We have some very progressive laws for women like equal inheritance under the Hindu Succession Act, but we rarely see a woman claiming her paternal inheritance. Similarly, the Maternity Benefit Act provides for 26 weeks of paid leave but instead of seeing increased participation, women are being retrenched as companies don’t want to bear the costs. In the Sexual Harassment Act, many members of the Internal Complaints Committees feel that their companies don’t take it seriously. What we require is strict enforcement of laws to create an encouraging culture for women to claim their rights.
Every citizen in India has a right to practice, profess and propagate his or her religion. However, the Constitution imposes a duty on the state to treat all religions equally. I think this is the correct approach as religion should be personal and should not be governed by the State. Marx was right when he said ‘Religion is the opium of the masses’. There has been a rise in religion being used as a divisive tool with the issues of Ayodhya, Sabrimala, mob lynching and an increase in Hindutva politics. Religion has been cited as the reason to justify oppressive practices against women like honour killings, sati etc. Not allowing entry of menstruating women into Sabrimala is a case in point. It also cannot be used as a tool to exploit and shackle marginalised communities. Violence against Dalits and mob lynching in the name of religion should be strictly punished as per the law. Mob lynching must be made a specific offence under the IPC.
Abha Singh, social activist and lawyer, has taken up several cases concerning public interest. She also runs an NGO called RannSamar Foundation which provides pro bono legal aid.