We all are living in modern world where on the one hand we women are achieving goals which were earlier not possible for us; on the other hand we also feel highly unsafe while travelling alone specially at night. Although none of us ever wants to even imagine anything unwanted or bad happening to us but the best way to be safe is being alert and aware of our rights.
So I wish we all know our rights whenever we have to take legal action in any undesired circumstance. Here’s a list of 10 legal rights for women in India for lodging complaint,getting first aid and other help in case of any emergency.
Right to Free Legal Aid
Whenever a woman has to lodge an FIR she should demand a lawyer for herself before recording her statement. She is legally entitled to get free legal aid or a lawyer. A woman should not ever give her statement in absence of a lawyer as that statement is not taken seriously. The police may deny to lodge complaint without presence of a lawyer taking the matter lightly. So a woman should always be accompanied by a lawyer which she can demand for free if she can not afford one.
Right to Privacy for Recording Statement
A rape victim feels nervous while narrating the incident before too many people and so Indian law provides for full privacy while recording such statement. Under section 164 of Criminal Procedure Code a rape victim can record her statement before the District Magistrate while the case is under trial with no else in the room. She can also record her statement before one police officer and a lady constable in a non-crowded place.
No Time Limit for Lodging FIR
Even if a woman wants to lodge an FIR of any sexual assault on her a long time after the episode, she has full freedom to do so. No cop can deny to lodge an FIR of any event held a long time back. There can be many reasons for a woman postponing going to police station like considering the dignity of her family, threats by the accused or social pressure. The self -respect of women is above everything else. She can not be denied justice even if it’s too late.
Right to Virtual Complaints
According to the guidelines issued by the Delhi police, a woman has right to lodge an FIR via e-mail or registered post. If a woman is unable to reach the police station she can e-mail or send a registered post addressed to a senior police officer of the level of Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner of Police. The officer then directs the SHO of the police station, of the area where the incident occurred, to conduct proper verification of the complainant and lodge an FIR. The police can then come over to the residence of the victim to take her statement.
Right to Zero FIR
Zero FIR facility for women means that they have a right to lodge their complaint under any police station according to a Supreme court ruling. Abeed says “Sometimes, the police station under which the incident occurs refuses to register the victim’s complaint in order to keep clear of responsibility, and tries sending the victim to another police station. In such cases, she has the right to lodge an FIR at any police station in the city under the Zero FIR ruling. The senior officer will then direct the SHO of the concerned police station to lodge the FIR”. This is a Supreme Court ruling that many women don’t know. Hence the SHO of a police station can not send any woman away saying it doesn’t come under his area.
Right to no arrest after Sunset
A Supreme Court ruling says, a woman cannot be arrested before sunrise and after sunset. Often policemen detain women at odd time but this can be avoided if they exercise the right of being present in the police station only during daytime. Bhaumik says “Even if there is a woman constable accompanying the officers, the police can’t arrest a woman at night. In case the woman has committed a serious crime, the police requires to get it in writing from the magistrate explaining why the arrest is necessary during the night.”
Right to not being called to the police station
Under Section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code Women cannot be called to the police station for interrogation. This law provides women the right of not being physically present at the police station for interrogation. Abeed says “The police can interrogate a woman at her residence in the presence of a woman constable and family members or friends.”. Hence if a woman is called to the police station for queries or interrogation she must quote this guideline of the Supreme Court to exercise her right and remind the police about it.
Right to confidentiality
Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code makes the disclosure of a victim’s identity a punishable offence. The identity of a rape victim can not be revealed in any circumstances. The police or media can not reveal the name of the victim in public. Publishing the name or any matter which may disclose the identity of a lady/girl against whom an offence has been committed is punishable. This is done to check social victimization of a sexual offence victim. Even while a judgement is in progress at the high court or a lower court, the name of the victim is not indicated, she is only described as ‘victim’ in the judgement.
Right to Medical Report Copy
A rape victim needs to be medically examined as per Section 164 A of the Criminal Procedure Code, and only the report can act as proof. Bhaumik explains “A woman has the right to have a copy of the medical report from the doctor. Rape is crime and not a medical condition. It is a legal term and not a diagnosis to be made by the medical officer treating the victim. The only statement that can be made by the medical officer is that there is evidence of recent sexual activity. Whether the rape has occurred or not is a legal conclusion and the doctor can’t decide on this.” A case of rape can’t be dismissed even if the doctor says that rape has not taken place.
Right Against Sexual Harassment at Workplace
According to a guideline issued by the Supreme Court, it is mandatory for all firms, public and private, to set up Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee to resolve matters of sexual harassment. It is the duty of every employer to create such a committee within the organization for complaints. It is also necessary that the committee be headed by a woman and comprise of 50% women, as members. One of the members should be from a women’s welfare group.