INDIA has an elaborate laws to protect the rights of women, including the Prevention of Immoral Traffic, the Sati (widow burning) Act, and the Dowry Prevention Act. Women and children have figured prominently in the government's agenda of social reforms and initiatives.
Because of globalization and a larger percentage of women getting education, entering the workforce, the knowledge of the woman has extended beyond the realms of homemaker, wife and mother. India has elaborate laws to protect the rights of women, including the Prevention of Immoral Traffic, the Sati (widow burning) Act, and the Dowry Prevention Act (Berendrapal Singh Sehgal,1998). Women and children have figured prominently in the government's agenda of social reforms and initiatives . This has caused a dramatic and positive shift in the area of woman's rights both culturally and legally (Deepali Gaur Singh, 2009). It means that women today must be more acquitted with the latest information and be aware of the opportunities, liberties and rights provided to her by law ( Madhu kishwar,1999 ).
However the Government is often unable to enforce these laws, especially in rural areas where traditions are deeply rooted. Many obstacles to the realization of women's human rights in India, are social and cultural in nature, deeply rooted in the traditions of its communities ( Deepali Gaur,2009 ). But the urban areas where awareness through education and media is imparted constantly, the scenario should be different.
If we look at the global scenario we see woman getting education, vocational training sharing decision making power with male competent ( Nirmala Banerjee & Swasti Mitter,1998). They have the legal rights regarding the child birth, genetic testing and counseling and adoption the information regarding which is given by media, welfare institution and academic syllabus. We generally assure that being in contact with media and getting privilege in society, women are now more informative and keen to know and utilize their rights.
The provision which deals with women rights
Article 14 expresses that the State shall not deny to any person the equality before the law and equal protection of laws with in the territory of India. Article 15(1) prohibits the State to discriminate against any citizen on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth pr any of them. Article 15(3) permits the State to make special provisions for women and children. Article 16 provides that there shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens and they shall not be discriminated on the basis of religion, race, caste and sex. Article 39(a) of the Constitution provides that the state in particular direct its policy towards securing that citizen, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood. Article 39(e) of the Constitution provides that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength. Article 51(A)(e) of the Constitution provides that it will be the duty of every citizen to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
Further, Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Evidence Act too have some provisions which provide protection and a sense of security to women. Recently the Government's piecemeal approach to protect women has taken a step forward enacting a law providing protecting women from domestic violence. With the establishment of National and State Human Right Commissions and National Commission for Women, gender issues are receiving greater attention.
In order to analyze the actual situation regarding women awareness, the study was conducted to give in the clean picture.
The main objectives of the study were :
• To assess the awareness of maternity rights in young women (married and unmarried).
• To ascertain their viewpoint about rights of maternity.
Selected Sample comprised of 100 young women( 50 married and 50 unmarried) without children between the age group 18- 24 years were selected through simple random sampling technique from the non co-educational institutions and residential area.Maternity Rights Awareness Questionnaire was prepared in advance and used to gather the data and was filled by young college going women as well as newly wed women to find out the knowledge they possess about their maternity rights.
Young women are not simply comprised to bookish knowledge, the study revealed very surprising results regarding the knowledge about and attitude towards maternity rights.
Research indicated that-
• 100% of young women (both married and unmarried) considered the maternity rights as important issue.
• Surprisingly 41% of married women and 34% of unmarried women were aware regarding general maternity rights (Ali Baug, Tara, 1998) such as-
• Right to choose a midwife or physician of her own choice as a maternity care provider (31%, 27% in both groups).
• Right to give birth in the desired birth setting (i.e. hospital, home) (27%, 21% in both groups).
• Right to access professional qualification of doctors and trainees involved in her care (46%, 39% in both groups).
• Right to accept or refuse procedures, drugs, tests and have her choices honoured (59%, 43% in both groups).
• Right to access to all available records regarding pregnancy, labour and infant unrestrictedly and obtain copy of the same. (32%, 26% in both groups)
• The result also revealed the information regarding maternal rights to be followed in the office -
• A woman who is closer to her delivery by 10 weeks shall not be given any work of arduous nature (41%, 36% in both the groups)
• A pregnant woman is entitled to a paid maternity leave for 6 weeks before her due date (82%,74% in both the groups).
• A pregnant woman shall receive maternity benefit at the rate of average daily wages for the period actual absence before delivery (82%, 74% in both the groups).
• A woman after childbirth is entitled to receive medical bonus of Rs. 250/-from the employer, if no prenatal confinement and postnatal care is provided by the employer free of charge (51%, 36% in both the groups).
• A woman shall not be employed in any establishment during the 6 weeks immediately following the day of her delivery/miscarriage/medical termination of pregnancy. (48%,34% in both the groups).
• When a pregnant woman is absent from work in accordance with the provision of the act (maternity-benefit-act-1961 ),the employer cannot dismiss her and she has a right to sue the employer (52%, 34% in both the groups).
The result gathered from the questionnaire is an eye opener to the real scenario of the awareness of maternity rights amongst young women.
Including maternity rights in the college curriculum is not the only solution, since many of them believed that a regular implementation of these rights is more important followed with addition of some new rights. Many women came up with the suggestion of maternity insurance which was a surprising view point of today's young women( M. KENT RANSON 2003). Young women marked a comment that Rights do not have something in special for physically challenged pregnant women .This suggestion is of a great value and deserve a strong discussion. Advancement in the prevailing rights should be made for the latter.Young women believed that not just provision but adding maternity rights to the college curriculum would be beneficial and more intervention and regularized revision of the absorption of information is equally important.There is still a considerable gap between the rights available and their application in day to day lives of most of the young women. The need is to be aware and make awareness about their rights and exercise of the same. A compulsory publicity campaign of these rights should be done to bring the percentage of awareness of maternity rights to the fullest.
Ali Baug, Tara, (1988) Sati, Women's Status and Religious Fundamentalism , , Vol.38, 78-83
Berendrapal Singh Sehgal(1998) Law, Woman and Population in India, Indian Socio-legal Journal, Vol-12, (86-89), pp. 88.
Deepali Gaur Singh (2009), Women's Rights in India: Promises and Prospects
Fraser, Jenny, Bale, Barbara (1999), Maternity Rights and Mother`s return to Work
Madhu Kishwar, (1999 ), Off the Beaten Track: Rethinking Gender Justice for Indian Women
Nirmala Banerjee & Swasti Mitter (1998 )Women Making a Meaningful Choice -- Technology,Vol. XXXIII, No. 51, December 19, , pp. 3247-3256
M. Kent Ranson (2003), Community-based health insurance schemes in India, volume16 .
About Author / Additional Info:
I am Ridhi Makkar, currently pursuing M.Sc human development from Rajasthan university,International College for Girls.My areas of interest have always been in topics related to child development, women `s rights,welfare of the society,science and technology etc.I also like watching documentaries ..