Laws For Married Women’s Rights In India


Posted On : April 13, 2022
Laws For Married Women’s Rights In India
Once a girl marries, her whole world takes a 360 degree turn. There are certain rules for married woman which are usually fixed in every household. People continue their family cultures through women only. But the importance of women in a household is seldom realized. That is one of the biggest reasons behind the need for women's legal rights in India.

Are you married? If not, then you need to read this, and if yes, then you definitely need to read this. If you are a female, knowledge of the rights of a married woman in India is paramount. Also, if you are a male, then knowing the basic laws for women’s rights in India which may bring some trouble against you is crucial. Family court cases are often a toll over the parties involved, since family is the foundation of any person born in Indian households. Discussion over laws for married women’s rights in India is underway.

 

What are the Rights of a Woman After Marriage?

People who know the basic laws for women’s rights in India must be aware of the fact that Indian laws are much bent towards women. In this blog, law on women’s rights in India after marriage has been brought under light. Sometimes women simply wish to confine themselves within the walls constructed in the name of rules for married women. They do so until one day things are no longer right in their marital world. Then what happens and what may happen becomes a subject of personal laws of the parties which can legally be understood through family lawyers. However, there are certain secular and religion neutral laws as well which support women's legal rights in India regardless of their religion.


Laws for Married Women’s Rights in India


Right to Reside in Marital Home

The legal rights of a wife over husband also include the right to reside in the matrimonial home. Regardless of whether the property belongs to the husband, in-laws or whether it is a rented property, a woman has the right to reside there. Access to marital home during separation can not be taken away, not even during ongoing domestic violence proceedings. The same was explained by the hon’ble Supreme Court while interpreting provisions of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 in a 2020 case law[1].


Right to Streedhan

All the gifts which a woman receives before, during and after her marriage and during childbirth constitute ‘Streedhan’ under the Hindu laws. The Supreme Court has made the position of Streedhan clear and unambiguous in Pratibha Kumari case[2] excluding any scope for husband’s joint status. Also, the property distribution after divorce does not include any division of Streedhan.


Right to Maintenance by Husband

Maintenance is the financial support which one spouse gives to another during marriage. A woman financially dependent upon her husband for her basic expenses can seek maintenance as per the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 as well as the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Even after divorce and before a second marriage, a woman has the right to maintenance. The rights of a woman in divorce in India include alimony rights which can be a one time payment or be distributed on a monthly basis, as decided by the court. It may be noted that the provision of maintenance is not gender specific but gender neutral. Even maintenance to husband may be given by the wife if the husband is dependent upon his wife for survival.


Right to Live With Dignity and Respect

Not only the laws for married women’s rights in India, but also the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India ensures a person’s right to live with dignity. Although the definition of dignity may vary among persons.


Right to Committed Relationship

A married couple shares a commitment towards the spouse. If there is a yes to ‘Can a married woman live with another man legally’ or vice versa, the concept of marriage will go baseless. Marriage in India gives another spouse the right to company of one another and also the right to cohabit with one another exclusively. Only divorce and legal separation can give an escape from a committed relationship.


Right to Succession in Parental Property

The Supreme Court has time and again upheld a married daughter’s right in her parental property under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. The court also batted with the words ‘Once a daughter, always a daughter.’[3] Before 2005, the laws related to Hindu Succession did not included a daughter as a coparcener for inheritance of ancestral property. However, 2005 amendment to Hindu Succession Act, 1956 granted married and unmarried daughters equal rights as a son.


Rights against Violence

Domestic violence is a problem in Indian households which underwent a rise during lockdown due to COVID-19. The laws in India grant for protective rights of a married woman in India. For violence in marriage, domestic violence lawyers must be contacted without any delay. Apart from violence and cruelty as a ground for divorce or civil remedy, cruelty by husband or relatives is also punishable under the Penal Code[4].


Right to have the Body

A woman has an absolute right over her own body. She has the right to her own health, right to abortion[5]. Although it may be noted that conjugal rights are part of a marriage and there is no clarity over long debated topic of marital rape. However, the right to body also includes the right to deny unnatural sex against the husband.


Right to Move Out of Marriage

In order to enter a marital relation, consent of both the spouses is paramount. Both the spouses enjoy certain rights against each other as a husband and wife. However, moving out of such marriage when cohabitation is no longer bliss is the right for both. It may be much appreciated mutual consent divorce, or contested divorce over certain grounds if one of the spouses does not agree to divorce. The law also grants Muslim woman’s right to divorce in particular scenarios. Since laws under Muslim laws are a bit tricky, lawyers for muslim laws should be consulted with.

 

Can a Court Force Husband to Stay With Wife?

After marriage, both the spouses have conjugal rights against each other, i.e. right to stay in each other’s company.[6] In case one spouse leaves the company of a spouse and stays separately, they can knock the court’s door to bring the spouse back. The court shall hear the facts of the case, consider the reasoning of why one spouse left the company of another. The court may order restitution of conjugal rights. However, the court can not force the husband to stay with wife or vice versa. If a husband does not wish to live with his wife, he may seek mutual divorce, contested divorce if the wife does not agree or even an application for legal separation if interim separation is sought for.

 

Can a Wife Live Separately Without Divorce?

Yes, if a couple is not yet certain about divorce but wish to stay separately without ending the marriage, they can go for judicial separation through court. Unlike divorce which can not usually be granted before expiry of 1 year of marriage, legal separation can be granted at any time after marriage.

 

Married Women’s Property Rights in India

There are certain aspects to be dealt with while discussing women's legal rights in India regarding property. It may be noted that marriage has no effect diluting married women’s property rights in India. If it is ancestral property, she is the coparcener just like a son. If it is her parental property, she may be a valid successor in her parent’s property. Coming to the husband’s property, she has no right in the acquired or ancestral property of her husband during his life. However, after his death, a woman is entitled to succession rights as per the law. In case of joint property which she has invested in and the spouses have decided for divorce, she has right to shares proportional to the percentage she has invested in the same.

 

Legal Rights of a Wife Over Husband - Conclusion

After discussing all the women’s legal rights in India which blossom after marriage, the contention that laws are slightly tilted towards women can not be denied. It is so because rules for married women in Indian society often include leaving behind a woman’s own identity when she becomes a wife. However, if not anyone else then a woman should take her own stand and empower herself for all the right reasons.


[1] Satish Chander Ajuha v. Sneha Ahuja (2020), SC SLP (Civil) 2483.

[2] Pratibha Rani vs. Suraj Kumar, AIR 1985 SC 628

[3] Savita Samvedi (Ms) & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors., 1996 (2) SCC 380

[4] Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[5] Upto 20 weeks (or 24 weeks in certain cases) of pregnancy as per the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1994.

[6] Section 9 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

Written By:
Ridhi Khurana

Ridhi Khurana

Gurgaon

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