Role of the Indian Legal System in Protecting Gender Equality

India is a developing country with more than 1 billion population. In the last 2 decades have seen a humongous rise of India, in terms of economic, military etc. But somewhere, India does lack in social development. Social development is defined as the promotion of a sustainable society that is worthy of human dignity by empowering marginalised groups, women and men, to undertake their own development, to improve their social and economic position and to acquire their rightful place in society. One of the main areas where India lags behind is Gender Equality. Gender Inequality is seen in all the sectors of the Indian Economy. We shall discuss the problem ands we shall also see that How the Government & Judicial system of India are formulating its policies, schemes etc to curb the evil of gender inequality.


As per statistics in the couple of years, we have seen a drastic fall in measures and policies to reduce gender inequality. The Global Gender Gap Index 2019-2020, published by the World Economic Forum, assesses the amount of gender-based disparities in economic participation and opportunity, educational achievement, health and survival, and political empowerment. The report highlights the extremely low level of women’s economic involvement.

India is the only country out of the 153 surveyed where the economic gender difference is greater than the political gender disparity. In overall, it ranked 112th, only one-quarter of women participate actively in the labour market, compared to 82 percent of men, one of the lowest participation percentages in the world (145th). Furthermore, female projected earned income is only one-fifth that of men, which is among the lowest in the world (144th). [1]

However, there is positive change, according to the most recent National Family Health Survey (NFHS)[2], India’s overall sex ratio has risen from 991 in 2015–16 (NFHS-4) to 1020 in 2019–21. (NFHS-5). While India’s GDP has expanded by roughly 6% in the last decade, female labour force participation has dropped from 34% to 27%. The 50% wages gap between men and women has not changed over time. In white-collar positions, there is a gender wage discrepancy of 27%, according to a recent survey.

Reason for Gender Inequality are as follows:

  1. Poverty:

In India, 30% of people living in poverty are women. In India, women’s poverty is linked to a lack of economic opportunity and autonomy, as well as a lack of access access to economic resources like loans, land ownership, and inheritance, as well as a lack of adequate to education and support services, and their limited participation in decision-making. Women’s economic condition is no better, and men continue to have a greater portion of the pie. Thus, in our patriarchal society, poverty is at the basis of gender discrimination, and economic dependency on the male counterpart is a cause of gender imbalance.

  • Illiteracy:

Despite noteworthy efforts by countries around the world to expand basic education, there are around 960 million illiterate individuals, with women accounting for two-thirds of the total. Gender discrimination has arisen as a result of females’ educational backwardness.

During 2001, the inequalities between male and female literacy rates become increasingly obvious. Male literacy rates jumped from 56 percent in 1981 to approximately 76 percent in 2001. The percentage of women who are literate has increased from 30% to 54%. Overall, the drop in the gender gap, which peaked at 26.6 percent in 1981 and was 21.7 percent in 2001, has been less dramatic. Male literacy rates varied far less among states than female literacy rates. The female literacy percentage varies by state, from 35% in Bihar to 88 percent in Kerala. Female literacy rates are below 50% in states like Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, and Rajasthan.[3]

Girls’ educational development is modest, and gender disadvantages exist at the elementary, upper primary, and secondary levels of schooling. Girls make up 43.7 percent of primary school enrolment, 40.9% of upper primary school enrolment, 38.6% of secondary school attendance, and 36.9% of degree and higher education enrolment. Furthermore, just around half of all girls are enrolled in school. Gender disparities in enrolment can be found throughout the state at all levels. Because of their illiteracy, they are unable to fully understand their individuality and authority in all aspects of life.

  • Lack of Employment Facilities:

Women are unable to overcome the difficulties between new economic and traditional domestic duties. In both rural and urban India, women spend a significant amount of time doing unpaid domestic chores to support their families. Because of intra-household responsibilities, women’s mobility is limited, they are unable to respond to new chances and change to new employment.

Within a family, rights and responsibilities are not evenly allocated. The traditional division of labour and male ownership of assets restrict women’s motivation to explore different things. Furthermore, childbearing has evident ramifications for women’s engagement in the labour force. De-Skilling and the termination of long-term labour contracts are common outcomes of time spent having and rearing children. As a result of unemployment, women are unable to become economically self-sufficient, and their economic dependence on their male counterpart is a source of gender inequality.

  • Societal Mindsets:

The overall mindset of a society has a huge impact on gender inequality. It’s less evident than some of the other elements on this list. In every field, whether it’s employment, the legal system, or healthcare, how society evaluates the distinctions and value of men vs. women plays a key role. Gender beliefs go deep, and despite the fact that progress can be accomplished through laws and structural changes, there is often opposition after substantial improvements. When there is progress, such as improved representation for women in leadership, it is also usual for everyone (men and women) to overlook other issues of gender inequity. Gender inequity is maintained and major change is slowed by these ideas.

  • Lack of Awareness of Women:

The majority of women are unaware of their fundamental rights and abilities. They also lack a knowledge of how socioeconomic and political forces influence them. Because of their ignorance and unawareness, they tolerate all forms of discriminatory practises that exist in our family and society.

Article 15 of the Indian constitution stipulates that the government cannot discriminate against citizens solely on the basis of their gender. The irony is that pervasive discrimination, which is a kind of injustice against women, still exists. As a result, at the turn of the millennium, let this generation set an example by ending gender-based discrimination and raising the flag of gender justice in all our actions and dealings.


Numerous laws have been passed in India at the national and state levels to address the issue of gender inequality and to provide equal rights for women in a variety of social and personal areas. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005[4], the Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act of 1987[5], the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013[6], the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act of 1956[7], the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act of 1986[8], and others are a few examples of such laws.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)[9], which India ratified in 1993, is the most significant of the conventions, instruments, initiatives, and strategies that India has endorsed and supported at the international level to ensure equal rights for women.

India has been working hard to ensure that women have equal opportunities and position in all aspects, including pay, primary education, the labour force, and other areas. In the Panchayati Raj Institutions, women held 46% of the seats as of June 2019, compared to just 11% in the Lok Sabha. Physical abuse by a husband or a member of his family accounted for roughly one-third of all crimes against women reported in 2016. While India is undoubtedly moving in the right direction toward achieving gender equality, there is still much need for improvement, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s consequences, which have worsened existing disparities.

  1. Crime Against Women:

In India, there were 62 reported crimes for every 100,000 females in the population in 2019. Assam has the highest rate of crimes against women, at around 178, followed by the UT of Delhi, with 144 offences per 100,000 females. With only 4 crimes per 100,000 female residents, Nagaland had the lowest rate of crimes against women, followed by the UT of Puducherry with 12 crimes per 100,000 female residents.

  • Family Planning:

The National Family Health Survey-4 (2015–16) found that 72% of married women had their requests for family planning addressed. With scores of 93.6 and 87.1 percent, respectively, Andhra Pradesh among the States and Puducherry among the UTs had the best results.

  • Sex Ratio:

In India, there are 899 females for every 1000 boys at birth, according to SRS 2016–18. The target ratio is at least 950 women for every 1000 men. With sex ratios at birth of 958 and 957, respectively, Chattisgarh and Kerala have reached this goal.

  • Wage Gap:

In terms of regular wage/salaried employees, women only made on average three-fourths of what men did from April 2018 to March 2019. Equal compensation for men and women is the target. West Bengal has the lowest female to male wage ratio at 0.53 while Uttar Pradesh has the highest at 0.94. Lakshadweep performs the best among the UTs.[10]

There are other aspects as well that India has improved, but far behind from satisfactory results on eradicating gender inequality.

The Finance Minister of India in the annual budget has a called Gender Budgeting. Gender-Sensitive legislation, programmes, and schemes are important to GB, as are resource allocation, implementation, and execution, as well as auditing, impact assessments, and subsequent remedial action to resolve gender inequities. It is an effective method for attaining gender mainstreaming, which makes sure that both men and women gain equally from development. It entails analysing government spending plans to determine how gender differences affect them and to make sure that financial commitments to gender equality are reflected in them. It also involves monitoring expenditure and the provision of public services from a gender viewpoint.

In the Indian Budget of 2005–2006, the Gender Budget Statement (GBS) was first established. This GB Statement is divided into two parts.

Part A details women-specific schemes, or those that allocate all funding to women.

Part B deals with Pro-women programmes, or those where at least 30% of the budget is designated for women, are shown.

All Ministries and Departments are required to establish Gender Budgeting Cells (GBC) as an institutional framework. To determine opportunities for reprioritizing public spending and improving implementation, GBCs conduct beneficiary needs assessments, beneficiary incidence analyses, and gender-based impact analyses.

The government over the past decade has taken some strong measures to eradicate gender inequality and it through this Gender-Budgeting, these schemes have a strong financial support.

  1. Rashtriya Mahila Kosh:

Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK), which was founded in March 1993, is an independent national-level organisation run under the Ministry of Women and Child Development with the aim of empowering women economically and socially. Currently, RMK serves as a facilitation organisation by lending money to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), intermediary microfinance organisations (IMO), and charitable organisations that then lend money to women’s self-help groups (SHGS).

  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao:

The protection, survival, and education of girls are the main goals of the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme. The government launched this programme to address the issue of the diminishing child sex ratio (CSR). The program’s overarching objective is to “celebrate the girl child and enable her education.” The following are the Scheme’s goals:

  • Preventing sex discrimination in the workplace.
  • To ensure that girls receive an education.
  • Kishori Shakti Yojana:

The programme targets adolescent females between the ages of 11 and 18 and attempts to teach them life skills, nutritional and health knowledge, and socio-legal awareness, among other things.

The objectives are as follows:

  • To encourage the personal growth and empowerment of adolescent girls.
  • Enhancing the health and nutrition of adolescent girls.
  • Increasing public knowledge of issues including nutrition, hygiene, and health.
  • Improving the domestic, practical, and career abilities of adolescent girls.
  • Assisting the girls who are not in school to return to regular education.
  • Providing information about the public services that are available, such as post offices and primary health centres (PHCs).
  • Rashtriya Mahila Kosh:

Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK), which was founded in March 1993, is an independent national-level organisation run under the Ministry of Women and Child Development with the aim of empowering women economically and socially. Currently, RMK serves as a facilitation organisation by lending money to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), intermediary microfinance organisations (IMO), and charitable organisations that then lend money to women’s self-help groups (SHGS).

  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas launched the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMYY) in May 2016 with the goal of ensuring the availability of clean cooking fuel, such as LPG, in rural and underprivileged households that were formerly using conventional cooking fuels like firewood, cow-dung cakes, coal, etc. By offering free LPG cylinders, the programme strives to empower women and safeguard their health.


This landmark judgment from 2006 had seen Supreme Court grant a girl’s request for the right to choose her own husband and marry that person. The Hindu Marriage Act and other domestic laws, according to the Supreme Court, do not forbid inter-caste marriages. The caste system only serves as a barrier to the progress and development of the nation. The girl has the full right to marry whoever she chooses, the court said, and the accusations levelled against her spouse and her relatives are baseless.

In a landmark ruling from 2015, the Supreme Court stated that a mother has the right to custody of a child under the age of five. The Supreme Court ruled that, unless the father can show that it would interfere with the kid’s upbringing, custody of a child under the age of five must go to the mother. The court emphasised that the father must have the burden of establishing his inability to parent the child. In the event that the mother is unsuitable to be the child’s primary caregiver, the father’s past must be taken into account.

  • Vishaka & Ors. v. State of Rajasthan & Ors[13]:

The Supreme Court of India delivered this landmark decision in 1997. A set of guidelines to address situations of sexual harassment of women at work were adopted as a result of this case. The court noted that every profession, trade, or occupation shall offer a safe working environment to all employees in accordance with Articles 14(2), 19(1)(g), and 21(4) of the Indian Constitution. A safe workplace is a fundamental condition, and its absence infringes the right to a life of dignity provided by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

In addition, the Supreme Court ruled that due to the absence of sexual harassment laws in India, the International Conventions must be taken into account. As a result, the Court issued specific instructions for employers and other responsible individuals in the workplace to follow in order to ensure gender equality and the safety of women at work. According to Article 141 of the Constitution, these regulations were to be regarded as laws.


All genders are equally protected under the right to equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. Reality, however, paints a bleak picture of prejudice against women and the LGBTQ+ community. Gender justice is now more important than ever because women and the LGBTQ+ community have been denied equality. In achieving gender fairness, the Supreme Court has been instrumental. PIL’s power to file writ petitions has given women and the LGBTQ community a solid legal foundation on which to advocate for themselves and ensure that they have the same rights as males. The Court has tackled a number of issues that are not only discriminatory but also incredibly inhumane, such as the problem of sexual harassment at work, the denial of property rights, acid attacks, rape, etc. These programmes and policies also aim to empower women and members of the transgender community to enjoy equal status in both private and public life and to stop all types of prejudice, discrimination, and unjust treatment that are directed at them. While numerous programmes and legislation have been developed and are being developed to address gender inequities in India, what is necessary is the ongoing monitoring and tracking of these programmes’ execution.

[1] V.S Arvind, Where does India stand in the Global Gender Gap Index?, The Hindu, January 06, 2020,

[2] Shaurya Srivastava & Nand Lal Mishra, What does NFHS-5 data tell us about state of women empowerment in India, DownToEarth, December 30, 2021,

[3] O.P. Sharma, 2001 Census Results Mixed for India’s Women and Girls, June 1, 2001,

[4] The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, No. 43, Acts of Parliament, 2005.

[5] Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, ACT NO. 3, Act of Parliament, 1988.

[6] Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, ACT NO. 14, Act of Parliament, 2013.

[7] Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, ACT NO. 104, Act of Parliament, 1956.

[8] Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, ACT NO. 60, Act of Parliament, 1986.

[9] UN General Assembly, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 18 December 1979, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1249, p. 13,


[11] Lala Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2006), Writ Petition (crl.)  208 of 2004.

[12] Roxann Sharma v. Arun Sharma (2015), 2015 8 SCC 318.

[13] Vishaka & Ors. v State of Rajasthan & Ors. ((1997) 6 SCC 241).

Author: Shamik Sanyal

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