23 Sep, 2022

Potential Of Social Legislation as A Tool of Social Change

Author: Vanshika Joshi, Research Fellow, Goeman Bind

“Change is inevitable”, every individual, thing, or entity witnesses change. However, when this change or alteration occurs in a society it is termed social change. This dynamic society requires laws to be made or altered in order to cater to its needs. The aggregate of laws framed with social welfare as its top objective is termed social legislation. In a broader sense in a welfare state like ours, all laws are social in nature. But to be specific certain legislations designed for some social causes are social legislations. From The Commission Of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 To The Protection Of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005, there are many new and old examples.

The main objectives of social legislation include, Eradication of disparities, Protecting the rights of weaker sections of society, upholding constitutional values & ensuring no unconstitutional or unlawful activities are carried out.

Social legislation can be a powerful and effective tool in bringing social change or transformation. For instance, the law has been instrumental in bringing about a change in the status of women. The latest example is the law against Triple Talaq or The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019. This law criminalizes ‘Talaaq-e-biddat’, a practice that grants instant divorce by a Muslim husband to his wife. Giving Triple Talaq was made a non-bailable and cognizable offense. Thereby saving Muslim women from the unquestionable will of husbands. The 2005 amendment of Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, equates daughters with sons with regard to coparcenary rights in HUF property. In pre-Independence India, social legislations such as — The Hindu Widow Remarriage Act of 1856, Female Infanticide Prevention Act of 1870, The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, etc., have been able to bring profound social change in the society.

Law also has been instrumental in bringing about change in the rigid caste system. The Scheduled Caste & Schedule Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is legislation for the protection of SCs & STs along with constitutional safeguards for such communities.

Not only this The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 provides for the protection of the rights of transgender people, their welfare, and other related matters. By the judgment of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India the portions of the law relating to the criminalization of consensual sexual acts between homosexual adults under s.377 IPC were struck down.

Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929, Child Labor Act-1986, The Juvenile Justice Act, 2001 are some other pieces of legislation aimed at resolution of some social issues or achieving particular social goals.

India has a wide variety of legislation aimed at bringing about significant changes in the status of women, children, transgenders, and other such vulnerable coupled with reforms in social institutions like caste, family, marriage, etc. However, this phenomenon is not limitless, several barriers like lack of proper implementation, effective machinery, ambiguity in provisions of law, and most importantly rigid beliefs/ customs or practices of members of our society. Such barriers should be evaded by the government in order to achieve the aim of any social legislation.

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