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  • ANJALI MEENA

PROJECT MASHAAL: STEPS TAKEN BY THE INDIAN JUDICIARY FOR WOMEN'S EQUITY IN SOCIETY

Anjali Meena,

ICFAI University, Jaipur

PROJECT MASHAAL: STEPS TAKEN BY THE INDIAN JUDICIARY FOR WOMEN'S EQUITY IN SOCIETY

INTRODUCTION

In recent years, India has witnessed a significant push towards achieving gender equality, with various sectors making concerted efforts to address the long-standing issues of gender disparity. One notable initiative is "Project Mashaal," a comprehensive program promoting women's equity in Indian society. The Indian judiciary has played a pivotal role in this movement, ensuring that legal frameworks and judicial interventions support and advance the cause of gender equality. This article explores the steps taken by the Indian judiciary under Project Mashaal and relates them to current affairs, highlighting ongoing efforts and challenges.

Legal Reforms and Judicial Interventions

1. Criminal law amendment 

One of the most significant ways towards gender equity has been to amend criminal laws to provide better protection and justice for women. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013[1], often related to the Nirbhaya Act[2], was a landmark reform in response to the brutal gang rape incident in Delhi in 2012. This amendment introduced stricter penalties for crimes against women, including rape, sexual harassment, and acid attacks. The bar has been vigilant in assuring the effective accomplishment of these laws, with fast-track courts established to expedite cases of sexual violence.

2. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005[3]

 The judiciary has also been necessary for administering the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, of 2005. This act provides comprehensive measures to secure women from domestic violence, including physical, emotional, and profitable abuse. Courts have issued multitudinous defensive orders and assured victims of necessary support services. Recent judgments have emphasized the significance of securing women's rights within the domestic sphere, reinforcing the bar's commitment to gender equity.

3. Workplace Harassment and the Vishakha Guidelines

To address the issue of workplace harassment, the Supreme Court of India laid down the Vishakha Guidelines in 1997[4], which later culminated in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act[5], 2013. These guidelines and the subsequent legislation mandate the establishment of Internal Complaints Committees (ICCs) in workplaces to handle complaints of sexual harassment. The judiciary has played a pivotal part in ensuring compliance with these guidelines and laws, holding employers responsible for creating safe work surroundings for women.

4. Sabarimala Verdict[6] and Women's Right to Religious Freedom

In a landmark judgment in 2018, the Supreme Court of India lifted the ban on the entry of women of menstruating age into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. This verdict was a significant step towards upholding women's right to religious freedom and equivalency. The decision sparked civil debates and protests, reflecting the deep-seated societal resistance to gender equivalency in certain spheres. The judiciary's station in this case emphasized its commitment to grueling discriminative practices and promoting women's rights.

Current Affairs: Ongoing Efforts and Challenges

1.    Women’s reservation bill

The Women's Reservation Bill, which seeks to reserve 33 of seats in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies for women, has been a topic of significant debate in recent times. While the bill has faced political hurdles, the judiciary's support for affirmative action policies has been apparent in various judgments advocating for greater representation of women in governance. The passage of this bill would mark a major step towards political equity for women in India

2.    Rise in domestic violence cases during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the intimidating rise in domestic violence cases, as lockdown measures trapped numerous women in abusive households. The bar has responded by emphasizing the need for critical defensive measures and ensuring that helplines and support services remain functional. Recent directives from the Supreme Court have called for enhanced monitoring and swift action to protect victims of domestic violence during these challenging times.

3.    Implementation of Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017[7] 

The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, which extends the period of paid maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks, aims to support working mothers. still, its implementation has faced resistance from certain sectors. The bar has been visionary in addressing grievances related to non-compliance, ensuring that women receive their entitled benefits. This act is a pivotal step towards balancing work and family responsibilities, promoting women's participation in the workforce.

Conclusion

Project Mashaal represents a concerted effort by the Indian judiciary to champion women's equity in society. Through legal reforms, landmark judgments, and vigilant enforcement of laws, the judiciary has significantly contributed to advancing gender equality. While challenges remain, particularly in terms of societal attitudes and implementation of policies, the judiciary's commitment to women's rights provides a strong foundation for continued progress. As India navigates the complexities of gender equity, the role of the judiciary remains indispensable in shaping a more just and equitable society for women.

References

[1] Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013, Act no. 13 of 2013

[2] Mukesh & ANR v. State (NCT OF DELHI) & ORS (2017) 6 SCC 1

[3] Domestic Violence Act, 2005 S.O. 1776(E)

[4] Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan and others AIR, (1997) SCC 3011  

[5] Sexual Harassment of women at Workplace Act, 2013 no. 14 of 2013

[6] Indian Young Lawyers Association and others. V. the state of Kerala and ORS. (2019) 11 SCC 1

[7] Maternity benefit amendment act, 2017

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