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Can women move freely now? Art.19(1)(d), COI


Written by Karam Pratap Singh

The Constitution of India guarantees the freedom “to move freely throughout the territory of India”[1] to every citizen – whether a man or a woman. The said freedom is subject to reasonable restrictions which can be imposed by law “in the interests of the general public or for the protection of the interests of any Scheduled Tribe.”[2]

When the Constitution itself makes the position so clear then why this clichéd question?

“Don’t go out alone”, “Come back early”, “Why do you have to go that far?” etc. are the real clichéd questions most women have to answer. Right?

In a mostly patriarchal society like India, women are seen as a responsibility, like treasures to be protected. They are often cautioned that if you go out in a jungle full of wild animals then it is your foolishness as the wild animals will attack you out of their natural habit (here, the jungle refers to most of India where women cannot move freely, especially after it gets dark, and wild animals refer to lustful men.) This was about men who treat women as a responsibility, but, there is more to this.

Then comes men who are described as wild-animals above, sadly though the forest department has got no jurisdiction over them. These are the ones who hound women even at public places & public transport, sexually abuse them, rape them, and even kill them sometimes. Of course, there are laws to punish these felons. But isn’t prevention more important than the punishment which only follows when the damage has been done? When prevention can strengthen a constitutionally protected freedom then it becomes even more important.

Now, as a Society, have we been able to ensure the protection of Art. 19(1)(d) to women? I think not. The state also needs to ponder on what they have done to complement and safeguard this freedom for women. Police Assistance, women help-line, guards in public transport like trains etc. are some of the measures that the state has taken, but, these aren’t enough. In today’s modern Society where women are now entrepreneurs, judges, civil servants, professors, etc., and are participating in every walk of life equally with men – sometimes even better – we as society and state are responsible to make things easier for them.

When we talk about equality, it has to exist for all not just in the Constitution. Not just constitutional equality, real-world equality is what India wants and deserves.

P.S.: This is not a feministic post, nor am I a feminist. “Egalitarian” is a better word if you have to judge me already.

[1] The Constitution of India, art. 19(1)(d)

[2] Id., art. 19(5)

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