• The Preamble to the Constitution resolves to secure to all its citizens, justice, social, economic and political, liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, equality of status and of opportunity and to promote among them all, fraternity, assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.
• The Constitution guarantees Fundamental Rights to all Indian citizens. The Constitution also enumerates in the Directive Principles of State Policy the major goals of a welfare state with gender equity as a core objective. While the Fundamental /Rights area enforceable in the Courts of Justice, the State is charged with the duty to apply the Directive Principles in making laws.
• Article 14 confers equal rights and opportunities on men and women in the political, economic and social spheres. While Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex etc, a provision under Article 15(3) enables the State to allow affirmative discrimination in favour of women. Article 16 guarantees equality of opportunity in public employment.The State also imposes a fundamental duty on every citizen to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
• To uphold the Constitutional mandate, the State has enacted various legislative measures intended to ensure equal rights, to counter social discrimination and various forms of violence and atrocities and to provide support services especially to working women.
• Although all laws are not gender specific, the major provisions affect women significantly. Amendments have been periodically carried out to keep pace with emerging demands. They include among others, the following:
o The Special Marriage Act, 1954
o The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
o The Hindu Succession Act, 1956
o The Family Courts Act 1954
o The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1983
o The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1986
o The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (amended in 1984 and 1986)
o The Child Marriage Restraint(Amendment) Act, 1976
o The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
o The Factories (Amendment) Act, 1986
o The Plantation Labour Act, 1951
o The Employees State Insurance Act, 1948
o The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1976
o The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
o The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition)Act, 1986
• The legal edifice thus effectively affirms and promotes the principles of equity and equality of women and takes care of their special needs.