Access to Justice For Women

By- Aanchal Rawat


Since ancient times, a woman is glorified as a goddess and even Manu Smriti says "yatra naryastu pujyante, ramante tatra devata". It means: where women have honored their divinity blossoms. So there are enough pieces of evidence to show historically women enjoyed the freedom and mythologically woman enjoys a higher place and the examples of these “Swayamvara” System, for example, Dayamanti and Shankuntala shows the freedom that was given to the women are the freedom that is enjoyed by the women in choosing their husband is very evident. However, due to biological, political, economical, and religious reasons, the status of women slowly declined. So, therefore, what they enjoyed as a higher status historically, mythologically slowly started to degrade and women became a vulnerable group subjected to harassment, sexual abuse, and discrimination. Therefore there is an international effort, made to improve the status of women.

International Instruments:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948-

  • It talks about the equal rights of men and women.
  • UDHR is not women-specific. The convention talks about the general rights of human beings.
  • There are no specific provisions exclusively for women.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1976-

  • It again talks about the equal rights of men and women.

International Convent on Economic and Social and Cultural Rights-

  • Article 7 talks about equal pay for both men and women.

Convention on the Political Rights of Women 1954-

  • It recognizes three political rights for women.

  1. Right to Vote
  2. Right to contest in Elections.
  3. Right to hold public office.

The Declaration on Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict 1974:

  • This Convention specifically looks into the status of women during armed conflict and emergency.
  • Convention prohibits bombings, especially on women and children.
  • It prohibits the use of bacteriological weapons against women.
  • It also talks about sparring women from the ravages of War.
  • Prohibition of inhuman treatment for women.
  • No deprivation of shelter, food, medical aid, and other inalienable rights for women.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women 1979 (CEDAW):

  • Termed as International Bill of Rights for Women.
  • It prohibits any distinction, exclusion, or restriction made based on sex.
  • Signatories agree to incorporate the principles of equality for both men and women.
  • Abolish all discriminatory laws
  • Adopt laws prohibiting discrimination
  • Establish tribunals and other public institutions for the protection of women against discrimination.
  • Ensure the elimination of all acts of discrimination by persons, organizations, and enterprises.

Women and Constitution of India:

The Indian Constitution has special provisions for the protection of the rights of women. It accords special status to the women in the country.


 The preamble of the Indian Constitution states that it intends to secure to all its citizens “equality of status and opportunity”. Equality is the basis on which further progress in achieving the rights of women is possible.

Fundamental Rights: 

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution states that the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws".

Article 15(1) of the Indian Constitution restricts the State from discriminating against any citizen on grounds only of sex among other things. 

Article 15(3) of the Indian Constitution, enables the State to enact special laws to protect the rights of women and give them special status.

Article 16 of the Indian Constitution states that there should be an equal opportunity in matters of employment.

Directive Principles: 

The Directive Principles of State Policy require the State to secure men and women equal opportunities to obtain means of livelihood. It also directs the State to form policies for securing maternity benefits, etc.

73rd and 74th Amendments of the Constitution provide reservations for women in Panchayats and Municipalities.

Special Protection during Access to Justice:

Criminal Procedure Code-

The code gives protection to women in the process of arrest. Women cannot be arrested before sunrise and after sunrise.

In case of serious crimes, a written report has to be submitted to JMFC with whose prior permission a women police officer may arrest the female.

In case of suspected female to be searched, only a women constable can do so under section 100.

Even for interrogation, a woman cannot be called to the police station. Interrogation has to be carried out at the place where the woman resides.

The Code also contains provisions where the identity of the woman has to be protected.

1.   Legal Aid Entitlements:

The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, Section 12 provides that all women are entitled to free legal aid.

A woman belonging to any economic strata is entitled to claim legal aid under this law.

2. Family Courts:

Family courts were established especially to deal with all personal matters like marriage, divorce, maintenance, and custody.

Grievance Redressal Mechanism:

The commission of an offense calls for the Redressal of the grievance by the Justice Delivery System. The laws governing this process, therefore, become important. Women are silent sufferers. They are reluctant to approach the legal system to seek help or take action. Therefore the grievance redressal mechanism must be less cumbersome and more convenient to the woman victim. Following are the relevant laws providing for a mechanism for redressal of violation.

1. Regular Criminal Courts-

Many of the offenses against women are covered under the Indian Penal Code 1860. These offenses are redressable through the regular criminal courts including Judicial Magistrates, up to Sessions Courts, and further High Court and Supreme Court. The Criminal Procedure Code applies in such courts. In cases of certain offenses, the Law provides an in-camera hearing on the application.

2. Domestic violence Act, 2005-

The worst kind of violence which women face is the violence within the household. The perpetrators of such abuse are the closest of those related to her, which makes it all the more difficult for her to seek justice. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 to a great extent, redresses this difficulty.

3. Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Redressal and Prohibition) Act, 2013-

The Act defines sexual harassment which includes such unwelcome sexually determined behavior such as:

  • Physical
  • Verbal
  • Textual
  • Graphic
  • Electronic

The Act requires the constitution of Internal Complaints Committee by the employer or in the absence of a Local Complaints Committee by District Officer.

4. Complaint and the procedure:

The aggrieved woman can complain to Committee in writing. The complaint can be made to Internal Complaints Committee. In absence of the Internal Complaints Committee, the complaint can be made to the Local Complaints Committee. 

After receiving the complaint the Committee conducts the inquiry. 

During the pendency of the inquiry the victim is entitled to the following measures;

1. Women may be transferred at their request

2. Maybe granted leave for 3 months

3. Seek any appropriate relief

The final report is submitted by Committee to the employer/District Officer. While submitting the report the Committee may recommend

· Action according to service rules if found guilty

· Deduct salary of the person charges and to be paid to the aggrieved woman

This law makes redressal of the grievance easy for the aggrieved woman as the inquiry has to be completed within 90 days.

5. Women’s Commission-

The most important body concerning the protection of rights of women is the Commission for Protection of Women constituted under the Act of 1990. There is a National Commission at the Centre and State Commissions at the State level. These Commissions can take suo moto cognizance of offenses against women. Complaints can be filed directly to the Commission which does the follow-up of the matter with the appropriate authorities. The Commission has the power to investigate such matters.

6. Maintenance-

A very important aspect of the rights of women is the right to get maintenance from husband or other relatives. Various Family laws, as well as the Code of Criminal Procedure, provide for maintenance to the woman. A woman who has no income of her own and cannot maintain herself can make an application for maintenance.


Women though glorified as goddesses have always been victimized due to their physical and emotional vulnerability. There are several offenses committed against women such as dowry deaths, rape, outraging modesty, female foeticide, etc. There is therefore a need to strengthen the women through laws so that they can seek justice in case of violation of their rights. There are several instruments at the International level to protect their rights like the CEDAW, etc. these instruments are ratified by various member States and made a part of their Municipal legislations. The Constitution of India contains several Articles which mandate the State to make laws for the protection of women’s rights and at the same time to avoid discrimination against women. India has a plethora of legislation concerning the rights of women, like the Maternity Benefit Act, Equal Remuneration Act, etc.

There are provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code, etc which accord special procedural protection to women when they come in contact with the administration of justice mechanism. Also under specific legislation, there are special redressal mechanisms like in cases of domestic violence, sexual harassment at the workplace, etc. with the help of such mechanisms access to justice has become available in a more convenient manner. This will go a long way in ensuring justice to the women and protecting their dignity.