It’s been a while since I have been mulling over connection between Fundamental rights and the role, they play in our lives primarily in an Indian woman’s life.
I have seen women around struggling to affirm their existence but not knowing where to look for, what to look up to, which premise to consider when it’s time to take some tough calls. Women have been subjected to societal exploitation and manipulation for generations and ironically, they are so habitual of taking the abuse that they almost forget to consider their existence as an equal citizen of a nation who have rights and the very rights that can protect them against all inhumanly and discriminating behaviors provided, they are aware.
Fundamental rights are introduced through formal text books during school days quite early and I couldn’t agree more with timing and importance to introduce these rights and what can be a better medium than schools to do so.
But what happens after that?
Do we, primarily “the women” of this nation remember the rights endowed to us by our very own constitution?
And by the time we step into adulthood, “do we even remember the concept of fundamental or human rights vaguely?”
“Do we even know what our fundamental rights are as citizens of this nation?”
“Do we know that gender has no role to play to claim these rights unless we have stopped considering ourselves as fellow human beings?”
“Do we know what to do with fundamental rights and when to call out for help?”
“Do we ever use these fundamental rights as guiding posts when in individual predicaments?”
Answer to all above questions isn’t very satisfactory when I still see deplorable conditions of women in India who are subjected to different kinds of abuse, discrimination, harassment, violence. We don’t have to go far to affirm our doubts. We just have to look at either side of us and we would see women who are exploited on one premise or the other.
With this let me be very clear here that this is no attempt to blame population of men at large for exploitation of women. Women are exploited irrespective of gender of the doer because of their own ignorance. I have seen elderly women in different roles exploiting and vice-versa. Exploitation is when women are not free to make their own choices, not free to lead a life of their choice, mistreated, taken advantage of, misused and this can be done by anyone in any role.
Statistics in Global Database on Violence Against Women with UN Women are quite startling and would remain so for long unless we take charge to safeguard our own selves and to do so fundamental rights can be the tools to start with. For they were incorporated to overturn inequalities born out of social malpractices.
So, let’s first go down the memory lane and re-visit what we were taught as our Fundamental rights during school days that can help us re-claim our status as equal citizens who deserve better.
We have six fundamental human rights which are recognized by Indian constitution. These rights are applicable to all citizens irrespective of gender, caste, race, birthplace or religion. All Indian citizens have right to appeal directly to Supreme Court or High Court for enforcement of these rights in case of violation. The judiciary reserves right to punish for violation of fundamental rights guided by Indian Penal Code and other laws.
Let us take a glance on summarized version of Fundamental Rights below:
- Right to equality (articles 14 – 18)states that all citizens are equal before law. It prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, caste, sex or place of birth. It talks about equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. It supports abolition of untouchability and titles.
- Right to freedom (articles 19 – 22)states that all citizens have freedom to speech and expression, to assemble peaceably and without arms, to form associations or unions, to move freely throughout the territory of India, right to practice any profession or to carry any occupation trade or business, right to information, right to life, right to privacy right to education.
- Right against exploitation (articles 23-24)prohibits human trafficking, forced labor and employment of children in factories i.e. any kind of child labor.
- Right to freedom of religion (articles 25-28) provides freedom to manage religious affairs, freedom from payment of any taxes to promote any particular religion, freedom from attending religious instruction or worship in certain education institutions. It provides freedom of conscience, free profession, practice and propagation of religion.
- Cultural and educational rights (articles 29-30) state that citizens may conserve their distinct language, script or culture. No citizen shall be denied admission to any education institution maintained by state funds on grounds of religion, race, caste, language or any of them. This also gives right to minorities to establish and administer educational institutions.
- Right to Constitutional remedies (articles 32-35)empowers all citizens to move to court of law for enforcement of these rights if violated. All India citizens can directly appeal to Supreme Court.
Now why so much ruckus about these rights? There must be a reason due to which “The Drafting Committee for The Constitution of India” would have decided to spend considerable amount of time and efforts to come up with Fundamental Rights for all citizens. Why did they decide to allocate space to these rights in “The Constitution of India” in the first place if not significant at all?
I have always believed that legal language is only true language. You may either follow law or the manipulated stories that society entails to maintain its status quo. Society has been manipulating legal aspects to suit its interests and bends legal language on the pretext of religion, honor and what not by the time women maintain their stature as secondary citizens. Social conditioning washes away memory of fundamental rights to the extent that even the title” Fundamental Rights” sounds as a non-existent, never heard of, far-fetched idea. Knowing law and using legal language is the only way to cut through ambiguous social conditioning.
These rights must definitely serve a purpose and we as women need to understand that purpose as equal citizens. Isn’t it strange that women are not able to identify different forms of exploitation/inequalities even after such explicit description of the rights? Know that, a well informed and aware citizen is difficult and almost impossible to exploit and manipulate. Lack of education, awareness and will to fight for one’s rights is root cause of exploitation.
Let us see why fundamental rights are important and why more for us unless we stop considering ourselves as fellow human beings and equal citizens of this nation who are worthy of these rights.
Significance of fundamental rights
- Fundamental rights are so called because they are the very basic human rights which are important for preserving decorum and set guidelines to lead a balanced life in society. These rights are essential for overall individual development of citizens. Many developed nations have similar rights preserved for their citizens through their lawful constitutions to lead a peaceful, secure and sane life among people with varied ethnicity.
- Fundamental rights are pretty much in sync with “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” which was adopted by “United Nations General Assembly” that invited nations to adopt these rights in their respective constitutions and India was one of those nations that voted in favor of the Declaration.
- India is a democratic state and democracy can’t be practiced unless its citizens practice fundamental rights for their development and upliftment to participate in nations’ functioning.
- Fundamental rights are for protection of the citizens to avoid gross violation of the human rights, to overturn inequalities born out of social malpractices.
Now what more are we looking for to justify that we as women have rights and must practice these in all aspects without anyone’s approval but us. Who has given people right to overrule these fundamental rights and exploit us? That’s no one but us.
The war for equality can’t be fought without winning battles on all fronts. Fighting for our basic rights is one such battle that takes us towards winning the larger war for women rights and this battle needs to be fought in our lives inside out. Things would not change unless we start talking about them, unless we start questioning the status quo. What is it that no one can give us but is already ours? We just need to be educated, aware and go out there to claim.
We are the change and a united and strong wave of educated and aware women to claim their basic rights can’t be turned down.