Women’s Rights and Legislative Reforms

Session Report
Ronak Gupta

LPPYF Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship is an Online National Summer School Program, a Two-Month Online Immersive Legal Awareness & Action Research Certificate Training Course and Internship Program, from June-August 2023 by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. An informative and interactive panel discussion on “Women’s Rights and Legislative Reforms” was held on — of June 2023 by Adv Flavia Agnes, Women’s Rights Lawyer, Co-founder of Majilis Legal Centre, Mumbai

The chairperson for the program is Professor Vibhuti Patel, who is a distinguished visiting professor at IMPRI, and Panel expert Adv Flavia Agnes

The session was inaugurated by the chair Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Distinguished Professor at IMPRI with a summary of the previous week’s sessions given by experts. She thereafter welcomed the expert Adv Flavia Agnes  to commence with the session of  Women’s Rights and Legislative Reforms; as it is important to understand the situation of women in society through real-life instances, struggle for equality in society

Adv Flavia Agnes had written extensively on women’s movements, legal changes, and legislative reforms. She started her talk by highlighting the issue of women taking the center stage.From 1980’s 

1 Anti-rape law amendment 1983- 

widened the scope of existing rape laws and brought in certain important changes in the law, particularly the increase in punishment for rape convicts; which increased to 7 yrs for ordinary rape, 10 years for rape and heinous crime.It also provided a  broader def of rape, and a blueprint for the rest of years to come defining the cases related to rape. But she highlighted the changes on the ground as the real question to thought upon

2    Women Dowry and related legislations 1984

She highlighted that the earlier dowry laws were amended and punishment was made more stringent. Then in 1986 Amendment to IPC. 498A brought in which however proved to be quite controversial according to her on grounds of allegations of misuse by women . The primary take of adv flavia agnes was that most women are unaware of this law, that the law was not much in use; only a  small section of upper-class women, urban women from lower class women only had access. However, there were still increased instances of cases related to domestic violence. And also the Refusal by the police to register complaints regarding this issue.Provision of immediate arrest; a provision in favor of women was criticized by people

3 trafficking law and punishment 

– all movements or issues concerning women in society entered into the domain of legislative reforms 

Made laws more deterrent ie punishment was increased, once the case was filed the speaker held  that most cases were not filed, even in the case of rape

Though rape law went many changes, saying that consent has to be voluntary, and that simply lack of protest is not consent. And most important to these rape laws were the recommendations by the Verma committee.

Where did the movement’s essence falter?

 While stringent punishment was asked and demanded statutory laws, but failed to look at the procedure, i.e. how one accesses the court, and the mechanisms to which access to justice is provided. But In the domestic violence act 2005, everything is mentioned and taken care of, it kind of protective legislation, protective legislation, can ask for civil remedies in spite of being a criminal laws.

Ex- right to stay in the matrimonial home, custody of children, maintenance etc.

  • Wide def using assault etc
  • A simple application to the court is sufficient
  • The format of remedy etc is given in the act itself
  • No need for a lawyer, an NGO person can also represent one person
  • Can directly go to court, as compared to going to the police to file a complaint
  • No divorce but provides other protective acts
  • Combination of civil and criminal remedies
  • The simple language of act is a plus point 

But not implemented properly and people are still not aware of it. As courts are overclocked but can go to magistrate court as compared to civil court; which is comparatively more expensive

4 Issue of UCC ( uniform civil code)

21st law comm. 2018 report said UCC is neither necessary nor required at this stage and only made recommendations to make personal laws generous in nature, which are feudal in nature and women are made subordinate in-laws. And highlighted the need to make gender equal. However, the 22nd law commission, 2023 objected to anti-Muslim focus, control of population, and polygamy.
Further, she highlighted the need to discard the political agenda and seek genuine reforms, concerning the overall good of the society and said that the Blame Stock is entirely on the Muslim community that their law is backward. Implying that Hindu law is perfect And progressive; which is not perfectly true.

One nation one law is detrimental,  fear among minorities that a nation going towards hindu rashtra and stroking out all personal laws at once is not good for the larger good. Tribal laws are also a concern under article 371, wherein personal laws are preserved.

Then the question came: are tribal customs gender just?

She highlighted that some laws are matrilineal, some patrilineal, some uphold women’s rights some don’t. But this is not the way to reform through UCC Reforms has to come. The main criticism is that the 22nd law com has not the draft yet,  but it is not feasible to take out all personal laws in one stroke. She also asked the audience to show support for the 21st law comm, against UCC, and instead go for changes in the personal laws.

The floor was open for questions and answers. Post the same, closing remarks were given by Prof Vibhuti Ma’am wherein she said that even though these issues are faced in our country, we need to give due credit to the complexities of India’s society, bureaucracy, and democratic system. It is important to have dialogue and make the society in general aware.

A vote of thanks was proposed thanking the speaker Adv Flavia Agnes, chair Prof Vibhuti Ma’am, Dr Rashmi Singh, and various participants for an enhancing session.

Acknowledgment: Ronak Gupta is a research intern at IMPRI.

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

Cities, Environment, Climate Change and Social Justice



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