We live in a world where almost everything looks shady and messed up. We live in a world where life of a person is taken away by a loved one; a world where goddesses are worshipped while a woman (of any age) is maimed and harassed. The only way out to keep an eye on such horrific happenings is to make strict laws and rules and keep a check on these horrendous crimes.
Having laws is however, not enough in our country where laws are meant to be broken. Most people are unaware of their legal rights until they hire a legal firm for their problems. Merely a handful of them would say, ‘Yes, we know’ to this and most of them are not women. So, to help women know their rights and to help them fight back, here are 10 legal rights that they should know about. Remember them for your safety!
- Right to free aid
When a woman goes to the police station without being accompanied by a lawyer she is either quoted wrong, ignored or humiliated for her statements. She should be aware of the fact that she has a right to get the legal aid and that she should demand for it. “According to a Delhi High Court ruling, whenever a rape is reported, the SHO has to bring this to the notice of the Delhi Legal Services Authority. The legal body then arranges for a lawyer for the victim,” says Saumya Bhaumik, women rights lawyer.
- Right to privacy
A woman who has been raped has a right to record her statement in private, in front of the magistrate without being overheard by anyone else. She also has a freedom to record her statement with a lady constable or a police officer in personal. Under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the cops will have to give the privacy to the victim without stressing her in front of masses.
- Right to untimely registration
There are many reasons as to why a woman would postpone going to the police to lodge a complaint. She considers her reputation, dignity of the family and threats from the culprit to take her life away. Police in any way cannot say no to register her complaint, no matter if it’s too late to register. The self-respect of women comes before anything else. She cannot be denied of anything.
- Right to virtual complaints
According to the guidelines issued by the Delhi Police, a woman has the privilege of lodging a complaint via email or registered post. If, for some reason, a woman can’t go to the police station, she can send a written complaint through an email or 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
A rape victim can register her police complaint from any police station under the Zero FIR ruling by Supreme Court. “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,” says Abeed. This is a Supreme Court ruling that not many women are aware of, so don’t let the SHO of a police station send you away saying it “doesn’t come under his area”.
- Right to no arrest
According to a Supreme Court ruling, a woman cannot be arrested after sunset and before sunrise. There are many cases of women being harassed by the police at wee hours, but all this can be avoided if you exercise the right of being present in the police station only during daytime. “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,” says Bhaumik.
- Right to not being called to the police station
Women cannot be called to the police station for interrogation under Section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code. This law provides Indian women the right of not being physically present at the police station for interrogation. “The police can interrogate a woman at her residence in the presence of a woman constable and family members or friends,” says Abeed. So, the next time you’re called to the police station for queries or interrogation when you have faced any kind of harassment, quote this guideline of the Supreme Court to exercise your right and remind the cops about it.
- Right to confidentiality
Under no circumstances can the identity of a rape victim be revealed. Neither the police nor media can make known the name of the victim in public. Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code makes the disclosure of a victim’s identity a punishable offense. Printing or publishing the name or any matter which may make known the identity of a woman against whom an offense has been committed is punishable. This is done to prevent social victimization or ostracism of the victim of a sexual offense. Even while a judgment 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 judgment.
- Right towards crime and not a medical condition
A case of rape can’t be dismissed even if the doctor says that rape has not taken place. A victim of rape needs to be medically examined as per Section 164 A of the Criminal Procedure Code, and only the report can act as proof. “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,” explains Bhaumik.
- Right to no sexual harassment
It is the duty of every employer to create a Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee within the organization for redressal of such complaints. According to a guideline issued by the Supreme Court, it is mandatory for all firms, public and private, to set up these committees to resolve matters of sexual harassment. It is also necessary that the committee be headed by a woman and comprise of 50% women, as members. Also, one of the members should be from a women’s welfare group.