International Women’s Day is celebrated annually across the globe on March 8th, focusing on a different gender-related theme every year. This year, it was “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”.
To celebrate women’s rights it is important to be aware of the rights that women fought for. Women contribute to 40% of the global workforce. But are their rights protected at work? What are the international agreements that protect the rights of women at their work?
The UN conference in Beijing in 1995 came up with a Platform for Action, to outlaw sexual harassment at work. Similarly, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has formulated six basic rights of women. The Government of India too has enacted several laws that protect the rights of women. Therefore, as we celebrated this year’s IWD theme of “Each for Equal”, we remembered the six basic rights of women.
Right to Equal Pay
According to the ILO Convention No. 100, women have the right to equal remuneration. The Indian Constitution recognized the principle of ‘Equal Pay for Equal Work’ for both men and women, and ‘Right to Work’ through Article 39(d) and 41. These Articles are inserted as Directive Principles of State Policy. This means that they will serve as guidelines to the Central and State governments of India, and must be kept in mind while framing laws and policies.
Right to Equal Treatment
ILO Convention No. 111 concerns discrimination in employment and deals with sexual harassment at work. The Constitution of India guarantees equality and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, birthplace, or residence. The Constitution further guarantees equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.
Right to Maternity Protection
ILO Convention No. 183 provides for 14 weeks of maternity benefit to women. In India, to protect the rights of women employees during pregnancy and after childbirth, the law mandates most establishments to offer maternity benefits to women employees under the Maternity Benefit Act. In 2017, the law was amended to extend the period to 26 weeks.
Right to Combined Domestic and Work Responsibilities
ILO Convention No. 156 applies to men and women workers whose domestic responsibilities may restrict their possibilities of participating or advancing in economic activities. Women in India currently spend up to 352 minutes per day on domestic work, 577% more than men (52 minutes). Indian women’s unpaid work plays a crucial role in sustaining economic activity, equivalent to 3.1% of GDP.
Right to Paid Work
ILO Convention no. 168 provides for promotion of full, productive and freely chosen employment, the principles of equality of treatment and non-discrimination, the methods of providing unemployment benefits. As part of its Directive Principles of State Policy, the Constitution of India through Article 39 envisages that all states ideally direct their policy towards securing equal pay for equal work for both men and women, and also ensuring that men and women have the right to adequate means of earning a livelihood.
Right to Safe and Healthy Work Environment
Article 14 of the Indian Constitution provides for Equal opportunity and equal treatment of men and women in Employment. It also provides for the right to a safe and healthy work environment, free from sexual harassment (sexual harassment violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution). The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was introduced later introduced in 2013, to uphold the Constitutional mandate and to protect women from sexual harassment at work.
Gender equality is not just a social or a women’s issue, it is also an economic issue because it allowed for economies and communities to survive and thrive. A gender-equal world would be healthier, wealthier and more harmonious. Together, we can create a society that is gender-equal and gender-fair.
Akshara Bhargava is an alma mater of Lady Shriram College. Currently, she is working as a Social Media and Content Creator at Martha Farrell Foundation.