Indian laws that empower women
Awareness leads to action and action leads to change. Probably most of us women are not aware that there are eight women-specific legislations in India and as many as 44 legislations that have special provisions for women. The legislative framework is quite comprehensive in touching upon aspects of safety, equity, respect, and convenience for women.
In breaking traditional boundaries and stereotypes and getting to work in India’s corporate world, the first concern women encounter is around physical and mental safety. Following the high profile Nirbhaya case, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 came into being. Also pertinent is The Sexual Harrassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 came into being, mandating organizations to create an Internal Complaints Committee, defining sexual harassment in terms of (but not limiting to) any kind of unwelcome physical, verbal or non - verbal conduct of sexual nature and taking accountability for providing women with an appropriate work environment.
In the factory environment, safety legislation (The Factories Act, 1948) prevents corporates from employing women in physically hazardous work. In recent years, with the emergence of the IT and ITeS industries, corporates are to provide door-to-door transport to women employees working after 8 pm and the last dropped female employee to be accompanied by a lady guard (this is more of a safety issue).
Several research studies point out to women’s differential abilities around inclusion, problem solving, multitasking and being more adaptive to change which create a more productive work environment. It is only fair, therefore, for women to expect to be treated equitably by the employer. While a few organizations that value the diversity of perspective and competence that women bring to the table consciously look to be equitable as far as growth opportunities and pay are concerned, our compensation data from 2016 indicates that on average women are paid between 5-10 percent lesser than their male counterparts, with the gap widest at the senior levels.
It is heartening to know that as way back as 1976, in fact following the International Woman’s Year, The Equal Remuneration Act was enacted. With an amendment in 1987, this act provides for equality in employment opportunity and equality in pay for the same or similar work, between genders. A more recent guideline issued by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in 2015 has recommended the appointment of at least one woman director to the board of a listed company, attempting to bridge the gender gap at the highest level in organisations.