Since the early days, women have fought hard for their right to be treated equally in all aspects of life. Through landmark judgments by the Supreme Court, women have won important rights such as the right to vote and equality under the law.
Despite these successes, there is still a long way to go before every woman in India can aspire to reach her full potential. This is where the courts come in - each year they make important rulings that help to expand women's rights.
Here are 5 landmark decisions that protect women's rights in India.
1. Marital Rape
In India, the subject of marital rape has long been considered taboo. In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled that marital rape constituted a form of rape under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act.
The judgement was made in a ruling where the Supreme Court was interpreting the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and the regulations to end discrimination against married and unmarried women by permitting abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
2. Abortion Rights
The Supreme Court has ruled that all women, regardless of their marital status, are entitled to benefits of safe and legal abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, in another historic verdict.
A three-judge panel led by Justices D Y Chandrachud, A S Bopanna, and J B Pardiwala declared on September 29 that discrimination against women based on their marital status is against their right to equality.
3. Mother Decides Child's Surname
The Supreme Court ruled in July 2022 that a woman, who serves as the child's only natural guardian, has the right to choose the child's surname and cannot be prevented from incorporating the child into her new family and choosing the surname even after the death of her first spouse.
Additionally, she is also permitted to place the child for adoption. "The mother being the only natural guardian of the child has the right to decide the surname of the child," a bench of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Krishna Murari said.
4. Prohibiting the Two-Finger Test
The Supreme Court of India once again raised objections to the use of the "two-finger test" in rape and sexual assault cases in October 2022. The doctors who were found to be administering the test will be found guilty of misconduct, the bench further warned.
In 2013, the SC ruled that the two-finger test, also referred to as the "virginity test" or "per vaginum" test, was unconstitutional. The exam "violates the right of rape survivors to privacy, physical and mental integrity and dignity."
5. Demanding Money for Construction of House is Dowry
In its ruling in the case of State of Madhya Pradesh vs. Jogendra & Anr., the Supreme Court decided to broaden the definition of "dowry." The Supreme Court declared that any demand made on a woman, whether for property or a thing of value, should be considered a "dowry."