Substantive Equality: A Constitutional Safeguard for Women

Session Report
Riya Rajvanshi

A Four Week Online Certificate Training Course on “Ending Violence Against Women: Awareness of Laws and Policies in India”, organized by the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), at the IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi. The session was on “Substantive Equality: A Constitutional Safeguard for Women” by Adv Dr Albertina Almeida Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Goa. Inaugurating the session Bhavni, a researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panelists. 

The session initiated by Advocate Dr Albertina Almeida, as she shared her thoughts on Substantive Equality: A Constitutional Safeguard for Women. Firstly, she explained how the Constitution plays a role in providing a Safeguard for Women by a presentation.

She added that the Constitution of India plays a crucial importance in providing safeguards for women by incorporating provisions that uphold their rights, promote gender equality, and counter discrimination and violence. The Constitution’s commitment to social justice and fundamental rights serves as a foundation for women’s empowerment.

  • When it can be demonstrated that special laws are necessary, the Indian Constitution provides the framework for the legislature to create them.
  • It is fair to have a different law, or different provisions within a law, for a given section of the population.
  • The various laws and provisions are reasonably related to the goal that is being pursued.

Equality in the Constitution

Over time, India’s judiciary has broadened and interpreted these constitutional precepts, addressing a wide range of equality-related problems, such as gender justice, women’s rights, reservations, and social welfare initiatives. In addition to being required under the constitution, the nation’s dedication to equality serves as a catalyst for social justice, economic progress, and the general welfare of all of its citizens, regardless of their backgrounds.

Women are guaranteed fair and impartial treatment under Article 14’s guarantee of their right to equality before the law. Advocate Almeida concentrated on the Constitution’s guarantee of equality, emphasizing how it tries to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and justly, regardless of their background.

She further emphasized on Article 15 which prohibits discrimination based on gender, ensuring that women have equal access to opportunities and benefits. These constitutional safeguards collectively reflect the nation’s resolve to counteract societal inequalities and promote a more just and inclusive society.

Substantive Equality

She remarked in order to achieve equitable results for all people, substantive equality refers to the pursuit of real and meaningful equality, not just in a legal or procedural sense. It acknowledges that various social groupings may have unique requirements and historical disadvantages that call for all-encompassing solutions.

Promote equality of results is the aim.

To achieve substantive equality, numerous laws and programs target particular problems. Laws that address labor rights, land ownership, and gender-based violence, for instance, work to level the playing field for vulnerable and underrepresented groups.

CEDAW

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is often described as an international bill of rights for women.

She explained that India has ratified CEDAW which promotes Substantive Equality.

  • Enactment of Laws: A framework of laws and policies, as well as institutions and processes for their implementation, are required to ensure equality of opportunity in terms of access to a nation’s resources.
  • Implementation: Equal access and opportunity outcomes in the pursuit of substantive change for women. State parties to CEDAW are required to demonstrate progress in order to fulfill their obligation to ensure the effective realization of rights.

Affirmative Action

Finally, she concluded by explaining laws which protect women against violence which were enacted in India.

  1.  The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005:  The goal of this act of legislation is to confront and prevent domestic abuse. The law acknowledges the necessity of defending women’s rights and shielding them from domestic violence on a physical, emotional, sexual, and financial level. It demonstrates a dedication to giving victims access to justice and support services while also bringing attention to the gravity of domestic abuse and the need to eradicate it from society.
  1. The Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act of 2013: The act in India is a significant legal framework aimed at addressing and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. The act acknowledges the right of every woman to work in an environment free from harassment and outlines measures to create a safe and conducive work atmosphere.

Lastly, the presentation ended as she stated that reservations for women might exist in India’s Parliament and Legislative Assemblies. The idea of allocating seats specifically for women in legislative bodies seeks to advance gender equality and improve the representation of women in the decision-making process. Women’s engagement and leadership have significantly increased at the grassroots level as a result of this.

Acknowledgements: Riya is a Research Intern at IMPRI. 

Read more session reports on web policy learning events conducted by IMPRI:

Violence Against Women And Response Of Women’s Movements In India – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute (impriindia.com)

Legal Perspectives On Violence Against Women In India – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute (impriindia.com)

Legal Safeguards Against Violence In Public Spaces And Workplaces – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute (impriindia.com)

Authors

  • IMPRI

    IMPRI, a startup research think tank, is a platform for pro-active, independent, non-partisan and policy-based research. It contributes to debates and deliberations for action-based solutions to a host of strategic issues. IMPRI is committed to democracy, mobilization and community building.

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  • Samriddhi