Being a woman is not easy, especially in a country like ours that ranks 133rd (on a list of 167 countries) in the Women, Peace and Security Index. Fortunately, over the past few years, women in our country have embarked on a journey to empower themselves, raise their voice and fight for justice, starting a revolution for female rights and safety. However, there is still a lot we are ignorant towards, especially when it comes to legal protection. The Indian law has provisions to safeguard women and their interests but we are just unaware of them. To shed light on such laws and legal methods of protection, we invited Manasi Chaudhari, an Advocate and Founder & CEO of Pink Legal to answer questions women had about safeguarding themselves against harassment and crime at home, in public, work places and online. Here are some of the most common and important questions on legal safety for Indian women that she answered.

1. What should I do if I’m in a taxi and something just seems off?

Always take a picture of the taxi’s vehicle registration number along with the driver before getting in. Inform someone about your location and approximate time of arrival as well. This informs others about your whereabouts and will alert them if you don’t reach on time. During the ride if something seems off, dial 100 immediately. The reason for this is that the instant you dial 100, your phone can be tracked by the police and the nearest police vehicle will be able to reach you.

2. As a working, single mother, I fear I will lose my daughter to my in-laws. How can I prevent this?

If you have legal custody of your child, you have nothing to worry about. Nobody can take her away from you, especially not your in-laws, as courts usually grant custody to a child’s parents rather than the grandparents. If you do not have legal custody of your daughter, apply for it immediately.

3. If someone gropes me in public, how can I legally protect myself ?

Unfortunately, groping women in public transport and at public places is extremely common. Groping a woman is a crime called ‘molestation’ under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code. If someone tries to grope you in public, immediately raise your voice. Raising your voice against such harassers works wonders as most of them operate under the mindset that they will get away with it. Furthermore, you can even file a police complaint against your harasser.

4. How can we protect ourselves from assault when there is no “skin-to-skin” contact?

This is a referring to the recent judgement passed by the Bombay High Court which said you need skin-to-skin contact to establish physical assault. However, this judgement is under review and does hold good as law. Any kind of physical sexual assault will fall under sexual harassment and molestation, both of which are crimes under the Indian Penal Code.

5. What are the steps I can take against domestic violence?

If you or someone you know is facing domestic violence, you can file a complaint in the nearest police station. If possible, try to collect as much evidence as you can such as recordings, photos, medical reports, eye-witnesses, etc. which will help you strengthen your complaint. If the domestic violence is severe, you can file a complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, which is called ‘Cruelty’.

Legal safety for women is watertight and we could help save ourselves and others if we become more aware of the rights and safeguards the Indian Law provides for us.

What legal tools do you use to ensure your safety as a woman? Share it with us in the comments below!

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