Current context: 

Legal challenges faced by single women in india regarding surrogacy/pregnancy termination and bias in the surrogacy (regulation) act, court highlight needs for legal reform to uphold reproductive rights.

About current context: 

  • Women who choose to be single or are never married, however, are seen as a stigma, with negative stereotypes, of wanting to “have it all” and hence not allowed to have biological children. 
  • Recently, The Supreme Court had to interpret this to include the right of single women to terminate their pregnancies as doctors were refusing to do so unless they obtained consent from husbands or family members. 
  • Despite the positive interpretation from the Supreme Court, single women seeking termination of pregnancies are still facing hurdles.

Equality under the Constitution: The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all citizens, including single women. However, patriarchal norms and discriminatory practices often impede full realization of these rights.

Property Rights:

  • Ancestral property: Since 2005, daughters have coparcenary rights, allowing them to inherit ancestral property equally with sons.
  • Self-acquired property: Single women can inherit property from parents and possess complete ownership rights. They can also buy property and make a will.

Marriage and Relationships:

  • Unmarried individuals have the right to choose not to marry.
  • Live-in relationships lack legal recognition, leaving women vulnerable in case of breakups.
  • Same-sex relationships are not recognized legally, affecting LGBTQ+ women’s rights.
  • Adoption: Single women can legally adopt children following CARA guidelines.

Reproductive Rights:

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act allows termination under specific circumstances.
  • However, access to safe abortion may be hindered by social stigma and lack of awareness.

Workplace Rights:

  • Anti-discrimination laws protect women from workplace harassment and discrimination based on marital status.
  • Maternity leave provisions exist, but implementation and access vary.

Social Realities:

  • Stigma and Stereotypes: Single women often face societal bias, seen as lacking family support or being morally suspect.
  • Family Pressure: Societal pressure to marry and conform to traditional gender roles can be immense.
  • Economic Challenges: Single women, especially single mothers, may face financial difficulties due to limited job opportunities and social support.
  • Safety Concerns: Single women can be more vulnerable to harassment, violence, and exploitation.

Ongoing Conversations:

  • Discussions on live-in relationships and their legal recognition.
  • Debates on expanding adoption rights for single women.
  • Efforts to combat gender-based discrimination and violence against single women.
  • Initiatives to empower single women economically and socially.

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