The Indian Constitution is more than a text laying down rudimentary rules. It is a written compilation of all the tenets upon which rest the past, present and future of our country. Inarguably, women have had a major role to play in both the Indian Constitution’s formulation and implementation of its laws.

Today, on Constitution Day, here are ten things you must know about the Indian Constitution:

1. Although the Indian Constitution came into effect on January 26 1950, it was adopted on November 26, 1949. Since 2015, November 26 is celebrated as Constitution Day to pay homage to constitutional values.

2. The paramount role assumed by women in the making of the Indian Constitution can be delineated in the words of BR Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution of India: “I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.”

3. Recognising the need to elevate women who have been discriminated for centuries, the Constitution has various special provisions for alleviating their grievances. For instance, Article 15(3) of the Constitution permits states to make special provisions for women and children to safeguard their rights.

4. Other articles that uphold equality, one of the principal tenets of the Indian Constitution, in terms of gender include Article 39(a) which seeks to secure the equal right to an adequate means of livelihood for men and women; Article 39(d) which aims to secure equal pay for equal work for men and women; and Article 42 which stipulates that provisions shall be made for ensuring just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.

5. Article 243 D and T ensures legislative opportunities for women by providing for the mandatory reservation of seats in Panchayats and Nagarpalikas for them.

Also Read: Upholding the Supremacy of Constitution over Religious Practices

6. While Dr Ambedkar, the ‘Father of the Indian Constitution’, has received much recognition, the ‘mothers’ of the same remain scarcely acknowledged. Out of the 389 members of the constituent assembly, there were 15 women who made immense contributions towards making the Constitution inclusive and progressive.

7. One of these 15 revolutionary women, Hansa Mehta ensured that Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (‘UDHR’) didn’t negate the existence of women and changed the phrase “All men are born free and equal” to “All human beings are born free and equal.”

8. Begam Aizaz Rasul, the only Muslim woman in the Constituent Assembly of India, safeguarded the religious diversity of the country by raising her voice against having a separate electorate for Muslims. She dismissed the idea as a “self-destructive weapon which separates the minority from the majority for all the time”. Her efforts brought about consensus among the members and ensured a truly secular Constitution.

9. Another woman who made a pivotal contribution to the Constitution of India was Durgabai Deshmukh. Her notable legal insights brought a significant amendment in the Constitution’s draft by lowering the age of obtaining a seat in council state from 35 to 30 years.

10. Dakshayani Velyudhan, the woman who championed the Dalits’ cause alongside Dr BR Ambedkar, was the first and only Dalit woman in the Constituent Assembly. She ensured that the Constitution did not ignore the plight of the marginalised communities of the country.

The Indian Constitution has been the harbinger of many progressive changes vis-à-vis the women of the country. Even today, many archaic practices and exclusionary laws continue to be challenged by women based on the basic rights enshrined in the Constitution. Inarguably, the Constitution of India has the power to guide us all towards a brighter, more inclusive future.

Tarini Gandhiok is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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