Women Legal Rights in India Every Married Woman Should Be Aware Of
In India, marriage is considered as a pure institution that not only ties two individuals but two families. Despite this, the number of crimes against married women aka daughters-in-law have been surging incessantly. Be it dowry deaths or domestic violence, the numbers have been increasing at an alarming rate.
It is ironical that most women are unaware of their legal rights, and thus keep mum. In order to fight injustice, it is important to have through knowledge about the rights. The Constitution of India, under Article 14, backs women and their rights in the country. It ensures women equality and equal protection of the laws. Article 15(3) empowers the state to take affirmative action in favour of a daughter-in-law.
Here is a list of seven rights every married woman should be aware of:
Right to Reside in Marital Home
The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, entitles wives a basic right to reside in the matrimonial/marital household. The term matrimonial home refers to a household a woman shares with her husband. The house may be owned by the husband or his parents, a rented property or officially provided to him. Regardless, whether it is an ancestral one or a joint family house, a daughter-in-law is entitled to reside in it. Also, she has the right to live in her matrimonial residence even if her husband is not there or is dead.
Many cases have come to light where a husband leaves a rented accommodation when his relationship with the wife turns sour. However, this does not free the man from providing basic maintenance to his wife and children.
Right to Streedhan
According to the Hindu Succession Law, Streedhan refers to the gifts a woman receives during pre-marriage or marriage ceremonies and during childbirth. This includes any movable, immovable property, jewellery, gifts, money and more (e.g. god bharai, baraat, mooh dikhai).
The main objective of providing Streedhan to a married woman is to provide her some monetary safeguards after marriage.
The apex court has given inalienable rights over Streedhan to the married woman. It rules that the right is not lost even after separation from her husband. That is, a wife has complete ownership rights to all her Streedhan, the gifts and money given to her before and after marriage.
The denial of Streedhan to the wife makes the husband and in-laws liable for criminal charges. If a mother-in-law possesses her daughter in law’s Streedhan and dies without a legal will, then the married woman has a legal right on it.
Right to Maintenance by Husband
A wife has the right to claim decent living standards and basic comforts of life from her husband. However, the benefits are subject to the husband’s living standards, his income and property. In case of ties souring, he has to provide basic maintenance facilities to his wife and children.
The basic amenities include food, clothing, residence, education and medical treatment. Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, supports this right.
According to the Indian legal system, a woman — even after separation — can claim up to 25% of her husband’s net income as alimony.
Right to Child Maintenance
It is the duty of the husband and the wife to provide the required facilities to their minor child. In case the woman is not capable earning a living, then it is the duty of the man to provide financial assistance.
In case both partners are monetarily incapacitated, they can take support from their parents to look after the child. Additionally, a minor child also has the right to seek partition in ancestral property.
Right to Committed Relationship
A happy and successful married life cannot be led without proper commitment from the both partners equally. A married woman has the right to have a committed relationship, unless a legal application for separation (divorce) has been filed. This implies that her husband cannot be in a relationship with another woman or have an extra-marital affair.
However, if the husband still has relations with another woman outside marriage, the wife she can charge him for adultery. Adultery in India is also a basis for divorce under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
Right to Parental Home
Earlier, India strictly followed the Tradition of ‘Beti toh Paraya Dhan Hoti Hai’. But with time, people’s approach towards daughters has changed and so have the laws. Now, daughters have acquired equal status as their male siblings even after marriage.
- Inheritance: The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, did not give daughters and sons equal right in the father’s property. As per the old Act, the daughter enjoyed rights on her father’s property only until she got married. But the Act was amended in 2005. As per the amendments introduced in the Hindu Succession Act in 2005, every daughter, whether married or unmarried, has equal rights as her male sibling to inherit her father’s property after his death. That is, every married daughter has equal rights, liabilities, and duties as her brother’s. Additionally, the daughters also have a share in the mother’s property. If the father does not sign any will before his death, they can turn to the court for legal aid.
- Daughters as Coparceners: A coparcenary is formed with the four generations of a family. Earlier, daughters were excluded from being a coparcener. However, according to the Hindu Succession Act (2005), a married woman has equal rights to be a coparcener. It enables the women’s legal rights on coparcenary property. This implies that women of the family have the right to equally inherit a share in the undivided property since birth. They have similar rights and liabilities as the son.
Right to Live with Dignity and Respect
A wife has the legal authority to live with proper dignity and self-respect with her in-laws. She also has the right to have the same lifestyle that her husband’s and in-laws have. This legal right provides married woman independence after marriage. The married woman also has the right to voice out against any physical or mental torture.
The Supreme Court said, “A daughter-in-law is to be treated as a member of the family with warmth and affection and not as a stranger with respectable and ignoble indifference. She should not be treated as a house maid. No impression should be given that she can be thrown out of her matrimonial home at any time. The manner in which sometimes the bride is treated in many a home by the husband, in-law and the relatives creates a feeling of emotional numbness in society.”
Megha Thadani is an Intern with Shethepeople.tv