Women’s rights

The Lawyers Collective Women’s Rights Initiative (“LCWRI”)’s mission is the empowerment of women through law. This is based on the belief that law is an instrument of social change and can be used in different ways to further the constitutional and human rights of women. Since its inception in 1998, the LCWRI has been actively engaged with the entire legal regime of addressing the rights of women in law.
The LCWRI provides legal inputs to the women’s movement. The LCWRI through its experience of providing legal aid to survivors of sex based discrimination, violence, abuse and crimes, has realised the need to analyse the working of the laws and investigate ground realities when it comes to implementing laws relating to women. At the LCWRI, our objective has always been to find out the efficacy and relevance of legislation and legal systems and recommend its better use, as well as to initiate and spearhead law reform processes, whenever required. Law reform recommendations are formulated by keeping in mind the lived realities of women. The recommendations put forth by the LCWRI are directed not only towards recognising equality rights of women but also towards creating an enabling environment in which such rights can be asserted. The LCWRI’s efforts in creating legal awareness are guided by the overall objective of empowering women.
The work of the LCWRI has in the past years have focused on a wide range of issues such as domestic violence, sexual harassment at the workplace, sexual assault, reproductive rights, trafficking / commercial sexual exploitation, violence faced by victims of religious intolerance etc. Our most successful campaign has been the enactment of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act in 2005. The success of this campaign heralds in a new era of law making in which the demand for a law is articulated by the civil society and the content of the law is arrived at through a consultative process directed at consensus building. This successful experiment, at the initiative of the LCWRI, has demonstrated that the process of law making is no longer the sole preserve of the state but is participatory with civil society.

Focus Areas

1.Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a manifestation of inequality within the home. It is therefore, not enough to advocate for the implementation of laws criminalising domestic violence. There is a need to create an enabling environment in which a woman is able to assert her rights and seek legal recourse. It is, therefore, essential to address the inequality within the home and recognise rights that counter such inequality to enable women to seek legal action. Given the lack of support a woman is provided with, it is unlikely that a woman will ever resort to legal remedies unless she is assured, at a minimum, of a right to reside in her home. This has a bearing on property and matrimonial rights of women that are currently within the realm of separate personal laws of religious communities. The right to reside that has been recognised through our campaign for a civil law on domestic violence is applicable only in circumstances of violence. 
2. Personal laws
The Indian Constitution separately recognises the right to religion. The right to religion, as provided in the Constitution, is not an absolute right but subject to limitations based on public order and morality as well as non-derogation of other rights guaranteed under the Constitution. It is under the auspices of protecting the right to religion that discriminatory personal laws have been upheld by the Supreme Court. As women’s lives are mostly confined to their homes, the continuance of such discriminatory laws is a major impediment in pursuing the goal of substantive equality. The LCWRI has, persistently engaged with the regime of personal laws, through litigation and advocacy initiatives, in order to achieve the goal of substantive equality of women. The position taken in this regard is that while religious rights of communities have to be respected, it cannot be to the detriment of women’s equality rights.
3. Sexual harassment at the workplace
Equality rights of women have to be recognised not only within the home but also in her interactions with the outside world. A woman’s right to a safe working environment is an essential pre-requisite for her engaging with economic processes that are not confined to the home. Hence, the LCWRI has engaged in providing legal aid to women facing sexual harassment at the workplace. Lessons learnt from this aspect of our work were translated into the creation of legal literacy materials and a comprehensive law on sexual harassment was bought into force.
4. Public interest litigation/ social action interventions 
Since 1978 there has been a substantial amount of public interest litigation undertaken on behalf of women, children and bonded labour. Public interest litigation has been an essential component of the LCWRI project from its very inception, focused as it is on legal change. Some of the major PIL’s and social action litigation filed by the LC are Geeta Hariharan v Reserve Bank of India (AIR 1999 SC 1149), Daniel Latifi v Union of India (AIR 2001 SC 3958), Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT) & Ors v. Union of India (AIR 2001 SC 2007), MASUM and Dr Sabu George v Union of India and other (AIR 2018 SC 578), Anweshi Women’s Counselling Centre v State of Kerala, National Aviation Co. India Ltd. v. Regional Labour Commissioner, Bar Girls Case, Indian Young Lawyers Association & Ors. v. the State of Kerala, Shayara Bano & Ors. v. Union of India & ors. (AIR 2017 SC 4609), Rajesh Sharma v. State of Uttar Pradesh (AIR 2017 SC 3869), Nyaydhar v. Union of India, Ministry of Home Affairs & Ors., Joseph Shine v. Union of India ((2018) 2 SCC 189) and Sunita Tiwari v. Union of India.

Violence against women (VAW) in India is an issue rooted in cultural history, economic dependence and social norms. Discriminatory practices are underlined by skewed laws. Further, inadequate policing and judicial practices deny women proper protection and just ice. Although participation in public life for women is on the rise and some laws have been amended, unequal treatment and crime against women continues. Indeed, India has a long way to go to make women equal citizens.

The Lawyers Collective Women’s Rights Initiative (LCWRI) views all issues concerning women through the lens of anti-discrimination and equality. This allows us to contextualise wide-ranging issues within the lived realities of women and suggest a holistic approach in dealing with such issues.

In this section, you will find a plethora of information regarding Domestic violence statistics, judgments, as well as some of our research and work on VAW. You will also find some of our activities, events and submissions on law and policy. Please contact us on wri.delhi@lawyerscollective.org for specific queries. We will try our best to get back to you soon.

– Team LCWRI

Joshep Shine v. Union of India

Intervention Application No. 100253 of 2018 in Writ Petition Criminal No. 194 of 2017 filed by Awaz-e-Nishan (organisation), Sandhya Ghokle (individual), Akshara (organisation), Chayanika Singh (individual).
A writ petition was filed in 2017 in the Supreme Court to declare Section 497 Indian Penal Code, 1860, and Section 198 (2) the Criminal Procedure Code dealing with ‘Adultery’ unconstitutional and ultra vires of the Constitution. The petition challenged Sec 497 on the primary ground that such a provision is discriminatory in nature in the sense that the provision discriminates against men by penalising only the adulterer and not the married women. Hence the petition was primarily grounded on Art. 15. Also the contention raised was that this provision does not pass the reasonable classification test under Art. 14. The petitioner here contended that the classification does not have an intelligible differentia as the grouping of women as a separate class from men is not valid. Describing that married women are not a different class is to bring out the fact that the exemption for women is not valid and hence prosecution of one class leaving out the other is invalid. As a secondary ground right to privacy and right to dignity was invoked by the petitioner.
The Intervention filed by LCWRI, had a similar prayer but different grounds were taken. The primary grounds of challenge was to the constitutional validity based on Art. 14, 15 and 21. This provision infringes the personal liberty and autonomy, right to live with dignity and one’s privacy which is guaranteed under Art. 21. It was raised that there already exists a civil remedy where adultery is a ground for divorce. This was followed by an argument that this provision also discriminates based on sex under Art. 15. This provision regarded the women as incapable of making decisions of her own which in turn infringes their right to equality guaranteed under Art. 14.
The matter was listed in front of the 5 judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court. The Union had filed a counter affidavit stating that the section should be retained in the statute book as it does not put liability on the spouses but convict the ‘outsider’ in the marriage. The Union also argued that the section is under consideration for amendment to make it gender neutral. The judgment was delivered in the matter recently, whereby the Supreme Court has held that the section 497 is unconstitutional and violative of Article 14, Article 15 and Article 21.

Please find the submission here

Rajesh Sharma and Ors. V. State of U.P and Anr. – Counter Affidavit

Facts- The Respondent, got married to the appellant on 28th November 2012. She started to live with appellants (husband and in laws) post the marriage. As per the Respondent at the time of her marriage, her father had given dowry to her in-laws who were not satisfied with it and started abusing her. The appellants further made a demand of Rs.3,00,000 and a car which her family could not arrange. On 10th November 2013 the appellant husband dropped the wife at her maternal house where he gave her beatings and gave her a kick in the lower abdomen due to which she suffered pain and fell unconscious. She then filed a complaint under Section 498A(cruelty), 323(hurt), 504(insult) and 506(criminal intimidation) of IPC along with a charge of taking and demanding dowry under the Dowry Prohibition Act. The CJM stated that only the appellant husband was criminally responsible and not the in-laws. The Respondent wife challenged this order stating that the witness supported that their was a prima facie case against all the appellants and hence they should have been summoned. The CJM considering the statement of the respondent wife and her witnesses concluded that the Appellant husband and his family were criminally liable. The appellants filed a petition before the High Court of Allahabad to quash to CJM’s order. The High Court refused to quash the order. The appellant husband and family filed an SLP. In the Judgment the Supreme Court ordered for the formation of Family Welfare Committees which would comprise of the wives of army officials and civil servants. It was provided that every complaint under Section 498A received by the police or the Magistrate be referred to and looked into by the committee.

Arguments by the Respondent - The respondent wife is aggrieved by the judgment as there was no resolution of the dispute at hand by the decision of the SC in the SLP. The Respondent wife through the counter affidavit sought to be allowed to be heard in the matter and place all the relevant material on record and modify the order of the Supreme Court in the SLP accordingly. Through the Judgement the dispute at hand was prolonged by directing the parties to approach the concerned trial court for further orders. The Respondent wife was also not represented by any counsel before the Court as she could not afford a legal representation The Respondent wife is now being approached by the appellant being asked to settle the matter in from of the family welfare committee who treated her with cruelty.

Please find the attached written submission

Please find the attached Intervention Application FINAL filed in Nyaydhar v. UOI

Rajbala & Others v State of Haryana & Others

A writ petition was filed in 2015 in the Supreme Court to declare the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015 (Act 8 of 2015) as being unconstitutional and ultra vires of the constitution. The petition challenged the Act on the basis of Article 14 in that it is discriminatory on an arbitrary basis. It makes the requirement of persons to possess property and have educational qualifications for them to be able to contest Panchayati Raj elections. It was argued that this bares no rational nexus to the Act and negates the social context of India having large scale illiteracy among the electorate and the extreme poverty disabling people from access to education and basic facilities like toilets. Further, as per Article 21A and the Right of Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, until the affirmative duty of the state to be able to provide such education and facilities is satisfactorily discharged, which it has not, such qualifications cannot be imposed. The petitioners argued that Republicanism and Democracy are basic features of the Constitution, and every person has a right to be on the common electoral roll in keeping with this. Article 171 recognizes education as a qualification and the impugned Act prescribes this in the guise of a disqualification as per Article 173 and Article 84. There is no power for the State Legislature to be able to prescribe a qualification as per 243F, making it ultra vires the constitution.
The Division Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices J. Chelameswar and Abhay Manohar Sapre upheld the constitutionality of this act inspite of the petitioner’s arguments on three grounds. Relying on Javed & Others v. State of Haryana, it stated that the Right to Vote and the Right to Contest is not a fundamental right and only a constitutional right. Secondly, it held that a statute cannot be invalidated on the sole basis of it being arbitrary as “it requires value judgements that are best left to the wisdom of the legislators.” Lastly, it held that education serves as a reasonable qualification and there is intelligible differentia.

Please find the Written Submissions attached here

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has drafted the National Protection Policy and invited comments from the stakeholders. Lawyers Collective along with Cehat made joint submissions to the Ministry.

Please find the submissions here.

TRAINING OF POLICE AT Nagpur on The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005  (PWDVA) – 23 rd APRIL 2011

Lawyers Collective WRI organized their fourth police training on PWDVA in collaboration with Maharashtra Police in Nagpur on 23rd April   2011.   It was held at the Conference Hall of the Police Gymkhana and was attended by 66 participants from 23 police stations. For almost all the participants this was their first legal training of the PWDVA.

The first session was taken by Dr. Sudhir Bhave, Psychiatrist on the impact of violence on women. Commencing with the magnitude of the issue Dr Bhave   stressed upon looking at domestic violence as a social problem rather than a private affair.  Dr Bhave also elaborated upon its consequences particularly   the health impact on women including psychosomatic illnesses. He also shared its impact on children and how it affects generation after generation.  Finally he drew upon his experiences to explain why women need not stay in violent relationships for the sake of their children.

Thereafter “BOL” spots of real life experiences of women was screened followed by a discussion and session on the rationale and overview of PWDVA conducted by Ms Pouruchsiti Wadia, the Senior Research and Advocacy Officer at LCWI.  She also covered the salient features of the Act, concluding her session with the need for a multi- agency response system

Post lunch there was a discussion following the screening of the documentary Babul. Ms. Najmussahar Asadi , the Legal Officer at LCWRI conducted a session on the  role of the Police in  the various stages of the litigation, the different options that the women had for approaching the court and some procedural issues like jurisdiction, forum  etc. Short clippings on the Bell Bajao campaign were also shown post this session. Very practical questions were asked at the end of this session demonstrating that the police were  in fact implementing the Act to some extent.

The local Protection Officer Ms Sangita Domne and Service Provider Ms Deepali Deshmukh covered the concluding session on the role of different stakeholders. They expressed that they got very good cooperation from the police but due to lack of facilities they were unable to perform their duties to the  best of their abilities.

In the last session the participants held group discussions on case studies provided and presented them, demonstrating that they now had quite a good understanding of the Act. Some of the Participants expressed that the training should have extended for one more day. The post training questionnaires revealed that the training was appreciated and found to be extremely useful.

Photographs from the training can be viewed HERE

TRAINING OF POLICE AT Bhandara on the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005   (PWDVA) – 21st APRIL 2011

On 21stApril 2011 the Mumbai unit of the Lawyers Collective conducted the third Police training in collaboration with the Maharashtra Police at the Police training Hall, Bhandara.  79 participants representing police stations from all over Bhandara attended the said training.

The training was inaugurated by the Additional S.P Mr. Vasant Jadhao who briefly spoke about the recently published depleting sex ratio particularly in Maharashtra and also shared some data on analysis done by his department. As per his records, in Bhandara only 3% of the cases had been disposed off under the PWDVA.

The first session on Gender based violence was conducted by Mr. Harish Sadani( Founder member -MAVA). This session gave a good background and set the stage for the days training.  The root causes of violence were covered by him after discussing gender constructs through an interactive exercise.  This was followed by screening of “Babul” and a session on the overview and rationale of the PWDVA taken by Pouruchisti Wadia (Senior Research and Advocacy Officer at LCRWRI). This session was extremely interactive and concluded with the need for a multi- agency response system to enable women live a life free from violence.

Advocate Najmussahar Asadi (Legal Officer at LCWRI) took the post lunch session on role of the police, which was preceded by screening of “Bol” spots and discussion. Advocate Manjusha Gaidhane then covered the local scenario and her positive experiences under the PWDVA. Mrunal Muneshwar the Protection Officer from Special Cell to Help Women then spoke about the role of the PO and SP and her experiences with the police in dealing with cases. This session also brought in to the open the issues of coordination between their cell and the police women’s cell and thus proved fruitful.

Case studies were circulated at the end to judge how much of the training had been absorbed and helped them to apply what they had learnt in practical life situations. The SP of Bhandara Mr. B.G Gaikar also attended the training through out the day and constantly gave his inputs. At the end of the day some of the participants came and expressed their appreciation for the training.  The post training questionnaires also revealed that they had found the training extremely useful. Though all sessions were appreciated, the session on gender based violence was commended the most.

Photographs from the training can be viewed HERE

TRAINING OF POLICE AT SANGLI ON THE PWDVA 2005 –  1ST APRIL  2011

Lawyers Collective WRI (Bombay Unit) organized their first police training on PWDVA in collaboration with Maharashtra Police in Sangli on 1st April   2011.   It was held at the Conference Hall of the Krishna Police Guest House and was attended by 93 participants from 27 police stations. For almost all the participants this was their first legal training of the PWDVA.

The first session was taken by Dr. Samir Gupte, Psychiatrist on the impact of violence. Apart from the health impact on women including psychosomatic illnesses etc, Dr Gupte also included the concept of counselling and the impact of violence on children drawing upon his experience to explain why women need not stay in violent relationships for the sake of their children.

This session was followed by the screening of the animated film titled “The impossible dream” which was followed by a discussion and session on the rationale and overview of PWDVA conducted by Pouruchsiti Wadia, the Senior Research and Advocacy Officer at LCWRi.  A lot of time was given to interact on gender issues before covering the salient features of the Act.  Some of the male participants were resistant to some of the issues and were in a denial mode but the women participants agreed wholeheartedly with what was being said and countered some of the arguments their colleagues presented. This session concluded with the need for a multi- agency response system to enable women live a life free from violence.

Post lunch after a recap of the morning session and the screening and discussion on the film “Babul”,  Najmussahar Asadi  the Legal Officer at LCWRI conducted a  session on the  role of the Police in  the various stages of the litigation, the different options that the women had for approaching the court and some procedural issues like jurisdiction, forum  etc.

The concluding session was the role of different stakeholders was covered by the local Protection Officer (Sandeep Devmore), Service Provider (Santosh Sutar) and Advocate S.M Pakhali (Legal Services Authority) and each of them talked briefly  about their role and their experiences.   This session also enabled them to clear some issues that they had with each other as regards their roles and reinforced our belief that as compared to other districts in Maharashtra which we covered, Sangli seemed to have a better referral system between the different stakeholders and they did attempt to provide an aggrieved woman with a multi-agency response. In this training the participants once again requested for a   detail list of POs which had  been circulated in the past.

Before concluding for the day case studies were read out to the participants and they responded to the questions raised. This helped us to conclude that they had indeed absorbed the inputs provided in the training.  As per our standard practice Pre training and Post training questionnaires had been distributed and in their feedback, the participants conveyed that they found the training useful. Some participants shared that according to them   the time allotted of one day was inadequate and they would have liked to have a more comprehensive training.

Lawyers Collective has planned six more Police trainings in different parts of Maharashtra and we plan to complete them in the months of April and May 2011.

Photographs from the said training can be viewed HERE

TRAINING OF POLICE ON THE PWDVA 2005 New Delhi.- 9TH APRIL 2011

Lawyers collective had organized their third police (Range) training on PWDVA in collaboration with Special Police Unit for Women and Children, Nanakpura on 9th April 2011 at NCUI Auditorium, Siri Fort Institutional Area, Khel Gaon Marg. Approximately 80 participants comprising of inspectors and sub inspectors from south, west, south-west and south-east districts had attended this training. A representative from the SPUWC (Special Police Unit for Women and Children, Nanakpura) was also present for the training.

Paroma Ray, programme officer in Lawyers Collective briefly introduced the concept of the training and gave a brief background of Lawyers Collective. This was followed by a session on the Impact of domestic Violence presided over by Khadijah, a senior member of Jagori whereshe briefly spoke about the treatment meted out to women, at this time and age in India.She laid emphasis on the need for social institutions to safeguard the interest of every individual, particularly where equal rights of women were concerned.The discussion was followed by the screening of an animated film titled “The impossible dream”.The second session was on the rationale and overview of PWDVA conducted byLiyi Marli Noshi and Supriya Yadav ofLawyers Collective. In this session we screened a music video “Babul” wherein the members of the audience were asked to identify the different forms of violence faced by the women in the video. They spoke about the Act in great detail which was followed by a quick explanation of the overview of the PWDVA. Subsequently, a session on the role of police and procedure under the PWDVA was taken by Adv.Jawahar Raja, a Delhi High Court advocate.In the first half of the session, we had screened advertisements from the Bell Bajao Campaign and briefly explained the significance and the use of the forms (Form I and II) attached to the PWDVA.A lot of queries raised by the police were answered in the second half of the session.

In the concluding session, the participants were broken into six groups and were given 6 different cases to study. They were given time to discuss the case and at the end of their allotted time; one person from each group came and gave a presentation on the assigned case.

Pre training questionnaires and Post training questionnaires were administered in the beginning and the end of the training.

TRAINING OF POLICE ON THE PWDVA 2005 New Delhi.- 26TH MARCH 2011

The Lawyers Collective Women’s Rights Initiative (WRI), in collaboration with Special Police Unit for Women and Children, had organized their second Police training on 26 March 2011 (Saturday) for the Central Range of the Delhi Police. The training was held at ISI, Lodhi Road and attended by approximately 70 participants from three districts of Delhi (New Delhi, North East and East). A lot of young officers and new recruits attended this training. Several women police officers had also come for this training. All the participants said that this was their first legal training of the PWDVA. A representative from the Nanakpura Police station also attended this training and actively took part in all the sessions. The first session was conducted by two resource persons from the Center of Social Research (Niharika and Amitabh). They screened the “Impossible Dream” and kept their session very interactive. Amitabh reached out participants and managed to make the session very interactive. The participants also seemed to be more comfortable with a male resource person for this session. Niharika spoke about the inequality inherent in our society and mindsets. We had a very positive feedback from the participants about their session who were very impressed that young people were involved in such work. Over all, it was felt that the participants were not resistant to gender sessions anymore. They were aware of existing inequalities, gender stereotyping, need for laws for women and the high rate of crime against women in the city. This was followed by a session on Overview and Rationale, taken by Paroma Ray, the programme officer at LCWRI. The participants were aware of the reason behind the enactment of this law and they showed an interest in speaking about why this law should be in implemented effectively in our country. Since all the participants were being trained for the first time under the PWDVA, Paroma spoke about the Act in great detail and clarified their doubts using examples etc. Furthermore she elucidated the need for multi-agency coordination and the role of various stakeholders under the Act.

The third session was on the Role of Police and Procedure conducted by Nandita Rao. Nandita explained the role of police in great detail and her session was very well appreciated by all the participants. She clarified all the procedural doubts that the Police had regarding PWDVA, 498A IPC, 125 Cr.P.C. and other related legal provisions. Our final session was case studies where we formed 6 groups with participants and gave them 6 different case studies. One person from each group came forward to make a presentation after discussion. They identified the different types of violence, nature of relief, role of the POs and the police quite well.

Just as in the first training, pre-training questionnaires and post-training questionnaires weregiven out to all participantsin the beginning and the end to find out their existing knowledge about the Act and for assessing the impact of the sessions.

Photographs from the 2nd Training can be viewed HERE

TRAINING OF POLICE ON THE PWDVA 2005.- 19TH MARCH 2011

Lawyers Collective had organized their first police (Range) training on PWDVA in collaboration with Special Police Unit for Women and Children, Nanakpura on 19th March 2011 at Vishwa Yuvak Kendra .The training covered the Northern Range of the Delhi Police and about 65 representatives comprising of inspectors and sub inspectors from the Central district, North district, North West district and Outer district attended the said training.

To flag off the training, representatives from the SPUWC (Special Police Unit for Women and Children, Nanakpura)-ACP Laxmi and CP Sharma addressed the participants and thanked Lawyers collective for initiating the awareness programme. The training comprised of a session on the Impact of domestic Violence where an animated film titled “The impossible dream” was screened. The screening was followed by a discussion initiated by our resource person Niharika Puri from CSR.  The second session was on the rationale and overview of PWDVA conducted by Paroma Ray, the programme officer at LCWRI. In this session, we screened an advertisement from the Bell Bajao Campaign before the presentation. This was followed by a session on the role of police and procedure under the PWDVA by Adv. Pragya Raut along with our legal officer Adv. Liyi Marli Noshi. A lot of queries raised by the police were answered in this session.

In the concluding session, survivors Rashmi Anand, Farya and Priya from our Survivor Group Programme initiated by LCWRI, shared their experiences. Initially, their experiences were presented to the Police like a case study. The police were asked for their responses on the same, after which the survivors were invited to speak. The officers gave them a patient hearing and did not make any judgmental comments about the same.

Pre training questionnaires and Post training questionnaires were distributed among the participants in the beginning and the end for an assessment of the impact of the sessions. This also helped gauge existing knowledge about the Act.

In their feedback, the participants told us that they enjoyed the training and looked forward to more such sessions. They pointed out that listening to the survivors in a forum like this enabled them to think from the point of view of the victim. They also found the rationale and overview session very useful.

It must also be pointed out that Lawyers Collective shall further be conducting two more trainings for the police on the 26th of March 2011 and the 9th of April 2011.

Photographs from the Training can be viewed HERE

[catlist name="Sexual Violence"]