Gender equality? Nine laws in India that make women less equal than men

DC
Published Jul 3, 2014, 7:07 pm IST
Updated Mar 31, 2019, 9:32 pm IST
According to recent UN report on India's legal code lists, laws officially favour men over women
According to a recent UN report on India's legal code lists, laws officially favour men over women. Photo: AFP
 According to a recent UN report on India's legal code lists, laws officially favour men over women. Photo: AFP

Mumbai: Do current laws in India aim at equality of men and women? Though equality is one of the fundamental rights as stated in our Constitution, it is far from practice. 

There are laws in our country, which clearly favour men over women, according to Quartz India. In a recent UN report on India's legal code lists, it just got official. Here are some of them:

 

Hindu laws of inheritance: Different religions have different inheritance laws. According to the Hindu inheritance law, the property of a woman who dies without a will is handled differently from that of a man. In the absence of spouse and children, the husband’s heirs inherit the woman’s estate.

Parsi laws of inheritance: Despite decreasing numbers in the Parsi community, those who marry outside the community are penalised. A non-parsi woman who is either a wife or a widow of a Parsi man cannot inherit. However, their children can. But again, a Parsi woman marrying a non-Parsi man cannot be considered a part of the Parsi community.

 

Prohibition of Child Marriage Act: The law only prohibits the marriages of children; it does not render them illegal once they actually happen. The married children, however, have the right to declare it void. A woman can call off a marriage until she turns 20, whereas a man has till age 23.

Age of consent: Sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 18 is considered rape. But since child marriages are not illegal, a man can legally have sex with his wife even if she is a minor, as long as she is above the age of 15. Further, marital rape is still not criminalised in India.

 

Rape of a separated wife: The rape of a separated wife carries lesser punishment than the rape of any other woman. Forced sexual intercourse with the former is punishable with two to seven years of imprisonment. The prison sentence for the rape of any other woman ranges from seven years to life.

Marriageable age: The minimum age for marriage for a boy is 21, but 18 for a girl. This is a legal extension of the patriarchal mindset that believes that a wife should always be younger than the man.

Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act: Women are still not equal guardians of their children. A father is considered the “natural guardian” of a child, although the custody of offspring under the age of 5 will ordinarily be awarded to the mother.

 

The Goa Law on polygamy: A law recognises the second marriage of a “Gentile Hindu” man of Goa if his previous wife does not have any children before the age of 25 or if she does not have a male child by 30.

No right to marital property: Upon separation or divorce, an Indian woman is entitled only to maintenance from her husband. She has no right to the assets, such as house or commercial property, bought in her husband’s name during the marriage. 

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