India, an influential member of the World Trade Organisation, was amongst the minority that chose not to endorse a declaration seeking women’s economic empowerment in trade, despite nearly three-fourths of the members backing the same. India stated that while it supports gender equality, it could not submit that gender is a trade-related issue. Further, Indian officials expressed their apprehensions that advanced countries would not only use their high standards in gender-related policies to curb exports from developing countries, but also indirectly restrict the developing world from incentivizing their women citizens as part of measures to address development challenges.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 has been reintroduced in the Lok Sabha by the government without the changes that had been demanded by the trans community, resulting in widespread protests. The bill, a watered down version of a private member bill that was cleared by the Rajya Sabha in 2014, is said to be in conflict with the principles of self-determination laid down by the Supreme Court in the landmark judgement of NALSA v. Union of India, in addition to criminalising traditional means of livelihood.
The Madhya Pradesh legislature has passed an amendment to the Indian Penal Code to prescribe death sentence as the highest punishment for rape of girls aged 12 and below; becoming the first state where those convicted of such rapes will face the death penalty. The bill also seeks to increase the punishment for offenders convicted for a second time of forcefully disrobing a woman. Under the present law, only such sexual assault that results in death or permanent vegetative state of the victim is punishable with death. Otherwise, only repeat offenders can be sentenced to death. The Protection of Children from Sexual offences Act, 2012 does not prescribe death as the maximum sentence for any of the offences therein.
The bill proposes changes to sections 354, 376 and 493 of IPC and Sections 29, 110, 198 and 437 of CrPc. Apart from introducing death penalty for rape, the bill also seeks to amend section 493 of the IPC to introduce the offence of establishing sexual relations upon a false promise of marriage. Called the Dand Vidhi (Madhya Pradesh Sanshodhan) Vidheyak, 2017, the bill is yet to receive Presidential assent.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, has been passed by the Lok Sabha. The primary objective of the bill is to criminalise the pronouncement of triple talaq, by prescribing a punishment of up to three years of imprisonment for the same. The bill also provides for custody and maintenance rights of the wife upon such a pronouncement, although questions arise about the conflict between these provisions with the current law. The proposed legislation has met with widespread opposition from women’s groups, for further diluting Muslim women’s rights. Opponents have also pointed out the futility of incarcerating men for unilateral divorce, especially when such divorce have no legal validity, instead of focusing on women’s economic rights. The practice of triple talaq has been declared invalid, including for being un-Islamic, by successive Supreme Court judgments.
The Kerala High Court upheld the plea of a woman against her termination from service on account of her long absence from service as she needed to look after her child suffering from mild autism. The court held that no service regulations can stand in the way of a woman claiming protection of her fundamental right of dignity as a mother, further emphasizing that the government should come up with a legislation to protect employees from discrimination at workplace due to their family responsibilities.
Source: http://bit.ly/2D9s78b; http://bit.ly/2kDkPCo
In a writ petition regarding the lack of access to information, knowledge, and education regarding menstruation and menstrual hygiene in Delhi, the Delhi High Court has made various directions to the district municipal corporations in Delhi for the implementation of the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK), so far as it relates to the sensitization of adolescent girls about menstrual hygiene, and distribution of free sanitary napkins to them. The Court has demanded status reports on provision of separate toilets for girls in schools from the New Delhi Municipal Corporation, and also directed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as well as the Delhi government to allocate funds to the municipal corporations to disburse free sanitary napkins to girls enrolled in municipality run schools.
Setu Niket v. Union of India and Ors. W.P.(C) 5909/2017
The Rajasthan High Court held that in a case involving marriage performed after conversion, where the conversion is in contravention of the guidelines that govern it, the marriage may be declared voidable at the aggrieved party’s behest. The guidelines, laid down by the court to tackle ‘forced conversions,’ state that only an adult can undergo religious conversion, mandate prior intimation of conversion to judicial authorities, public notification of such proposed conversion, and solemnisation of marriage only after one week of said conversion.
Chirag Singhvi v. State of Rajasthan D.B. Habeas Corpus No. 149 / 2017
The Kerala High Court has upheld the suspension of a boy and girl student for their alleged public display of affection in the school and through social media. Although the state child rights panel had ordered the school to take the students back, this decision was struck down by the High Court on the ground that the school principal was an autonomous decision making authority, and there was no illegality in his decision which was motivated by a desire to maintain and sustain the standard and reputation of the school. While the court advised the school authorities to balanced approach, considering the educational aspirations of the students suspended, it was suggested that fines as a way to deter other students from engaging in similar behavior. The decisions of the school authorities and the Court have been widely criticized for encouraging moral policing of students.
Sebastian T. Joseph and Anr. v. Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child and Ors. WP(C).No. 32325 of 2017 (M)
The High Court recently addressed a petition wherein the petitioner had brought to the notice of the court the continual harassment that she and her husband were subjected to following their inter-caste marriage. She stated that despite having married after attaining the age of majority, out of her own free will without any undue coercion, the respondents had framed false criminal cases against her husband with the help of the police. Referring to the role played by inter-caste marriages in weakening the caste system, the Court granted police protection to the couple and directed that action be taken against those involved in harassing them.
Zubida Akhter v. State of Jammu and Kashmir, 2017SCCOnLineJ&K712
In an appeal from a Family Court decision, in which divorce was granted to the husband on the ground that his wife had made false criminal allegations of domestic violence against him, and this amounted to cruelty, the Chhattisgarh High Court held that the husband was not entitled to a divorce. The court held that mere acquittal of the husband cannot be used to draw the inference that the allegations of the wife were false. ‘Misuse of 498A’ has increasingly become a common allegation in matrimonial cases, and has in the past been held as conduct amounting to cruelty against the husband.
Durga Bai v. Narayan Sinha, 2017 SCC OnLine Chh 1246