Almost every legislation for women in India was passed after the death of a woman, a widely reported rape case or a mass agitation that shook the country. Will the death of Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug, the nurse who had been in a vegetative state since she was brutally raped in a Mumbai hospital in November 1973, reopen the debate on a law for euthanasia? looks at five women who led to landmark judgments or change in laws.

Mint looks at five women who led to landmark judgments or change in laws:

The Delhi bus rape-murder: It was the gangrape of a physiotherapy student on a Delhi bus on 16 December 2012, followed by massive protests, that led to tougher provisions and penalties under the Criminal Amendment Act of 2013. The victim died of the brutal injuries inflicted on her. The case also led to amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act as one of the accused in the case was a juvenile. On 7 May 2015, the Lok Sabha passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014, which seeks to allow children in the 16-18 age group to be tried as adults for heinous crimes. It is yet to be passed by the Rajya Sabha.

Mathura case: The alleged custodial rape of a young tribal girl in 1978 by two policemen at the Desai Ganj police station in Chandrapur district, Maharashtra, came to notice much after the Supreme Court acquitted the accused. Later, the case led to amendments in the Indian rape law via the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983.

Bhanwari Devi case: In Rajasthan, the 2011 gangrape of social worker Bhanwari Devi led to guidelines that now define sexual harassment at the workplace. The case provoked women’s organizations to file a petition in the Supreme Court for directions on sexual harassment at the workplace. The apex court’s judgment, which came on 13 August 1997, issued the Vishaka guidelines that put the onus on employers to provide a safe work environment for women.

Satya Rani Chadha case: Chadha launched the anti-dowry movement across India after her daughter died of burns in a dowry harassment case in 1979. Her agitation led to the government passing tighter laws against dowry deaths, shifting the burden of proof to the husband and his family, and making not just the husband but also his close relatives culpable.

Shah Bano case: On 23 April 1985, the Supreme Court granted maintenance to Shah Bano Begum, a 62-year-old Muslim mother of five who had been divorced by her husband, under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Under pressure from the Islamic orthodoxy, the then Congress government, which had an absolute majority in Parliament, diluted this judgment by enacting The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986—entitling a divorced Muslim woman to maintenance only during the period of iddat, or a period of 90 days after divorce, according to Islamic Law.

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