The fact that how little we know of our legislation and fundamental laws speaks a lot about us as citizens and society. Safety is of prime importance and secondary is learning what steps to take in its absence. Our laws adhere to women’s safety and human rights on many levels. But the key is awareness. In conversation with Dr. Asha Bajpai, a lawyer and author, we unfold some of these laws and rights to understand our personal stance in the eyes of law in terms of safety.
“The law seems so complicated, frightening and beyond our grasp. On the contrary, the law is not as difficult or complicated as you think it to be,” – Dr. Bajpai highlights a common misapprehension.
“We don’t need to learn about the law, we are law-abiding citizens after all” is a prominent excuse most people make. But does this have any truth in it? “We all should remember that ignorance of the law excuses no one,” says Dr. Asha. “Unawareness of the law is no form of defence. Legal awareness of basic rights is a necessity in a democratic country like India,” she continues.
“The law is equal for all. But along with that, awareness of law should also be equal for all,” Bajpai emphasizes.
Giving us an insight into who can file an FIR in case of offence, Asha informs us that the victim, witness or anyone in the know of any cognizable has the right to file an FIR. “You have a right to get a free copy of the FIR,” she adds. Serious crimes like murder, rape, and theft are all cognizable offences where the police can immediately start an investigation and arrest a person without a warrant or without an order from the court. Talking about non-cognizable offences Dr. Bajpai highlights that the complainant can lodge a complaint but needs approval from the court for investigation.
“No women shall be arrested after sunset and before sunrise.”
Women’s safety is a matter of concern in our society but our law has been amended year after year to recover from that. A woman has the right to refuse her arrest after sunset and before sunrise. In critical situations, they can be arrested during those hours only by female police who have written permission from a judiciary magistrate – says Dr. Asha calling the importance of knowing women’s rights.
“Domestic violence is not merely a personal issue. It is a societal problem.”
“As per the national family health survey in the year 2015-2016, 31.1% of married women between the ages of 15 and 19 years experienced domestic violence,” – Dr. Asha highlights some important statistics. “Protection of women’s rights against domestic violence act protects women against sexual, physical, verbal and economic abuse,” Dr Asha elaborates on the law against domestic violence. Aside from the victims, anybody else has the right to complain. Approaching a police officer, dialling a helpline number, and speaking to an NGO or registering an online complaint are some of the ways to get legal assistance.
“Sexual abuse is a violation of a child’s body as well as their trust”- Dr. Asha on child sexual abuse.
“Young boys and girls are both at equal risk of sexual abuse. In such cases, over 94% of times, the offender is a closed family member,” says Dr. Asha. “Under family pressure, children refuse to give any evidence against the abuser. It’s all about power and control,” Dr. Asha continues. Suggesting some solutions, Dr. Asha says that the first step is to believe the child. Moving on, getting appointed social workwear, a child counsellor, and getting a medical examination are a way to go. Furthermore, an FIR can be filed against child abuse under the POSCO act.
“Unwelcome physical or sexual advances at the workplace can be complained by the victim or by anyone on their behalf,” explains Dr. Asha about the workplace sexual harassment law.
“The victims can approach their organization’s internal committee if they do want to go to the police immediately. Any colleague, as a citizen of the country, has the right to lodge a complaint too and the inquiry will commence. However, if the victim refuses to cooperate, the complaint stands null and void,” informs Dr. Asha.
The law can offer assistance but the courage, knowledge and support required to approach the law, still remains an issue, especially in the case of women. But self-awareness and learning the fundamental rights seem like a promising genesis.
About the Speaker
Dr. Asha Bajpai is former Dean of Law at TISS, a Lawyer and an Author.
International Women’s Day Summit – Shakti
The celebration of Women’s Day 2021 at KelpHR was marked by a panel of influential individuals who came forward for a forthright discussion on the matter of global importance – women’s empowerment – a subject matter that is far from saturation. Gender discrimination, hostile workplace environment, disability rights and quantitative solutions and more were a part of one of these dialogues and panels at the IWD 2022 – Shakti by KelpHR.
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KelpHR was incorporated in 2013 to provide the best HR solutions to organizations, and to improve workplace culture across the board. Over the last 8 years, we have serviced more than 700 clients in India and a few overseas, across various industries in the areas of PoSH (prevention of sexual harassment at workplace), D, E & I (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) and EAP. But the common objective of all of these services is to build safer, happier, inclusive and productive workplaces.
For any of our other services related to Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) or Employee Assistance programs (EAP) do get in touch with us at email@example.com, call +91-95001-29652 and we’d be able to help you with customized offerings suited to your organization.