Since India gained independence in 1947, there have been significant progress in the field of human rights. The country has taken various legislative, judicial and policy measures to protect and promote human rights. These developments have been shaped by the country’s socio- political background, various legal reforms and the human rights movements by the civil society.
The first and foremost step in upholding human rights post-independence was the Constitution of India-- the world's longest written constitution, adopted on January 26, 1950, provides a comprehensive framework for protecting and promoting human rights. It guarantees fundamental rights to all citizens, including the right to equality, freedom of speech and expression, right to life and personal liberty, protection against discrimination, right against exploitation, right to freedom of religion, cultural and educational rights and right to constitutional remedies. The Indian government made efforts to abolish the practice of untouchability, which was a social evil that had oppressed certain castes for centuries. The country has also reserved seats for women in local governance bodies to empower women's participation in decision-making processes.
Over the years, India has enacted several laws to address social and human rights issues. Some notable legislations include the Protection of Civil Rights Act (1955) and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (1989) to protect marginalized communities and prevent discrimination. Right to Information Act of 2005 was enacted to empower citizens, promote openness and accountability in government operations, combat corruption, and make our democracy truly function for the people.
India's judiciary has played a crucial role in safeguarding human rights. The Supreme Court of India has delivered landmark judgments that have expanded the scope of human rights protection, such as recognizing the right to privacy as a fundamental right in 2017.
India has taken significant steps to address gender inequality and violence against women and children. Laws have been enacted to address issues like dowry, domestic violence, sexual harassment, female infanticide, child abuse, child marriage and trafficking in children. In a landmark judgment in 2018, the Supreme Court of India decriminalized homosexuality by overturning Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalized same-sex relationships. This was a significant step towards recognizing the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
The central and state governments in India has launched numerous social welfare programs to address poverty, malnutrition, education, healthcare, employment, and other socio-economic rights.
India has established National and State human rights commissions under The Protection of Human Rights Act of 1993 to address human rights violations, promote awareness, and ensure the redress of grievances. The country has a vibrant civil society, with numerous human rights organizations advocating for various issues and holding the government accountable for human rights violations.
Despite the progress made, India continues to face challenges the hinder full realization of human rights. Issues such as poverty, caste-based discrimination and violence, religious tensions, human trafficking, forced labour, inclusivity challenges to freedom of expression and access to justice and protection of minority rights require continued attention and efforts to strengthen human rights development in the country.
India being the largest democracy in the world and with rich diversity in culture, language and religion, it is crucial to understand that the human rights situation in India is a complex and evolving issue. Though we have a very strong human rights system in the country, sensitisation among the citizens on equality and respect for human rights of all is fundamental. While there have been notable improvements, there is still much work to be done to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights for all citizens in the country.