Night shifts for women – Law versus right

Night Shifts for Women 2013 Law Versus RightSocial and cultural responsibilities, safety concerns, beliefs of people, etc. are few of the factors that contribute to gender discrimination in India. This discrimination exists at workplace with regards to working hours, benefits, creditability and other such matters. Night shift for working women also forms a part of this.

Night shifts generally refer to working hours between 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. In India, legislations like the Plantation Labour Act, 1951, Factories Act, 1948, State Shops and Establishments Act, etc. contained provisions restricting work during night for women.

Today, after much debate, the ban has been lifted in majority of industries. For instance, the Factories Act, 1948, which initially banned women from working in night shifts, now liberalized women to work at their desired timing.1 The provisions, under this act, were liberalized as the legislature and judiciary opined that such restrictions hamper Fundamental Rights of equality in opportunity and freedom of movement and also right to work as laid down in Directive Principles of the State Policy. This move by legislature confronted many objections from people with conventional beliefs but was highly appreciated by the contemporary society.

Though there are positive efforts, it is to be noticed that India has no Central legislation to impose similar rules for all women working in night shifts. For example, where manufacturing industries are governed by Factories Act, others like service industries fall within the purview of the Shops and Establishment Act which is subject to State legislation.

It is noteworthy that the Governments of Karnataka and Tamilnadu lifted the ban imposed through the Shops and Establishment Act that made employing women in night shifts a punishable offence.2 & 3

The main aim behind introducing such legislation was looked upon as ensuring security for women. It was argued that provisions for safety of women should be implemented rather than their ban at work during those hours.

The general contention that emerges is whether only working women are exposed to dangers? Or that only women working in night shift or those employed in particular industries are exposed to dangers and all others are safe?

Yes, there are instances like eve teasing, rape, murder, etc. that hamper safety of women working in night shift.4 But here it is also to be considered that even male employees have confronted instances like being beaten up or murdered.5

Where the legislators aim at achieving equality between men and women, restrictions like ban on night shift work for women pose as barriers for their progress.

On a conclusive note, it would be more appropriate if the legislature employs more efforts to safeguard women rather than banning them from working in night shifts.


- Palak Lotiya (views expressed in the article are that of the author)


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