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A Look At Women’s Rights In Workplace: India (By- Gitika Mahawar)

A Look At Women’s Rights In Workplace: India

Authored By- Gitika Mahawar


Since ancient times, women have been viewed as second-class citizens. Patriarchal standards in a male-dominated culture have dictated the dos and don'ts for women in every part of their life, from public behaviour to reproductive decisions. The public realm has long been perceived as a male domain, with few women going out to test the perilous waters of the workplace. Women experience workplace discrimination such as uneven compensation for equal labour, sexual harassment, a lack of suitable sanitary facilities, dangerous roads and transportation, denial of promotions, insufficient work-life balance, and so on. Working women in India have taken arduous journeys to carve out a space for themselves in their workplaces. Today, there are women who excel in every sector. Social reformers in the past played an essential role in promoting education to empower women. The Indian Constitution provides for positive discrimination against women. To improve their condition, the Indian State has issued many laws and adopted programs. However, Indian women continue to confront obvious and unseen discrimination. Even now, working women face issues such as insufficient and filthy facilities, sexual harassment in the workplace, hazardous roadways, and so on. This paper attempts to provide a picture of the actions made to improve the condition of women in the pre-independence period, the international situation, the role of the Indian State and the judiciary, and recommendations that may alleviate some of the challenges experienced by working women.

This paper aims to present a critical and analytical viewpoint on the many workplace difficulties that women face. It analyses the current international legal tools that safeguard women workers using secondary sources. It also emphasizes the role of the Indian state in ensuring equitable and safe workplaces for women by implementing several articles of the Indian Constitution. The paper finishes with a few recommendations that, if adopted, may go a long way toward empowering women and instilling them with the confidence they need to succeed in the professional environment.

Key Words: Indian women, women empowerment, international law, Indian Constitution, discrimination, State


India is the world's largest democracy, and it values social justice. It is a welfare state that aims to provide the best services to the biggest amount of people possible. India is a country full with paradoxes. On the one hand, goddess worship is ubiquitous in India; on the other, crime against women has increased dramatically. Women's lower status may be seen in both public and private settings. Indian women constitute the majority of subalterns in Indian civilisation. They constitute the majority of the population. With a few exceptions, Indian women endure greater prejudice in the workplace and at home than Indian men. Disparities in the private world reflect disparities in the public realm. There are 586.5 million Indian women, according to the 2011 census. The male-female ratio is 940 to 1000, which is problematic. As per the Gender Gap Index 2013, women make up 18% of total non-agricultural employment. The number of women on boards of publicly listed companies is 7%, whereas the proportion of organizations with female ownership is 9%.[1]

As per the International Labour Organization's Global Employment Trends 2013 report, the labour force participation rate for women in India was 29 in 2009-2010. In terms of female labour force participation, India ranks 11th out of 131 nations providing statistics.[2] According to the most recent National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data, the proportion of women employed in India fell from 28.7 cent in 2004-05 to 22.8 cent in 2009-10, and even lower to 21.9 cent in 2011-12.[3]

In many nations, gender discrimination, the glass ceiling, sexual harassment in the workplace, uneven gender parity, and other challenges have become hurdles for working women. In India, women were traditionally associated with the private sphere, whilst men hunted in the public sphere. Ordinary Indian women joined public space under unique conditions. Public/private space has always been influenced by patriarchal indoctrination and power. Despite the role that Indian

history provides several examples of women playing critical roles in turning the wheels of history, Indian women have had to prove their mettle time and again. Even in their own homes, they have been forced to be second-class citizens in terms of food availability, access to education, decision-making rights, and so on.

With higher levels of knowledge and a greater appreciation of the need of maintaining a just society, India's condition has steadily improved. Women are currently in a better position in the workplace than they were previously. Men still retain a monopoly on occupations in the public and private sectors. There are some outstanding female women at the highest levels, but they remain anomalies today. Despite the fact that more women work, they are usually paid less than men, whether in part-time positions or in the enormous informal labour market with little security and few rights.

The problem is identical to the global reality, in which even Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg has to admit that women are not reaching the top of any profession in the world. On a daily basis, women in positions of leadership face an onslaught of sexist conduct from men.[4] Gender disparities exist in the workplace. The economic crisis has made life more difficult for Asian and international women. In terms of employment and compensation, women in the informal sector suffered the most. In India, successful women must put in double the effort to overcome obstacles in their path. Individual actions have been bolstered by efforts by the Indian judiciary and Parliament to maintain a harassment-free workplace.

Research Objectives:

The purpose of this paper is to:

Research into the vast spectrum of difficulties impacting women at work and present a critical and analytical viewpoint on the many challenges confronting women at work.
Analyse the different international legal mechanisms that give equal rights to women employees and highlight the role of the Indian state in improving women's working circumstances.
Make commendations to improve the lives of working women by empowering them and giving unbiassed workplace chances.

Research Methodology

The approach used in this paper is primarily descriptive. It examines pertinent data from many secondary sources to try to understand the numerous issues that women in India confront at workplace. The problem is stated, and then an attempt is made to examine it while also stating the current legal measures that safeguard women. The paper finishes with recommendations to guarantee that women have equal rights in a safe and secure workplace.

Factors Influencing Women’s Employment

A variety of hurdles work women’s access to employment, economic empowerment, and socioeconomic fortunes. Education is a significant aspect in increasing women's employment and socioeconomic participation. The following socioeconomic aspects are discussed:

1) The most essential component, and the one most responsible for female unemployment, is social behaviour. This mindset, which discourages women from obtaining employment, is rooted in a long-standing cultural practice. It compelled them to stay at home and care for the family. Women's work is heavily influenced by social attitudes and perceptions. (Working outside the house is inappropriate, undesired, and potentially harmful to women's chastity and feminine qualities.)

2) Families continue to feel that daughters should not be allowed to work. If they are permitted to work, their earnings will not be used to support the family. Fathers are hesitant to allow their daughters to work and utilize their earnings to help with home expenditures. Most girls are discouraged from leaving town for education or work. Women are either barred or legally restricted from seeking employment. Women are not permitted to drive cabs, lorries, or vehicles in India, for example, due to safety concerns. Women are active members of society, but not in construction.

3) Marriage has a detrimental influence on a woman's capacity to obtain work in current culture. As a result, she joins the work market late or returns after a period of time since they have occasionally been forced to abandon their careers due to marriage. For females, this custom take precedence over all else, and marriage is the main priority in their life, as a result of which they abandon their occupations and confront the challenge of re-entry or otherwise late entry into the labour market.

4) Since ancient times, women’s principal obligations have been female household responsibilities, as though they were formed for this reason. It is detrimental to one's employment

chances. They are only expected to complete chores that will allow them to dedicate enough time to domestic obligations. Women try to avoid job assignments that conflict with their family activities and schedule, since this might limit their possibilities for promotion and employment.

5) Worker’s employment is hampered by a lack of mobility, which may be due to family responsibilities or inadequacies in child care services. While vocational variety and mobility are not exceptionally challenging for men, they are exceedingly difficult for women. Due to family duties and a lack of professional skills, women are unable to simply migrate. When the men go, the women are left with all of the family responsibilities. In terms of location, time, and energy, women are physically and intellectually stationary. Similarly, their activity is restricted in terms of time throughout pregnancy and during the first several months after the kid is born.

6) In Indian culture, female children have long been entrusted with the job of caring for their younger siblings, whether partially or entirely. Even when they are still children, female children are frequently requested to care for their younger siblings. People are forced to make concessions in their work life as a result of the burden of having and raising children.

7) The way female children are nurtured in our culture, especially in rural and small-town settings, causes them to become dependent on males. Females, even as adults, rely on a male family member to accompany them on their journeys. It pushes people to stay in their current place, restricting their employment possibilities and opportunities for progress.

8) In terms of safety and security, women who take jobs outside of their homeland have the difficulty of locating safe and secure accommodation. Many employed persons with transferrable employment find it exceedingly difficult to migrate because they are worried about finding acceptable accommodation in their new area. As a result, women try to avoid this employment at the price of their jobs, and there are only a few working women's hostels accessible. If possible, they want to work in their own community. It becomes an impediment to women's capacity to seek productive employment.

9) Because they have a double load of obligation, women are less likely than males to be unionized. Women employees are especially susceptible owing to a lack of unionisation, which discourages them from fighting sex-based concerns such as discrimination in advancement and training courses. As a result, prejudice against women in India has not been totally eradicated.

people from focusing on their performance, stifling their professional progress.

10) Discrimination based on gender Labour: The division of labour based on gender, which has recently expanded beyond home responsibilities to full-time work. Women are generally employed in labour-intensive jobs that are physically demanding, repetitious, and low-paying. Even in businesses where women are employed in substantial numbers, such as textiles, export-oriented industries such as clothing, electronics, and the building and construction industries, gender division of labour can be observed. Despite the fact that India has a plethora of labour legislation, these policies tend to overlook women's experiences and have a paternalistic view on life.

11) Women’s Social Security Measures: Social security is a critical necessity for all women, regardless of the sort of work they do or the hours they work. When it comes to employment, women face a number of challenges, including sickness, maternity, disability, job insecurity, and risks. They contribute considerably to the achievement of the welfare state aim by improving working and living circumstances and providing women with security against the uncertainties of the future.

The Global Scenario For Protecting Women Workers

Women's equality is a fundamental principle of the United Nations. The International Labor Conference approved a Declaration in 1944 in Philadelphia. It said that “all human beings, regardless of race, creed, or gender, have the right to achieve both their material and spiritual well-being in conditions of freedom and dignity, economic stability, and equal opportunity.” Women's rights are an intrinsic aspect of the values, principles, and objectives at the heart of the International Labor Organization’s mandate to promote social justice and decent work, defined as properly compensated, productive work performed in conditions of freedom, parity, security, and dignity. The International Labor Organization’s Resolution on Gender Equality, Pay Equity, and Maternity Protection, issued in 2004, and a decision of the ILO's Governing Body in March 2005, are two essential instruments. Gender mainstreaming is now required in all ILO technical cooperation programs. It was reaffirmed in the International Labor Conference Resolution of 2006.

The United Nations General Assembly passed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1979. It went into effect in 1981. State Parties have special duties in law and practice to eradicate discrimination and remove barriers to women's enjoyment of their rights. It has been dubbed the “International Bill of Rights for

Women.” It establishes the fundamental concepts of equality between men and women, outlaws all forms of discrimination against women, and addresses various elements of women's rights such as political participation, health, education, employment, marriage, family relations, and equality before the law. The Commission on the Status of Women has been instrumental in advancing women's rights. It has developed suggestions on important challenges in the sphere of women's rights with the goal of implementing the idea that men and women should have equal rights, as well as measures to put such recommendations into action. Equal Remuneration Convention for Women and Men, 1951, Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958, Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention, 1981, Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor, 1999, Part-time workers, 1994, and Home workers, 1996, Maternity Protection Convention, 2000, Termination of Employment, 1982, and Employment Policy, 1964 are all instruments for protecting women's rights.

The Indian State And Its Role In Protecting Women Workers

The Indian State has been functioning as a “magnanimous father.” The Indian Constitution prohibits discrimination against women. The Indian Constitution specifically mentions positive discrimination in favor of women. In the Eighth Five Year Plan, women's empowerment has been renamed “empowerment” rather than “development.” Part III of the Indian Constitution addresses Fundamental Rights. Indian women and girls now have the opportunity to fully develop and enrich their individuality. The writers of the Constitution went to great lengths to ensure that Indians have the most enforceable rights imaginable. These rights have been enhanced by the Supreme Court and High Courts.

Part IV of the Indian Constitution provides non-justiciable rights known as the Directive Principles of State Policy. The vast majority are socioeconomic rights. Article 14 guarantees equality before the law and equal protection under the law. Some of the provisions that have promoted the rights of women workers include Art. 15(1) and (3), 16(4), 32, 226, 39(a) and (d), 42, 46, 47, 243 D (3), 243 D (4), 243 T (3), 243 T (4). Writs of Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Certiorari, Prohibition, and Quo Warranto have all shown to be quite powerful. The State shall direct its policies, among other things, toward guaranteeing equal reward for equal work for both men and women, according to Article 39 of the Constitution.

The Government of India has enacted several laws, including the Special Marriage Act of 1954, the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, the Hindu Succession Act of 1956, the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act of 1956, the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956, the Immortal Traffic Prevention Act of 1956, the Dowry Prohibition Acts of 1961 and 1984, the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971, the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act of The publication of the Towards Equality Report in 1974 marked a turning point in India's focus on the issues of women.

The National Plan of Action for Women, 1976; the National Perspective Plan for Women, 1988; Shramashakti, 1988; the National Commission for Women, 1990; the Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women, 1987; Rashtriya Mahila Kosh; Mahila Samridhi Yojana; Indira Awaas Yojana; Jawahar Rozgar Yojana; Streeshakti Mission; Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas; Training Rural Youth (Misra 2006) The Maternity Benefits Act of 1961 helped many individuals.

The purpose of maternity leaves and benefits is to preserve the dignity of motherhood by ensuring a woman's and her child's complete and healthy upkeep when she is not working. Maternity leave and other perks have become increasingly important as the number of female employees has risen in the modern period.[5] Through its interpretation, the judiciary has broadened the scope of rights. The case of Municipal Corporation of Delhi vs. Female Workers (2000) determined that extending maternity leave to women workers is compatible with the Directive Principles of State Policy established in Articles 19, 42, and 43 of the Indian Constitution. It provides maternity leave to women working on a casual or muster roll based on daily wages, not simply those in permanent positions. This occurred when a union of female workers who were not on regular rolls but were regarded temporary workers and employed on the Muster register wanted the same maternity leave benefits as regular workers. Many Indian women benefited from the Equal Remuneration Act of 1976, which implemented Article 39 of the Indian Constitution. Prior to the Equal Remuneration Ordinance, 1975, which was enacted by the President of India on September 26, 1975. International Women's Year was established in 1975.

 The Equal Remuneration Act of 1976, among other things, encourages equal pay for men and women workers. It is the employer's responsibility to provide equal remuneration to men and women for equal or comparable work. There should be no discrimination between men and women when it comes to hiring.  The law states that no discrimination in hiring or working circumstances is authorized, unless employment of women is prohibited or limited by law.[6]

The Equal Remuneration Act of 1976 is applied at two levels in India. In the Central domain, enforcement is delegated to the Chief Labour Commissioner, who heads the Central Industrial Relations Machinery. The Central Government has appointed Labour Enforcement Officers as Inspectors to investigate employers' adherence to the Equal Remuneration Act of 1976. In the case of employment provided by the State Government, enforcement is carried out by officers of the State Labour Department. The Central Government is also in charge of ensuring that state governments comply with the Equal Remuneration Act of 1976.

Many critics contend that India's Equal Remuneration Act attempts to set remuneration based on a politically driven or social justice-related concern, in this case, gender. Law enforcement is either ineffective or corrupt, making it hard to enforce the law.[7] The Employees' State Insurance Corporation and medical benefits were created under the Employees' State Insurance Act of 1948. Despite the regularity and stability of medical treatment supplied to insured persons, substantial leeway is necessary in terms of inpatient facilities, enough facilities for specialist services, and proper treatment of T.B. patients.

In addition, the Indian government has formed a Women Labor Cell. It is a separate Cell for Women Labor in the Ministry that was founded in 1975 to provide special attention to women's labor problems. The Ministry of Women and Child Development is the focal department for women's labor concerns. It works in partnership with the Ministry of Women and Child Development. It enforces the Equal Remuneration Act. It forms an Advisory Committee under the Equal Remuneration Act of 1976 to encourage women's employment and offers secretarial assistance to the Committee. It also follows up on the Supreme Court's decision on preventing sexual harassment of women at work by conducting periodic reviews of initiatives undertaken in consultation with relevant agencies such as the National Commission for Women,

the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the National Labour Institute, and others. The Cell also manages a grants-in-aid Scheme to offer financial assistance to non-governmental organizations for the implementation of action programs/projects for the benefit of women workers. The Ministry has also run a Grant-in-Aid Scheme for the welfare of women employees since the Sixth Five Year Plan (1981-82). It is administered through volunteer organizations by providing grant-in-aid to them for organizing working women and educating them about their rights/duties, providing legal aid to working women, and organizing seminars, workshops, and other events aimed at raising societal awareness about women's labor problems.

Indian women workers had endured sexual harassment at work, but they were aided by the Supreme Court's Vishakha Guidelines and, later, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act of 2013. Employers that fail to implement the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act face a Rs 50,000 punishment.[8] Sexual harassments in the workplace is increasingly becoming recognized as a serious infraction. Workplace grievances are on the rise. The Karnataka Labour Commissioner's office received 700 complaints.

“Every working woman has the right to a safe workplace.”

The Indian court has played a vital role in safeguarding Indian women's rights via strong judgements and action. The Supreme Court and the High Courts in India have expanded the extent of women's rights. This judicial law filled a gap in the legal system. For any partition made in intestate succession after September 2005, the Supreme Court provided equal property rights to Hindu girls and women, as well as other male relatives. “Under the new Section 6, a coparcener's daughter becomes a coparcener by birth, with the same rights and duties as the son.” Section 6 clearly states that the coparcener's daughter has the same rights and obligations in the coparcenary property as if she were a son.[9] The Indian Supreme Court prohibited discrimination against female make-up artists in the Indian film industry in 2014.

The Court ruled that “constitutionally unconstitutional discrimination”[10] in the entertainment industry would not be permitted. The business sector in India is also working hard to improve women's working circumstances. IT companies, for example, are making a concentrated effort to retain female women. They began with work-from-home options, flexi-time options, special taxis for would-be-homes, creche facilities, and so on. Companies have discovered that flex time and work-from-home options may boost employee productivity and retention.

An initiative has been introduced in which employees may donate unused vacation time to coworkers who need prolonged paid absence to address critical medical or personal matters. In 2013, the Ministry of Women and Child Development published a decision to “develop and promote crèche and day care facilities for children of working mothers, mothers from low-income families, sick mothers, and single parents.”[11] Many working moms have benefited from the Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche Scheme for Working Mothers, which presently covers tribal, rural, and urban children in 449 districts. An onsite childcare facility is advantageous for working women since it allows them to work full-time while caring for their children, as the mother may visit them numerous times during the day. Child care facilities may benefit working women who have a successful personal and professional life. Better child care services might help working mothers feel less guilty.[12] Despite the fact that the

number of women in Indian businesses is increasing, toilet amenities are falling behind.

When compared to earlier years, the presence of women at higher levels has increased the number of toilets in some locations. Many working women in India have had to contend with insufficient, poorly constructed, badly maintained, or completely non-existent restroom facilities. The situation is progressively improving, with the Indian government acknowledging sanitation as a vital problem. The Maharashtra state government has mandated that all businesses have separate bathrooms for female women or face penalties and criminal punishment.[13]

It is critical to maintain enough restrooms and washrooms so that women do not have to wait in long lines.[14] These are fundamental requirements that were previously unavailable.

Indian women were traditionally reluctant to mention their hygienic needs due to social conventions. Working women, on the other hand, are no longer reluctant to demand their fundamental rights. Another challenge for working women in India is a lack of road safety. Because of the underlying dread of crime, the worker's efficiency declines. Women are feeling unsafe as a result of the high rate of crime against women on Indian roadways. It has also struck fear into the hearts of family members.[15] Many parents have tried to persuade their daughters to leave jobs with irregular hours. The government has increased its efforts to curb crimes against women, but Indian women's apprehension about returning home from work has impacted their productivity.


At many levels, both state and private entities have taken steps to enhance the working conditions of women in India. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the FICCI Ladies Organization have made proposals to improve women's workplace safety. Installation of electronic doors giving only authorized employees access to the work area, security guard or a colleague to accompany the driver in the taxi, if a female woman working a night shift is either the first to be picked up or the last to be dumped, Mobile applications to be installed on employee phones for increased tracking and safety measures, well-lit work areas, staircases, and parking lots until the last woman employee leaves the site, separate and secure toilets for women close to their work station, strict surveillance of visitors, security staff and drivers to be hired only after police verification, 24x7 transport helpdesk.[16] The Government of India, like women in private firms, has issued protections and guidelines to make women employees feel at ease at work. Women, for example, have received specific incentives to join paramilitary units. Some of them include

'Creches' and 'Day Care Centres' for female employees.
Separate housing for female workers with basic facilities.
Toilet facilities are provided for female employees by pitching adequate tents with commodes in situations where acceptable sites are unavailable.
Vehicles equipped with mobile toilets for female staff when moving from one location to another and performing picketing tasks.
Existing Central Government benefits, including as Maternity Leave and Child Care Leave, are also accessible to paramilitary women troops.
Medical institutions that provide particular care to pregnant women
medical coverage is provided by lady doctors.
Education facilities for their children have been offered at Kendriya Vidyalaya whenever possible.
Women's work facilities have been equal to those of their male counterparts, with no gender prejudice.
In the case of married women, husband and wife are usually placed in the same station as much as feasible.
Women are provided same opportunities for career advancement, such as promotion/seniority, as their male counterparts.
Women staff are encouraged to be self-sufficient via adequate training and discussions throughout various courses.[17]


In order to close the gap between nominal equality and real equality, affirmative action policies and skill-development programs will improve the socioeconomic standing of a sizable part of women in the future years.[18] The general status of women in Indian society has an impact on the rights of Indian women in the workplace. The need for rights advocacy also extends to Indian women working abroad. The world has acknowledged the numerous advantages of gender mainstreaming. Although there are disparities between men and women, it is important to prioritize equity when discussing these differences. Women should have respectable working conditions so they may speak up about issues. The Indian government has implemented several changes with a social justice focus. The society has to change its perception of working women. Through their accomplishments, the nation's successful working women have proven to be role models for others. However, it is up to each girl or woman to turn each challenge into a tower of success. The proposed actions will also boost India's happiness score.

When given the proper opportunity to develop her ability and explore her potential, a woman has countless opportunities at her disposal. If we treat women fairly, they will return the favor by giving us a never-ending list of things to be proud of.


International Women’s Rights Action Watch. “Equality And Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.” International Women's Rights Action Watch, http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/iwraw/.
“India: No Redress for Sexual Harassment at the Work Place.” Asian Human Rights Commission, http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-ART-146-2013/. 
Dutta, Aesha, working women across India feel the lurking danger. http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/working-women-across-india-feel-the-lurking-danger/article4238483.ece   
Brenda Grant. “Beyond Beijing: Women’s Rights in the Workplace.” Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity, no. 64, 2005, pp. 90–98. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/4066576.
Mehta, Usha, (1961), The Working of The Employees State Insurance Scheme In India: An Aspect Of Centre-State Relations. The Indian Journal of Political Science, 22, 205-213 http://www.jstor.org/stable/41853882. 
 Women in Asia: Underpaid, undervalued and underemployed. World Of Work: Magazine of the ILO – No. 32, 6, http://www.ilo. org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/-dcomm/documents/publication/dwcms_080623.pdf
 Women’s Rights and Labour Statutes. http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/12832/13/14_chapter%205.pdf


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