The principle of Gender Equality is enshrined in Article15 of Indian Constitution. The Constitution not only grants equality to women but also enables the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favor of women.
In pursuance of these provisions, the Government has made several laws, regulations, policies, etc. for the advancement of women and their empowerment.
What Article 15 states?
- Article 15 secures the citizens from every sort of discrimination by the State, on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth or any of them (Article 15(1)).
- However, this Article does not prevent the State from making any special provisions for women or children (Article 15(3)).
- Further, it also allows the State to extend special provisions for socially and economically backward classes for their advancement (Article 15(4)). It applies to the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) as well.
Why Article 15 was included in Indian Constitution?
- Inclusion of Article 15 is due to historic wrongs done.
- Women have been subjected to discrimination, exploitation, violence in our society.
- Absence of ownership rights to women, non-inclusion in government jobs initially, not getting admissions, etc. were some issues that were resolved through Article 15 and 16.
- Then Caste discrimination was another or rather is another factor responsible for the inclusion of Article15 in the Indian Constitution.
Article 14 Vs Article 15(3)-
Article 14 provides for the right to equality while Article 15(3) provides for positive discrimination in favour of women. But these are not contradictory rather Article 15(3) is enabling clause for Article 14, as Supreme Court stated that Article 15(3) saves those laws that benefit women with a view to remedying historical and structural discrimination and hence is like leveling field for equality enshrined under Article 14.
Calcutta High Court in Mahadeb Vs Dr. BB Sen held that “The impugned law must be shown to discriminate because of sex alone. If other factors in addition to sex come into play in making the discriminatory law, then such discrimination does not, in my judgment, come within the provision of Article 15 of Indian constitution.”
In Dattatraya Motiram v State of Bombay, the Bombay High Court accepted a form of discriminatory treatment as constitutionally valid, arguing, “If there is a discrimination in favour of a particular sex, that discrimination would be permissible provided it is not only on the ground of sex.”
In 2017, the Supreme Court declared instant triple talaq as unconstitutional. The argument that Muslim personal law enjoyed the protection of the rights to religious freedom did not hold against the right to gender equality.
In 2018, the Supreme Court opened the doors of Sabarimala Temple in Kerala to women of all age groups including those in the menstruating phase of life.
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Several affirmative Government actions under Article15 of Indian Constitution
- Dowry prohibition
- Act against Sexual violence
- Act against Domestic Violence
- Reservation for women in local governments
In a plain reading of the Articles may look like competing with and conflicting to each other, but in reality, in its deeper understanding and interpretation, they supplement each other.
These provisions are meant for the upliftment of those sections of the society which have been downtrodden/poor state for many years.
There is much debate about the contradiction between Article 15(3) and Article 14. Critically analyze the issue.
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