been an age old tradition in India. This nasty evil is still prevalent in many societies and has its own disastrous repercussions. Although in older times, the girls who got married in childhood were supposed to stay with their parents till they reach youth, this system had many adverse effects on their growth as an individual. Early marriage led to an early pregnancy which implied undue stress on tender bodies and minds. Female mortality was very high which resulted in what we today see as unbalanced sex ratio. In many cases, child widows were ill treated with little or no alternatives to sustain their lives. They were deprived of a respectable existence, got their heads shaved and were made to stay isolated. Although in 1860, child marriage was termed as illegal and immoral, this heinous crime against females still exists in our country. According to a UNICEF report, ‘The state of the world’s children, 2009’, of all women in age group 20-24 years, about 47% are those who were married off before legitimate age of 18. Of these, 56% belong to rural areas. The report also suggests that of all child marriages that are conducted worldwide, about 40% are staged in India alone.
- Sex-selective abortion and female infanticide
As per the census of 2011, the sex ratio of India stands at 943. This means, for every 1000 males, there are 943 females. Translated over the entire Indian population, this figure signifies a big demographic imbalance. Less girls for boys presents a gap that is unhealthy for any country’s human resource development. In India, the skewed sex ratio is mainly due to the following factors:
- Girls dying before reaching adulthood due to neglect of their healthcare and social security.
- Female infanticide practiced among many societies for fear of many socio-economic evils like dowry.
- Selective abortion killing female fetus.
- Granting an inferior status to females by male dominant social orders resulting in their deprived physical, emotional and social health in general.
- Lack of education and awareness among females, especially in rural areas making them vulnerable and dependent on males for their sustenance.
It is interesting to know that, despite the general lack of education and financial resources in many of the tribal groups, their sex ratio favors females as compared to that in advanced societies which are comparatively educated and better placed economically. This fact covertly points towards the practice of female feticides in advanced societies by abusing the modern diagnostic technologies. Historically, prenatal testing was evolved in order to diagnose various genetic disorders that might inflict the fetus so that prospective parents may decide to abort in case of any serious disorder that would never be cured and would hamper a normal life in children. It has been an unfortunate fact that this technological feat was predominantly abused for determining the sex of the fetus and then going for a selective abortion.
Although prenatal sex determination has long been made illegal in India, this practice is still rampant in many areas, especially rural and poses a big challenge.
- Domestic Violence
Violence within confines of four walls of home is a grave crime against women and often goes unreported. Although Incidents of verbal and physical rage against females are more common in lower socio-economic classes, higher segments of society have also not remained aloof from them. Violent onslaughts by males on females are generally based on a misplaced notion that females are lower in status.
To combat this evil, Indian Parliament enacted Protection of women from domestic violence Act, 2005 that fully came into being on 26th October, 2006.
- Human Trafficking
Trafficking of young girls and women in India has been a serious concern for policy makers. Females are trafficked within and outside the country for the purposes of their commercial sexual exploitation and engagement as forced or bonded labor. Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act was passed in 1956 by the Parliament that made human traffic a punishable crime, still many cases of trafficking of young girls and women have been reported often.