India has about 50 acts, 150 laws that are sexist: Bibek Debroy

By Bibek Debroy:

Independent research organisation Trayas has recently (March 2002) published a study—State of Discrimination Report. At the state level (for 23 states), this study documents barriers that prevent women from entering the labour force. Female labour force participation rates are low in India, and they have declined over time. An increase is desirable. Even without that objective, discrimination is undesirable. The report catalogues roughly 50 Acts and 150 rules, with rules flowing from Acts. Broadly, these are under three heads—labour (such as Factories Act or Plantation Labour Act), Shops and Establishment Acts and state-level excise laws.

For labour, one needs to wait, since most labour-related Acts have now been subsumed under four codes. It is possible that gender discrimination will still creep in, once states announce rules under these new codes. I knew about restrictions on women working at night, or in jobs regarded as hazardous or arduous. There is a history behind such restrictions, even if these are dysfunctional now. Other countries, often perceived to be more advanced and progressive, also have similar provisions.

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