Framework and Resources
International Commitments for Gender Justice
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) - 1948

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The Declaration outlined various forms of inalienable rights and freedom for human beings to which all were equally entitled. Envisaging a world of equal respect for all, the Declaration promise economic, social, political, civic and cultural rights. Member nations are required to uphold these rights and freedoms by making suitable policies and legal frameworks for their citizens. Non-discrimination and equality are the core principles of the Declarations. Any form of discriminatory practice on different grounds, including gender is prohibited. Equal treatment is applicable to all aspects of life such as health, food, security, and social protection. Universal Declaration of Human Rights laid ground for various subsequent UN resolutions specifically focusing on gender-based discrimination and violence.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights -1966

The covenant asserts the belief in equality, dignity and inalienable rights of human beings. It recognizes that the mandates of UDHR can be realised only if certain basic preconditions of equality and freedom are met. Such preconditions are ensured by civil and political rights proposed under this covenant. Right to liberty and security, protection from torture, forced labour, and equality before law are some of the aspects covered under this covenant. Gender equality is a critical part of it. Article 3 states “The States Parties to the present covenant undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the present covenant.” Hence all the mandates of the covenant are essentially embedded with the mandate of gender equality.

Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)-1979

While various treaties and covenants by the United Nations implicitly uphold gender equality and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is dedicated to rights of women. CEDAW notes that despite various efforts and commitment by member nations to uphold gender equality, women continued to experience discrimination, violence and lack of equal opportunity. CEDAW urges the member states to ensure equal rights and freedom to women in different but interrelated spheres such as education, employment, healthcare, conjugal matters, social and economic aspects, and to maintain equality before law. Protection of women from violence, trafficking and exploitation is also a critical responsibility of the state. Notably, the Convention draws attention to the need of addressing cultural prejudices and stereotypes associated with gender and gender differentiated roles within families. Special emphasis is laid on preventing discrimination against women in work sphere emerging from their reproductive and caregiving roles. CEDAW mandates the signatory states to formulate/amend their legal and policy framework and create strategies for full development and advancement of women. At the same time, it also states that special measures taken up by the states for upliftment of women are not to be viewed as discrimination against other gender.

Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 1993

This declaration focussed on the issue of violence against women and its detrimental impact on achievement of global development and peace. Any form of violence experienced by women was an obstacle to realization of various international ideals of equality, freedom and human dignity. The declaration defined violence against women and reemphasized women’s rights such as equality, security, favourable working conditions. The declaration highlighted the role of unequal power dynamics between genders in violence against women. Another critical aspect highlighted by the declaration was intersectionality of gender with other factors that amplified the impact of violence. The states are not supposed to invoke any customary law to justify violence or discriminatory practices against women or avoid obligations towards protection of women.

Fourth UN Conference on Women (Beijing Declaration), 1995

The Beijing Declaration announced at the Fourth UN Conference on Women held at Beijing in 1995 is a major milestone. It carried forward the agenda of gender equality and development of women. It recognseid the important role of women empowerment and participation on all fronts to achieve all round development of society; and expressed commitment to the ideals of equal freedom, rights, access and opportunity to women and girl children. The declaration was a landmark in gender equality initiatives as it established gender mainstreaming as a collective strategy by ensuring that gender perspective was included and reflected in all policies and programmes. The Declaration recognized men as allies in efforts towards creating a discrimination free and equal strategy. Intersectional issues of social, economic, and environmental factors were recognized as impacting development of women, especially those belonging to rural areas and economically disadvantages sections.

Millennium Development Goal 3

The United Nations Millennium Summit held in the year 2000 resulted in the Millennium Declaration that was adopted by all nations. This addressed multifaceted issues being faced by the world through 8 targeted Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). MDG 3 pertained to promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women. Specifically, this aimed at eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005, and at all levels by 2015. After the 2015 deadline for the MDGs, transformative and action oriented Sustainable Development Goals were adopted to further the commitment towards development and progress.

Sustainable Development Goal 5

In 2015, the United Nations formulated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to carry forward the unfinished agenda of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs.) The core objective continued to be achieving dignity and equality of all human beings. The SDGs are driven by a transformational vision and recognise the integrated nature of development in three dimensions, social, economic and environment. Goal 5 is dedicated to gender equality and empowerment of women which entails social, economic and political equality. Focus of the goal is elimination of all forms of violence, harassment and discrimination against women. Achievement of SDGs entails active engagement and strong commitment from all member nations all communities. Goal 5 assumes special significance as all genders are critical stakeholders and all round development is not possible without achieving gender equality.

ILO Convention C190- Elimination of Violence and Harassment at Work (2019)

The ILO convention is critical as it draws attention to discrimination and harassment faced at work. Impact of such incidences is more frequent and amplified in nature for women. The Convention reaffirms the ideals of equal right and opportunity in the work sphere; and freedom from all forms of violence and harassment including those based in gender for all. Such violence is deemed not just a human rights abuse but also a threat to equality of opportunity. Mutual respect and dignity have been considered essential for a workplace. It takes special note of the detrimental impacts of violence and harassment at workplace and the gendered nature of violence and harassment. The convention lays down the definition of harassment and violence and workplace and mandates member states to formulate commensurate laws and policies to address this issue at domestic level

Indian Constitutional Mandates

The Constitution of India empowers the state to formulate protective and supportive framework within the democratic polity for empowerment of women. Gender equality provisions are embedded in the Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties, and Directive Principles of State Policy. Further, the constitution allows for positive discrimination through laws, policies, schemes, programmes aimed at women’s advancement. Some of the constitutional obligations are listed herein.

The constitution provides six fundamental rights to all citizens. These are

  • Right to equality
  • Right to freedom
  • Right against exploitation
  • Right to freedom of religion
  • Cultural and educational rights
  • Right to constitutional remedies

Violation of any of these fundamental rights impacts the lived experience of women. The details of fundamental rights are elaborated below.

Right To Equality
Article 14 Equality before law for all citizens Article 15 (1) Prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, caste, class, sex Prohibits discrimination in access to public spaces; usage of public resources Article 15 (2) Empowers state to make special provisions for children and women Article 15 (3) Special provisions for socially and educationally backward classes including SC and ST Article 15 (4) Special provisions for socially and educationally backward classes related to their admission in educational institutions Article 15 (5) Special provisions for promoting interests of economically weaker sections Article 15 (6) Equality of opportunity in appointment to any public office Article 16 (1) Non-discrimination in appointment to public office on the basis of race, religion, caste, class, sex Article 16 (2) Reservation of posts in public office for underrepresented backward class Article 16 (4) Reservation of posts in public office for economically weaker sections
Right to Freedom
Article 19 Protection of 6 rights concerning freedom of speech and expression; assembly, association, movement, residence, professions Article 20 Protection with respect to conviction for offences Article 21 Right to life and personal liberty which implies right to dignified life Article 21 (a) Right to free and compulsory elementary education between age of 6 to 14 years Article 22 Right to protection against arrest and detention in certain cases
Right against Exploitation
Article 23 Prohibition of forced labour and human trafficking Article 24 Prohibition of child labour in hazardous employment
Right to Freedom of Religion
Article 26 Right to practice, profess and propagate religion Article 26 Right to manage religious affairs, institution; acquire and administer property
Cultural and Educational Rights
Article 29 (1) Non-discrimination in admission to educational institutions Article 26 Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions
Right to Constitutional Remedies
Article 32 Right to appeal against violations of fundamental rights
Directive Principles of State Policy

Directive principles of state policy lay down principles of governance and legislations for the state. although not enforceable by law, these provide critical guidance to any government in policy making and ensuring upliftment, dignity and protection of the citizens. Some of the directive principles are outlined herein.

Article 38 (2) Minimize income inequality and eliminate inequality of resources and opportunities Article 39 (a) Right to adequate means of livelihood for both men and women Article 39 (d) Equal pay for equal work for both men and women Article 39 A Free legal aid Article 42 Just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief Article 46 Promoting educational and economic interests of socially weaker sections specially SC, ST
Fundamental Duties

While fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy place the onus on the state, fundamental duties are the obligations of the citizens to realize the constitutional objectives and uphold its values.

Article 51(A) (e) Renouncing practices derogatory to the dignity of women
Reservation of Seats
Article 243 D (3) , Article 243 T (3) Reservation for women (including SC/ST women) of not less than 1/3 of total number of seats in Panchayats and Municipalities Article 243 D (4), article 243 T (4 Reservation for women (including SC/ST women) of not less that 1/3 of the total number of offices of the Chairpersons in the Panchayats at the village or any other level and in Municipalities
Relevant Indian Legislations

The following legislations have special provisions for safeguarding women and their interests

Provisions to Address Crime against Women under Indian Penal Code
Section 302/304-B Homicide for dowry, dowry deaths and attempts Section 326 Acid Attack Section 339 Wrongful restraint Section 340 Wrongful confinement Section 354C Voyeurism Section 354 Assault against women with intent to outrage her modesty Section 354A Sexual Harassment Section 354B Assault with attempt to disrobe Section 354D Stalking; Online monitoring Section 363-373 Kidnapping and abduction Section 366B Words, actions, gestures intended to insult the modesty of women Section 370 Confinement and exploitation Section 370-373 Trafficking of women/girls Section 376 Rape Section 498 Physical and mental torture Section 498A Domestic violence Section 509 Eve teasing
Other Legislations

The Employee State Insurance Act, 1948

The Plantation Labour Act, 1951

The Family Courts Act, 1954

The Special Marriage Act, 1954

The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 with amendment in 2005

Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (amendment in 1995, 2017)

Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971

The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1976

The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1983, 2013

The Factories (Amendment) Act, 1986

Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986

Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

The Prohibition of Child marriage Act, 2006

Prevention of Sexual Harassment Acts
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013

Popularly known as the POSH Act, the legislation addresses the issue of sexual harassment of women at workplace. It defines critical terms such as sexual harassment, workplace, aggrieved, respondent, etc. The Act brings not just particular actions but also certain circumstances under the purview of sexual harassment. It mandates the constitution of Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in all workplaces as a statutory requirement. ICC bears the responsibility of addressing complaints against sexual harassment, facilitating the process of complaint, enquiry process and giving recommendations on the action to be taken to the executive authority. The Act lays down the roles and responsibilities of the employer, complainant and respondent. It also outlines mechanisms of interim relief during pendency of enquiry. Most importantly, the Act outlines the process and timeline of redressal of sexual harassment complaint in any workplace.

Based on the Act, UGC (Prevention, prohibition and Redressal of sexual harassment of women employees and students in higher educational institutions) Regulation 2015 were promulgated to address cases of sexual harassment in higher education institutions in India.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012

The act provides mechanisms for protection of children against various forms of abuse including sexual abuse and harassment, pornography, assault, etc. Notably, the act is gender neutral and includes male children within is purview. The knowledge of any offence under this act is to be mandatorily reported to the designated authorities. The act considers special circumstances of some children such as those suffering from mental illness and also when the abuser is a person of authority such as teacher, doctor as well as family. The act intends to protect the abused child from the grueling judicial processes by making the process child-friendly. This includes recording of statement, medical examination and protection of the child from the accused during the process. It assigns a police officer the role of child protector during the process of enquiry. National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCRs) are made responsible to monitor the implementation of the Act.

The Act was amended in 2019 to enhance punishment under various sections. Possessing child pornography in any form or due to any reason was made a criminal offence. The amendment also enhanced the punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault to death penalty.

Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act, 2012


GATI (Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions) - Framework Development for Advancing Gender Equity in Science, Technology and Higher Education in India
Sanctioned to GATI PI based at NAAC via Government of India, Ministry of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Technology, Order dated 30 August 2020