Role of Women and Women Organisation
- November 7, 2020
- Posted by: admin1
- Category: MMN
ROLE OF WOMEN AND WOMEN’S ORGANISATION
- Since ages, women have been playing a pivotal role in all spheres of activities but their contribution in farm sector has been largely ignored and inadequately accounted for.
- Women generally participate in various economic and social activities and also play an important role in decision making process, but their contribution has been accepted as a normal routine work of women.
- Until very recently, no economic or social value has been accorded for their work.
- However, some efforts have recently been made to quantify their role in home activities, dairying, agriculture, we propose to discuss women education and its significance in health care, population control, and environmental sanitation, social status of women and their contribution in agriculture.
- More specifically, more attention to the women education and its role in health care, family welfare and consequently its impact on size of Family i.e. impact of women’s education on population – growth, women’s status/social status of women, contribution of women in agriculture, impact of modernization in Farming on women’s labour use, effectiveness of Legislative Measures -gender inequity and women wages. Finally, participation of women in decision making should also be given importance.
DIMENSIONS OF GENDER:
In the Millenium Development Goals, gender is defined as what a given society believes about the appropriate roles and activities of men and women, and the behavior that result from these beliefs.
- Gender can have a major impact on development, being conducive to it in some cases while seriously retarding it in others.
- Over the past few years it has become increasingly clear that at their core the MDGs are about improving the condition of women throughout the developing world.
- In fact, not only are women heavily involved in food production all over the world and especially in rural areas, but they are also the primary care providers for children in virtually all cultures and societies.
This makes them central to the achievement o the reduction of child mortality by two thirds relative to 1990.
- At the same time, women remain most disadvantaged when it comes to access to education, work opportunities and health care, while scientific research shows that diseases such as HIV/ AIDS and malaria have a higher incident amongst women.
- Gender Inequity and Payment of Wages Gender inequity indicators were highlighted in a recefltlneeting of women’s non-goverenmental organisation held at Manila.
- Over 600 women, mostly from 33 countries of Asia and the Pacific attended the meeting which was held as part of preparations for the UN Fourlh World Conference on Women to take place in Beijing The meeting was in the view that “worldwide a woman is 20 per cent more likely to be poor than a man. She is 10 per cent less able to get education, finds it 32 per cent more difficult to get a job, and works two hours longer every day but earns 40 per cent less”.
These are only signs that half of the world’s population is not enjoying the same rights, benefits and opportunities as the other half. ? The participants observed that although life may have visibly improved for many women, this has resulted more from the overall benefit of economic growth than to any real change in women’s status.
- However, a UN report circulated at the Manila meeting shows “Even the material benefits brought by economic growth were largely onset by the high population growth which resulted in a dramatic turn for the worse” in poverty among women.
- to the report the number of rural women living in poverty nearly doubled over the past twenty years. however, women constitute atleast 60% of the world’s one billion rural poor today.
- The high population growth is due partly to women’s poor access to education. According to date from the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), women represent two thirds of the world’s illiterates.
By 2020 more than 30 million women are likely to be infected with the virus and about 4 million of them die. Time has been inadequate understanding and evaluation of Women’s economic contribution in the farm sector, as also of the problems/issues arising from changes in work participation of women associated with modernization of agriculture.
ROLE OF WOMEN IN INDIA:
- The worth of a civilization can be judged by the place given to women in the society. One of several factors that justify the greatness of India’s ancient culture is the honorable place granted to women.
- The foreign influence on India caused considerable deterioration in the status of women. They were deprived of their rights of equality with men.
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy started a movement against this inequality and subjugation. The contact of Indian culture with that of the British also brought improvement in the status of women. The third factor in the revival of women’s position was the influence of Mahatma Gandhi who induced women to participate in the Freedom Movement.
- As a result of this retrieval of freedom, women in Indian have distinguished themselves as teachers, nurses, air-hostesses, booking clerks, receptionists, and doctors.
- They are also participating in politics and administration.
But in spite of this amelioration in the status of women, the evils of illiteracy, dowry, ignorance, and economic slavery would have to be fully removed in order to give them their rightful place in Indian society.
SOCIO CULTURAL INDICATORS OF WOMEN IN INDIA:
Women and health:
Being a man or a woman has a significant impact on health, as a result of both biological and gender-related differences.
- The health of women and girls is of particular concern because, in many societies, they are disadvantaged by discrimination rooted in sociocultural factors.
- For example, women and girls face increased vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.
Some of the sociocultural factors that prevent women and girls to benefit from quality health services and attaining the best possible level of health include:
- unequal power relationships between men and women;
- social norms that decrease education and paid employment opportunities;
- an exclusive focus on women’s reproductive roles; and
- potential or actual experience of physical, sexual and emotional violence.
While poverty is an important barrier to positive health outcomes for both men and women, poverty tends to yield a higher burden on women and girls’ health due to, for example, feeding practices (malnutrition) and use of unsafe cooking fuels (COPD).
Women and Education:
Though it is sharply increasing, the female literacy rate in India is less than the male literacy rate.
- Far fewer girls than boys are enrolled in school, and many girls drop out.
- In urban India, girls are nearly on a par with boys in terms of education. However, in rural India, girls continue to be less educated than boys.
- Under the Non-Formal Education programme (NFE), about 40% of the NFE centres in states and 10% of the centres in UTs are exclusively reserved for women. As of 2000, about 300,000 NFE centres were catering to about 7.42 million children. About 120,000 NFE centres were exclusively for girls.
- According to a 1998 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the chief barriers to female education in India are inadequate school facilities (such as sanitary facilities), shortage of female teachers and gender bias in the curriculum (female characters being depicted as weak and helpless).
- The literacy rate is lower for women compared to men: the literacy rate is 6% for women, while for men it is 81.3%. The 2011 census, however, indicated a 2001–2011 decadal literacy growth of 9.2%, which is slower than the growth seen during the previous decade. There is a wide gender disparity in the literacy rate in India. effective literacy rates (age 7 and above) in 2011 were 82.14% for men and 65.46% for women. (population aged 15 or older, data from 2015).
Women and economic participation:
Women in agriculture:
India has a national tradition bound to agriculture fertility.
In the North, the Indus valley and Brahmaputra region are critical agricultural areas graced by the Ganges and monsoon season.
Based on 2011 World Bank data, only 17.5% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) is accounted for by agricultural production.[ Yet for a majority of the country, an estimated 72% of the 1.1 billion people who live in rural India, it is a way of life.
- Agriculture in India defines familial tradition, social relations and gender roles.
- Female in the agricultural sector, whether through traditional means or industrial, for subsistence or as an agricultural laborer, represents a momentous demographic group.
- Agriculture is directly tied to gender based issues such as economic independence, decision-making abilities, agency and access to education and health services and this manner has created externalities such as poverty and marginalization, and compounded issues of gender inequality.
Contrary to common perception, a large percentage of women in India are actively engaged in traditional and non-traditional work.
- National data collection agencies accept that statistics seriously understate women’s contribution as workers.
- However, there are far fewer women than men in the paid workforce. In urban India, women participate in the workforce in impressive numbers. For example, in the software industry 30% of the workforce is female.
- In rural India in the agriculture and allied industrial sectors, women account for as much as 89.5% of the labour force.
- In overall farm production, women’s average contribution is estimated at 55% to 66% of the total labour.
- According to a 1991 World Bank report, women accounted for 94% of total employment in dairy production in India.
- Women constitute 51% of the total employed in forest-based small-scale enterprises.
Gender pay gap:
In 2017, a study by Monster Salary Index (MSI) showed the overall gender pay gap in India was 20 percent. It found that the gap was narrower in the early years of experience.
- While men with 0–2 years of experience earned 7.8 percent higher median wages than women, in the experience group of 6–10 years of experience, the pay gap was 15.3 percent.
- The pay gap becomes wider at senior level positions as the men with 11 and more years of tenure earned 25 percent higher median wages than women.
- Based on the educational background, men with a bachelor’s degree earned on average 16 percent higher median wages than women in years 2015, 2016 and 2017, while master’s degree holders experience even higher pay gap.
- Men with a four- or five-year degree or the equivalent of a master’s degree have on average earned 33.7 percent higher median wages than women.
While India passed the Equal Remuneration Act way back in 1976, which prohibits discrimination in remuneration on grounds of sex. But in practice, the pay disparity still exist.
Worsening sex ratio:
The phrase “missing women” was coined by Amartya Sen when he showed that in parts of the developing world, the ratio of women to men in the population is suspiciously low.
The worsening sex ratio (number of females per 1,000 males) in India reflected the gross neglect of women.
He estimated that more than 100 million women were missing due to gender discrimination. It was commonly believed that “boy preference” at birth and the mistreatment of young girls were the main reasons.
Some careful and subsequent data work by Anderson and Ray showed that excess female mortality is a more universal phenomenon which holds for all age groups in these countries.
They provided detailed decomposition of the missing women by age and cause of death and a particularly sinister observation was that the number of excess female deaths from “intentional injuries” or reported violence was disturbingly high in India.
Women and literacy:
“Literacy in India is a key for socio-economic progress”.
Despite government programmes, India’s literacy rate increased only “sluggishly”. According to the 2011 Census of India, the overall rate of literacy is 73 per cent. But breaking up the national average reveals that while the rate of literacy for men is 80.9 per cent, for women it is 64.6 per cent. This means that more than one-fourth of the country’s population is still illiterate.
Women and employment:
- Sociological Aspects and Social Status of Women All social forces and factors of social changes have affected the values in the society and so is the case with the status.
- The social change affected the women and also the traditional values. Her status in the family as well as in the society has been affected due to social changes.
- The social change is an outcome of social economic advancement which could be brought about with broad-based education system. It is believed that from post-vedic period, women of lower strata of society sought out-side home work.
- Seeking of employment by women in plantation, factories and mines had a beginning from the early years of the present century.
- Economic pressure seemed to have caused this situation. In urban .areas also, women of lower strata were compelled to seek employment in factories as a result of industrialization which ruined home industries.
- A significant change took place after India became Independent in 1947. The Constitution of India states that there should be no discrimination against the employment of women. This created further opportunity for employment of women and an increase in their employment trend was seen more particularly among educated women.
Role of Women in Decision Making:
Measures are required to be adopted to promote the conditions under which women’s participation in such organizations can be improved.
Yet another fundamental issue that needs to be examined is whether the women workers have an option to choose any of the following three alternatives, namely,
(1) To work on family farm,
(2) To accept wage employment outside the family farm, and
(3) To remain occupied only in household work of home.
- It has often been argued that in the caste and custom ridden Indian society, women in rural areas do not come out of the house for work in the field, or do not opt for wage work outside the family farm.
- As against this, it has also been agreed that, customs not withstanding, women offer themselves or wage work on public and private account, if assured wage employment on fairly continuous basis is available within reasonable reach.
- Empirical examination of this would be relevant for policy makers. All statistical data from the census and national sample survey have conclusively shown that Indian women are joining different professions in ever-increasing numbers.
Women – marriage and culture:
- Most of the average Indian woman’s life is spent in marriage; many women are still married before the legal age of 18, and the incidence of non-marriage is low in India.
- Childbearing and raising children are the priorities of early adulthood for Indian women. Thus, if they enter the workforce at all, it is far later than Indian men.
- Urban Indian men reach the peak of their labour force participation between the ages of 25 and 29, while urban Indian women do so between the ages of 40 and 44.
- Because of this, women have less time for the acquisition of skills and fewer opportunities for job improvements.
- There is a poor representation of women in the Indian workforce. Females have a ten percent higher drop-out rate than males from middle and primary schools, as well as lower levels of literacy than men.
- Since unemployment is also high in India, it is easy for employers to manipulate the law, especially when it comes to women, because it is part of Indian culture for women not to argue with men. Additionally, labour unions are insensitive to women’s needs. Women also have to settle for jobs that comply with their obligations as wives, mothers, and homemakers.
The Gulabi Gang in India wear pink saris and carry lathis (bamboo staves) for protection against physical attack, and punish abusive husbands, publicly shaming and sometimes beating them. They also watch out for and expose dowry beatings, dowry death, rape, child marriages, desertion, depriving girls of education, child molestation, and sexual harassment. They have invaded police stations to demand that police investigate these matters, and other things that affect the community such as corruption.
In 2018 the Supreme Court of India struck down a law making it a crime for a man to have sex with a married woman without the permission of her husband.
Women and Clothing:
Another issue that concerns women is the dress code expected of them. Islam requires both men and women to dress modestly. This concept is known as hijab and covers a wide interpretation of behavior and garments. There is mixed opinion among feminists over extremes of externally imposed control. Women from other religions are also expected to follow dress codes.
In 2014, an Indian family court in Mumbai ruled that a husband objecting to his wife wearing a kurta and jeans and forcing her to wear a sari amounts to cruelty inflicted by the husband and can be a ground to seek divorce.
The wife was granted a divorce on the ground of cruelty as defined under section 27(1)(d) of Special Marriage Act, 1954.
Land and property rights:
- In most Indian families, women do not own any property in their own names, and do not get a share of parental property.
- Due to weak enforcement of laws protecting them, women continue to have little access to land and property.
- In India, women’s property rights vary depending on religion, and tribe, and are subject to a complex mix of law and custom, but in principle the move has been towards granting women equal legal rights, especially since the passing of The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005.
- The Hindu personal laws of 1956 (applying to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains) gave women rights to inheritances.
- However, sons had an independent share in the ancestral property, while the daughters’ shares were based on the share received by their father. Hence, a father could effectively disinherit a daughter by renouncing his share of the ancestral property, but a son would continue to have a share in his own right. Additionally, married daughters, even those facing domestic abuse and harassment, had no residential rights in the ancestral home.
- In 1986, the Supreme Court of India ruled that Shah Bano, an elderly divorced Muslim woman, was eligible for alimony. However, the decision was opposed by fundamentalist Muslim leaders, who alleged that the court was interfering in their personal law. The Union Government subsequently passed the Muslim Women’s (Protection of Rights Upon Divorce) Act.
- Similarly, Christian women have struggled over the years for equal rights in divorce and succession. In 1994, all churches, jointly with women’s organizations, drew up a draft law called the Christian Marriage and Matrimonial Causes Bill. However, the government has still not amended the relevant laws. In 2014, the Law Commission of India has asked the government to modify the law to give Christian women equal property rights.
Patriarchal social structure:
- There are three main aspects of the patriarchal household structure in India that affect women’s agency.
- active discrimination by means of abuse (marital or extramarital), and
- diminished women’s agency through limited economic opportunity through stifled opportunity for independence.
- In all these dimensions, there is a clear relationship between strong patriarchal familial structures and limited capabilities and agency for women, which are strongly correlated with causal factors for domestic violence such as gender disparities in nutritional deprivation and a lack of women’s role in reproductive decisions.
Crimes against women:
- Domestic violence in India includes any form of violence suffered by a person from a biological relative, but typically is the violence suffered by a woman by male members of her family or relatives.
- According to a National Family and Health Survey in 2015, total lifetime prevalence of domestic violence was 33.5% and 8.5% for sexual violence among women aged 15–49.
- A 2014 study in The Lancet reports that although the reported sexual violence rate in India is among the lowest in the world, the large population of India means that the violence affects 27.5 million women over their lifetimes.
- However, A survey carried out by the Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked India as the most dangerous country in the world for women..
- The 2017 National Crime Records Bureau report of India states a reported crime rate of 46 per 100,000, rape rate of 2 per 100,000, dowry homicide rate of 0.7 per 100,000 and the rate of domestic cruelty by husband or his relatives as 5.9 per 100,000.
- These reported rates are significantly smaller than the reported intimate partner domestic violence rates in many countries, such as the United States (590 per 100,000) and reported homicide (6.2 per 100,000 globally), crime and rape incidence rates per 100,000 women for most nations tracked by the United Nations.
There are several domestic violence laws in India:
The earliest law was the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 which made the act of giving and receiving dowry a crime.
In an effort to bolster the 1961 law, two new sections, Section 498A and Section 304B were introduced into the Indian Penal Code in 1983 and 1986.
The most recent legislation is the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) 2005.
The PWDVA, a civil law, includes physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, and economic abuse as domestic violence.
Domestic sexual assault is a form of domestic violence involving sexual/reproductive coercion and marital rape. Under Indian law, marital rape is not a crime, except during the period of marital separation of the partners.
The Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) considers the forced sex in marriages as a crime only when the wife is below 15.
Thus, marital rape is not a criminal offense under IPC. The marital rape victims have to take recourse to the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDVA).
The PWDVA, which came into force in 2006, outlaws marital rape. However, it offers only a civil remedy for the offence.
- An honour killing is the practice wherein an individual is killed by one or more family member(s), because he or she is believed to have brought shame on the family.[
- The shame may range from refusing to enter an arranged marriage, having sex outside marriage, being in a relationship that is disapproved by the family, starting a divorce proceeding, or engaging in homosexual relations.
- In 2017, the Supreme Court of India issued notice seeking data and explanation for rise in honor killings to the states of Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
Dowry-related abuse and deaths:
In almost all the Hindu families the Ritual of taking dowry has caused a serious problem in the society.
Some newly married brides suffer domestic violence in the form of harassment, physical abuse or death when she is thought to have not brought enough dowry with marriage. Some cases end up in suicides by hanging, self-poisoning or by fire. In dowry deaths, the groom’s family is the perpetrator of murder or suicide.
Dowry deaths in India is not limited to any specific religion, and it is found among Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and others.
- Some 80% of the total Dowry related crime found in the Hindu community followed by other Indian Religions as giving Dowry is considered as an important ritual in the Traditional Hindu Marriage.
- Furthermore, in many parts of India the Ritual of Tilak(Engagement)done mostly in Hindu families is used by Groom’s Family to Demand a huge sum of money.
- The Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, prohibits the request, payment or acceptance of a dowry, “as consideration for the marriage”, where “dowry” is defined as a gift demanded or given as a precondition for a marriage.
- Gifts given without a precondition are not considered dowry, and are legal. Asking or giving of dowry can be punished by an imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine.
- It replaced several pieces of anti-dowry legislation that had been enacted by various Indian states.
- Murder and suicide under compulsion are addressed by India’s criminal penal code. The law was made more stringent with Section 498a of Indian Penal Code (enacted in 1983). Under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDVA), a woman can seek help against dowry harassment by approaching a domestic violence protection officer.
RAPE IN INDIA:
“Rape is the fourth most common crime against women in India”.
- Of these, 30,165 rapes were committed by perpetrators known to the victim (94.2 % of cases), a high number similar to 2018.
- According to the 2019 annual report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 32033 rape cases were registered across the country, or an average of 88 cases daily,]slightly lower than 2018 when 91 cases were registered daily.
- The share of victims who were minors or below 18 – the legal age of consent – stood at 15.4%,down from 27.8% in 2018.
- On the other hand, rapes by juveniles remained high in India with 3 minors being arrested for rape, assault and attempted violence on women and girls each day in 2019.
- India has been characterised as one of the “countries with the lowest per capita rates of rape”.
- The government also classifies consensual sex committed on the false promise of marriage as rape.
- The willingness to report rapes have increased in recent years, after several incidents received widespread media attention and triggered local and nationwide public protests. This led the government to reform its penal code for crimes of rape and sexual assault.
- According to NCRB 2019 statistics, Rajasthan reported the highest number of rapes among Indian states.
- Other states in the hindi heartland region, across North India, such as Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Chhattisgarh, also have the highest incidence of sexual violence against women.
- Among metropolitan cities, the national capital of Delhi continued to have the highest incidence of rape at 1253 cases in 2019,while Jaipur had the highest rape rate (per 100,000 population).
Female foeticide in India :
It is the abortion of a female foetus outside of legal methods. The natural sex ratio is assumed to be between 103 and 107, and any number above it is considered as suggestive of female foeticide.
- The child sex ratio is within the normal natural range in all eastern and southern states of India, but significantly higher in certain western and particularly northwestern states such as Maharashtra, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir (118, 120 and 116, as of 2011, respectively).
- The western states of Maharashtra and Rajasthan 2011 census found a child sex ratio of 113, Gujarat at 112 and Uttar Pradesh at 111.
- The Indian census data indicates that the sex ratio is poor when women have one or two children, but gets better as they have more children, which is result of sex-selective “stopping practices” (stopping having children based on sex of those born).
- The Indian census data also suggests there is a positive correlation between abnormal sex ratio and better socio-economic status and literacy. This may be connected to the dowry system in India where dowry deaths occur when a girl is seen as a financial burden.
- Urban India has higher child sex ratio than rural India according to 1991, 2001 and 2011 Census data, implying higher prevalence of female foeticide in urban India.
- Similarly, child sex ratio greater than 115 boys per 100 girls is found in regions where the predominant majority is Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian; furthermore “normal” child sex ratio of 104 to 106 boys per 100 girls are also found in regions where the predominant majority is Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian.
- These data contradict any hypotheses that may suggest that sex selection is an archaic practice which takes place among uneducated, poor sections or particular religion of the Indian society.
- There is an ongoing debate as to whether these high sex ratios are only caused by female foeticide or some of the higher ratio is explained by natural causes.
- The Indian government has passed Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PCPNDT) in 1994 to ban and punish prenatal sex screening and female foeticide. It is currently illegal in India to determine or disclose sex of the foetus to anyone.
- However, there are concerns that PCPNDT Act has been poorly enforced by authorities.
DIMENSIONS OF POVERTY IN WOMEN:
- Time is a component that is included in poverty because it is an essential resource that is oftentimes distributed inequitably across individuals, especially in the context of the inadequacy of other resources.
- It is extremely relevant to gender, with a marked difference in gender roles and responsibilities observed across the world
- . Women are certainly more time-poor than men across the income distribution.
- Women concentrate on reproductive or unremunerated activities, while men concentrate in productive or compensated activities.
- Women generally face more limited access to leisure and work more hours in the sum of productive and reproductive work than do men.
Time poverty can be interpreted in regards to the lack of sufficient time to rest and sleep. The greater the time devoted to paid or unremunerated work, the less time there is available for other activities such as relaxation and pleasure.
A person who lacks adequate time to sleep and rest, levies and works in a state of ‘time poverty’.
- The allocation of time between women and men in the household and in the economy, is a major gender issue in the evolving discourse on time poverty.\
- According to the capabilities approach, any inquiry into people’s well-being must involve asking not only how much people make but also how they manage their time in order to obtain the goods and services to meet their livelihoods.
- Time poverty is a serious constraint on individual well-being as it prevents having sufficient rest and sleep, enjoying leisure, and taking part in community or social life.
Glass ceiling effect:
The term “glass ceiling” refers to invisible barriers that keep some people from advancing in the workplace. . The glass ceiling keeps people from getting certain jobs, despite being well qualified and deserving. It’s a phenomenon that affects career trajectory, status, and lifetime earning potential.
The glass ceiling is most often associated with women at work – research suggests that women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted than their male co-workers. The term is applied to minority groups, too, but it goes beyond issues of gender and ethnicity.
Women and unpaid work:
- It is important to note that the existence of such unpaid work does more than add to the time poverty of those who must perform it. It also plays several important macroeconomic roles.
- State provisioning of goods and (especially) services, which are supposed to meet the social and economic rights of every citizen but end up getting delivered through such unpaid activities because of inadequate public delivery.
- The implications of time poverty for women, in particular, are immense, because they are associated with the (‘double burden’ of paid and unpaid work and extend into changing the nature of poverty and its implications.
- Thus, the unemployment–poverty link which has been noted for men in developing countries is not so direct and evident for women.
- many women are fully employed and still remain poor in absolute terms, and adding to their workload will not necessarily improve their material conditions.
- Many women in comparatively better-off households may well be time-poor because of the multiple demands imposed on them to meet the requirements of unpaid domestic activities.
Feminization of poverty:
“It refers to a trend of increasing inequality in living standards between men and women widening gap in poverty between women and men as noticed towards the end of the twentieth century”.
- This phenomenon is not only a consequence of lack of income, but is also the result of the deprivation of capabilities and gender biases present in both societies and governments.
- It covers the poverty of choices and opportunities such as the ability to lead a long, healthy, and creative life, and enjoying basic rights like freedom, respect, and dignity.
- The term “feminization of poverty” has been defined in many different ways focusing on income, assets, time, health deprivations, and social and cultural exclusions.
- In addition to earning less, women may encounter “Femonomics”,or gender of money, to reflect many of the inequities women face that increase their likelihood of suffering from financial difficulties.
- The image of a “traditional” woman and a traditional role still influences many cultures in today’s world and is still not in full realisation that women are essential part of the economy.
- Women have unique healthcare problems/access problems related to reproduction increasing both their healthcare costs and risks.
- Research also shows that females tend to live five years longer on average than men.
- The death of a spouse is an important determinant of female old-age poverty, as it leaves women in charge of the finances.
- However, women are more likely to be financially illiterate and thus have a harder time knowing how to manage their money.
- Feminists are also concerned about the impact of globalization on women in India. Some feminists argue that globalization has led to economic changes that have raised more social and economical challenges for women, particularly for working-class and lower-caste women.
- Multinational companies in India have been seen to exploit the labour of ‘young, underpaid and disadvantaged women’ in free trade zones and sweat shops, and use “Young lower middle class, educated women,” in call centres. These women have few effective labour rights, or rights to collective action.
- In addition to this, multinational corporations are seen to advertise a homogenous image of ideal women across the country is argued to cause an increase in the commodification of women’s bodies.
- This is also manifested in the form of nationalist pride exhibited through Indian women winning international beauty pageants. According to some feminists, such developments have offered women greater sexual autonomy and more control over their bodies.
- However, many other feminists feel that such commodification of female bodies has only served the purpose of feeding to male fantasies.
Women and climate change:
- Across societies the impacts of climate change affect women and men differently. Women are often responsible for gathering and producing food, collecting water and sourcing fuel for heating and cooking.
- With climate change, these tasks are becoming more difficult. Extreme weather events such as droughts and floods have a greater impact on the poor and most vulnerable – 70% of the world’s poor are women.
- Despite women being disproportionately affected by climate change, they play a crucial role in climate change adaptation and mitigation.
- Women have the knowledge and understanding of what is needed to adapt to changing environmental conditions and to come up with practical solutions. But they are still a largely untapped resource.
- Restricted land rights, lack of access to financial resources, training and technology, and limited access to political decision-making spheres often prevent them from playing a full role in tackling climate change and other environmental challenges.
- Unleashing the knowledge and capability of women represents an important opportunity to craft effective climate change solutions for the benefit of all.
CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS FOR WOMEN:
The main privileges granted to women by Constitution of India are as follows:
Preamble of the Constitution:
Under the Constitutional law, women have equal rights as men so as to enable them to take part effectively in the administrative of the country.
Equality before law:
Article 14 embodies the general principles of equality before law and equal protection of laws.
Prohibition from discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth
- Article 15(1) and (2)prohibits the state from discriminating against any citizen only on the basis of any one or more of the aspects such as religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
- Article 15(3) makes it possible for the state to create special provisions for protecting the interests of women and children.
- Article 15(4) capacitates the State to create special arrangements for promoting interests and welfare of socially and educationally backward classes of society.
Equality of Opportunity:
- Article 16 provides for equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.
- Article 39 requires the State to direct its policy towards securing for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood [Article 39(a)]:, and equal pay for equal work for both men and women [Article 39(d)].
- Article 39A directs the State to promote justice, on the basis of equal opportunity and to promote free legal aid by suitable legislation or scheme or in any other way to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.
Humane Conditions at Work:
Article 42 directs the State to make provision for securing justice and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.
Article 51A (e)enjoins upon every citizen to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
Reservation of seats for Women in Panchayats and Municipalities:
- Article 243 D (3) and Article 243 T(3) provide for reservation of not less than one third of total number of seats in Panchayats and Municipalities for women to be allotted by rotation to different Constituencies.
- Article 243 D(4) T(4) provides that not less than one third of the total number of officers of chairperson in the Panchayat and Municipalities at each level to be reserved for women.
Voting rights/Electoral law:
- Not less than one-third seats shall be reserved for women. Such seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Panchayat.
- The office of the chairperson in the Panchayat at the village or any other level shall be reserved for SCs, STs and women in such manner as the legislature of state may, by law provide.
- Reservation of seats for women in Municipalities is provided
To uphold the Constitutional mandate, the state has enacted various legislative measures intended to ensure equal rights, to counter social discrimination and various forms of violence and atrocities and to provide support services especially to working women.
Although women may be victims of any of the crimes such as ‘Murder’, ‘Robbery’, ‘Cheating’ etc, the crimes, which are directed specifically against women, are characterized as ‘Crime against Women’.
DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES FOR WOMEN IN INDIA:
The major impediments to development and empowerment in India are three major issues namely,
- The attitude towards Girl child,
- Gender violence and
which have to be dealt with as a priority in bringing out the development and empowerment of women in the present era.
- If we look back into the history about the discussions and debates related to the issue of development and empowerment, we can see some broad trends.
- The whole debate on development states that there were number of women who organized and mobilizing around the globe for their rights.
- The development planners and policy makers did not have any interaction with these groups and they considered feminism as irrelevant to development and it was viewed as a luxury for the better of women in the industrialized countries.
- Hence, the first stage, main stream development models gave rise to jargons like, “basic human needs”, “meeting the needs of the poorest of poor”, “growth with equity”.
- This phase viewed development as an administrative problem whose solution lay in transferring vast amount of resources and technological innovations from rich to poor countries.
- As compensation to this followed, integrating women into the development process.
- Education and employment as a means of income generation became indicators of women’s involvement in the development process, but again under this phase a large chunk of rural women were left behind.
- Today women have addressed the question of development from a feminist perspective. They have raised important questions on issues of child care, reproductive rights, violence against women, family planning, transfer of technology and rural development and given the concept of development a new meaning.
- If development leads only to an increase in production, then it tends to reinforce and exaggerate the imbalances and inequalities within and in between societies.
- Development has to be an integral process with economic, social and cultural aspects leading to the control of one’s life situation.
WOMEN IN DEVELOPMENT:
- Women in development is an approach of development projects that emerged in the 1960s, calling for treatment of women’s issues in development projects.
- It is the integration of women into the global economies by improving their status and assisting in total development.
- Later, the Gender and development(GAD) approach proposed more emphasis on gender relations rather than seeing women’s issues in isolation.
- Women play a key role in food production and form a large proportion of the agricultural work force globally.
- Given equal resources, women could contribute much more. FAO estimates that if women farmers (43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries) had the same access as men, agricultural output in 34 developing countries would rise by an estimated average of up to 4 per cent.
- This could reduce the number of undernourished people in those countries by as much as 17 per cent, translating to up to 150 million fewer hungry people.
- According to new estimates, about 870 million people, or one in eight worldwide, did not consume enough food on a regular basis to cover their minimum dietary energy requirements over the period 2010 to 2012. The vast majority live in developing countries.
- Many of the world’s most poor are women. Poverty eradication is a key challenge for rural women. New poverty estimates from the World Bank show that the proportion of people living on less than USD 1.25 a day fell from 47 per cent in 1990 to 22 per cent in 2010, across every developing region. Yet, 1.2 billion people are still living in extreme poverty.
- Rural women are key agents for development. They play a catalytic role towards achievement of transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development.
- But limited access to credit, health care and education are among the many challenges they face. These are further aggravated by the global food and economic crises and climate change.
- Empowering them is essential, not only for the well-being of individuals, families and rural communities, but also for overall economic productivity, given women’s large presence in the agricultural workforce worldwide.
WOMEN ON DEVELOPMENT:
Empowerment of women is a necessity for the very development of a society, since it enhances both the quality and the quantity of human resources available for development.
Women’s empowerment and achieving gender equality is essential for our society to ensure the sustainable development of the country.
ADDRESSING ISSUES RELATED TO WOMEN:
With initiatives like #metoo and #time’sup, violence and discrimination against women gained attention and helped raise the voice of vulnerable and silent victims around the world.
The Indian government has also recognized women issues and their contribution to the country’s economy. Here are some of the women empowerment initiatives available to women in India:
- It is a direct online marketing platform launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to support women entrepreneurs, Self Helf Groups (SHGs) and Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to showcase products made and services rendered by them. This is a part of the ‘Digital India’ initiative.
Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao:
- This is a social campaign aimed at eradication offemale foeticide and raising awareness on welfare services intended for young Indian girls.
- The “Save the Girl Child” movement was launched on 22 January 2015, it is a joint initiative run by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Human Resource Development.Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao – The scheme was launched with an initial funding of Rs 100 crores.
- Sex – selective abortion or female foeticide in India has led to the sharp decline in the ratio of girls born in contrast to the boys in some states in the country.
- The wide gap in child gender ratio was first noted in 1991 when the national census data was released and it turned out to be a worsening problem after the release of 2001 national census data.
- To bridge the growing gap between the birth of girl and boy infants, the government of India has taken up an initiative to promote Beti Bachao Beti Padhao and many programmes has been organized to promote ‘Save Girl Child’ and to ‘Educate Girl Child’, since January 2015. The campaign has also received support from the Indian Medical Association.
One Stop Centre Scheme:
Popularly known as ‘Sakhi,’ it was implemented on 1st April 2015 with the ‘Nirbhaya’ fund. The One Stop Centres are established at various locations in India for providing shelter, police desk, legal, medical and counselling services to victims of violence under one roof integrated with a 24-hour Helpline.
These centres can be contacted for:
- Emergency Response and Rescue Services
- Medical assistance Assistance in lodging FIR /NCR/DIR
- Psycho – social support/ counselling
- Legal aid and counselling
- Shelter Video Conferencing Facility to record statement for police/ courts
Working Women Hostels:
- The objective of the scheme is to promote the availability of safe and conveniently located accommodation for working women, with daycare facility for their children, wherever possible, in urban, semi-urban, or even rural areas where employment opportunity for women exist.
- The Swadhar scheme was launched by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2002 for rehabilitation of women in difficult circumstances.
- The scheme provides shelter, food, clothing and care to the marginalized women/girls who are in need.
- The beneficiaries include widows deserted by their families and relatives, women prisoners released from jail and without family support, women survivors of natural disasters, women victims of terrorist/extremist violence etc. The implementing agencies are mainly NGOs.
- The Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP) Scheme aims to provide skills that give employability to women and to provide competencies and skill that enable women to become self-employed/ entrepreneurs.
- A particular project will be for a duration of up to 5 years depending upon the nature, kind of activities and the number of beneficiaries to be undertaken.
- Sectors include Agriculture, Horticulture, Food Processing, Handlooms, Tailoring, Stitching, Embroidery, Zari etc, Handicrafts, Computer & IT enable services along with soft skills and skills for the workplace such as spoken English, Gems & Jewellery, Travel & Tourism, Hospitality, etc.
Nari Shakti Puruskars:
- The Nari Shakti Puruskars are national level awards recognizing the efforts made by women and institutions in rendering distinguished services for the cause of women, especially vulnerable and marginalized women.
- The awards are presented by the President of India every year on 8 March, International Women’s Day at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.
Gender budgeting means preparing budgets or analyzing them from a gender perspective. .
It aims at dealing with budgetary gender inequality issues, including gender hierarchies and the discrepancies between women’s and men’s salaries.
NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR WOMEN:
The National Commission for Women (NCW) is the statutory body of the Government of India, generally concerned with advising the government on all policy matters affecting women. It was established in 31 January 1992 under the provisions of the Indian Constitution, as defined in the 1990 National Commission for Women Act.
WOMEN’S MOVEMENTS IN INDIA:
The history of women movement in India can be divided into three phases:
- The first phase, beginning in the mid-19th century, initiated when reformists began to speak in favor of women rights by making reforms in education, customs involving women;
- The second phase, from 1915 to Indian independence, when Gandhi incorporated women’s movements into the Quit India movement and independent women’s organisations began to emerge;
- And finally, the third phase, post-independence, which has focused on fair treatment of women at home after marriage, in the work force, and right to political parity.
Despite the progress made by Indian feminist movements, women living in modern India still face many issues of discrimination. India’s patriarchal culture has made the process of gaining land-ownership rights and access to education challenging.
In the past two decades, there has also emerged a trend of sex-selective abortion.To Indian feminists, these are seen as injustices worth struggling against.
- Unlike the Western feminist movement, India’s movement was initiated by men, and later joined by women.
- But feminism as an initiative by women started independently a little later in Maharashtra by pioneering advocates of women’s rights and education.
- Savitribai Phule, who started the first school for girls in India (1848);
- Tarabai Shinde, who wrote India’s first feminist text Stri Purush Tulana (A Comparison Between Women and Men) in 1882;
- Pandita Ramabai, who criticized patriarchy and caste-system in Hinduism, married outside her caste and converted to Christianity (1880s).
- The efforts of Bengali reformers included abolishing sati, which was a widow’s death by burning on her husband’s funeral pyre, abolishing the custom of child marriage, abolishing the disfiguring of widows, introducing the marriage of upper caste Hindu widows, promoting women’s education, obtaining legal rights for women to own property, and requiring the law to acknowledge women’s status by granting them basic rights in matters such as adoption.
- The 19th century was the period that saw a majority of women’s issues which came under the spotlight and reforms began to be made. Much of the early reforms for Indian women were conducted by men.
- However, by the late 19th century they were joined in their efforts by their wives, sisters, daughters, protegees and other individuals directly affected by campaigns such as those carried out for women’s education.
- By the late 20th century, women gained greater autonomy through the formation of independent women’s own organisations.
- By the late thirties and forties a new narrative began to be constructed regarding “women’s activism”.
- This was newly researched and expanded with the vision to create ‘logical’ and organic links between feminism and Marxism, as well as with anti-communalism and anti-casteism, etc.
- The Constitution of India did guarantee ‘equality between the sexes,’ which created a relative lull in women’s movements until the 1970s.
- During the formative years of women’s rights movements, the difference between the sexes was more or less taken for granted in that their roles, functions, aims and desires were different.
- As a result, they were not only to be reared differently but treated differently also. Over the course of time, this difference itself became a major reason for initiating women’s movements.
- Early 19th century reformers argued that the difference between men and women was no reason for the subjection of women in society.
- However, later reformers were of the opinion that indeed it was this particular difference that subjugated women to their roles in society, for example, as mothers.
- Therefore, there was a need for the proper care of women’s rights. With the formation of women’s organisations and their own participation in campaigns, their roles as mothers was again stressed but in a different light.
- This time the argument was for women’s rights to speech, education and emancipation. However, the image of women with the mother as a symbol underwent changes over time – from an emphasis on family to the creation of an archetypal mother figure, evoking deep, often atavistic
First phase: 1850–1915:
- The colonial venture into modernity brought concepts of democracy, equality and individual rights. The rise of the concept of nationalism and introspection of discriminatory practices brought about social reform movements related to caste and gender relations.
- This first phase of feminism in India was initiated by men to uproot the social evils of sati (widow immolation), to allow widow remarriage, to forbid child marriage, and to reduce illiteracy, as well as to regulate the age of consent and to ensure property rights through legal intervention.
- In addition to this, some upper caste Hindu women rejected constraints they faced under Brahminical traditions.
- However, efforts for improving the status of women in Indian society were somewhat thwarted by the late nineteenth century, as nationalist movements emerged in India.
- These movements resisted ‘colonial interventions in gender relations’ particularly in the areas of family relations. In the mid to late nineteenth century, there was a national form of resistance to any colonial efforts made to ‘modernize’ the Hindu family. This included the Age of Consent controversy that erupted after the government tried to raise the age of marriage for women.
Several Indian states were ruled by women during British colonial advance including Jhansi (Rani Laxmibai), Kittur (Rani Chennama), Bhopal (Quidisa Begum) and Punjab (Jind Kaur).
Second Phase: 1915–1947:
- During this period the struggle against colonial rule intensified. Nationalism became the pre-eminent cause.
- Claiming Indian superiority became the tool of cultural revivalism resulting in an essential model of Indian womanhood similar to that of Victorian womanhood, special yet separated from public space.
- Gandhi legitimized and expanded Indian women’s public activities by initiating them into the non-violent civil disobedience movement against the British Raj.
- He exalted their feminine roles of caring, self-abnegation, sacrifice and tolerance; and carved a niche for those in the public arena.
- Peasant women played an important role in the rural satyagrahas of Borsad and Bardoli.
- Women-only organisations like All India Women’s Conference(AIWC) and the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) emerged. Women were grappling with issues relating to the scope of women’s political participation, women’s franchise, communal awards, and leadership roles in political parties.
- The 1920s was a new era for Indian women and is defined as ‘feminism’ that was responsible for the creation of localized women’s associations.
- These associations emphasized women’s education issues, developed livelihood strategies for working-class women, and also organised national level women’s associations such as the All India Women’s Conference.
- AIWC was closely affiliated with the Indian National Congress. Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, it worked within the nationalist and anti-colonialist freedom movements.
- This made the mass mobilisation of women an integral part of Indian nationalism. Women therefore were a very important part of various nationalist and anti-colonial efforts, including the civil disobedience movements in the 1930s.
- After independence, the All India Women’s Conference continued to operate and in 1954 the Indian Communist Party formed its own women’s wing known as the National Federation of Indian Women.
- However, feminist agendas and movements became less active right after India’s 1947 independence, as the nationalist agendas on nation building took precedence over feminist issues.
- Women’s participation in the struggle for freedom developed their critical consciousness about their role and rights in independent India. This resulted in the introduction of the franchise and civic rights of women in the Indian constitution.
- There was provision for women’s upliftment through affirmative action, maternal health and child care provision (crèches), equal pay for equal work etc.
- The state adopted a patronizing role towards women. For example, India’s constitution states that women are a “weaker section” of the population, and therefore need assistance to function as equals.
- Thus women in India did not have to struggle for basic rights as did women in the West. The utopia ended soon when the social and cultural ideologies and structures failed to honour the newly acquired concepts of fundamental rights and democracy.
- Post independence feminists began to redefine the extent to which women were allowed to engage in the workforce.
- Prior to independence, most feminists accepted the sexual divide within the labour force. However, feminists in the 1970s challenged the inequalities that had been established and fought to reverse them.
- These inequalities included unequal wages for women, relegation of women to ‘unskilled’ spheres of work, and restricting women as a reserve army for labour.
- In other words, the feminists’ aim was to abolish the free service of women who were essentially being used as cheap capital.
- Feminist class-consciousness also came into focus in the 1970s, with feminists recognizing the inequalities not just between men and women but also within power structures such as caste, tribe, language, religion, region, class etc.
- This also posed as a challenge for feminists while shaping their overreaching campaigns as there had to be a focus within efforts to ensure that fulfilling the demands of one group would not create further inequalities for another.
- Now, in the early twenty-first century, the focus of the Indian feminist movement has gone beyond treating women as useful members of society and a right to parity, but also having the power to decide the course of their personal lives and the right of self-determination.
- In 1966 Indira Gandhi became the first female Prime Minister of India. She served as prime minister of India for three consecutive terms (1966–77) and a fourth term from 1980 until she was assassinated in 1984.
- Section 53A of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Indian law, 1973 lays down certain provisions for medical examination of the accused. Section 164A of the Code of Criminal Procedure deals with the medical examination of the victim.\
Mary Roy won a lawsuit in 1986, against the inheritance legislation of her Keralite Syrian Christian community in the Supreme Court. The judgement ensured equal rights for Syrian Christian women with their male siblings in regard to their ancestral property.
- Until then, her Syrian Christian community followed the provisions of the Travancore Succession Act of 1916 and the Cochin Succession Act, 1921, while elsewhere in India the same community followed the Indian Succession Act of 1925.
- In 1991, the Kerala High Court restricted entry of women above the age of 10 and below the age of 50 from Sabarimala Shrine as they were of the menstruating age.
- However, on 28 September 2018, the Supreme Court of India lifted the ban on the entry of women. It said that discrimination against women on any grounds, even religious, is unconstitutional.
- The state of Kerala is often viewed as the ideal progressive leader in the women’s rights movement in India among states.
- Kerala maintains very high relative levels of female literacy and women’s health, as well as greater female inheritance and property rights.
A 1998 study conducted by Bina Agarwal found that while only 13% of all women in India with landowning fathers inherited that land as daughters, 24% of such women were able to do so in the state of Kerala.
This is important because it has been shown that measures to improve such access to property and economic independence through channels such as education not only directly improve women’s wellbeing and capabilities, but also reduce their risk of exposure to marital or any sort of domestic violence.
NEW Women’s Groups:
- Most of the women who took initiative in formation of the new women’s groups were extremely averse to authoritarian structures within the family, educational and religious institutions and society at large as all of them did not allow women critical thinking and a space to grow as independent, cerebral and politically conscious human beings.
- Hence they were very clear in their approach that they would encourage each and every member of the group to articulate her thoughts and establish intimate working relationship based on the collective decision-making processes.
- Initially this method proved very effective in creating new cadre of women who were intellectually enlightened, politically articulate, well informed and supportive to each other within their small groups as there were no male political bosses to curb their initiative and make them rot only in routine activities of fund-raising, translating, typing, posting, cleaning and cooking for the members of their political groups.
- Such groups in Madras, Banglore, Hyderabad, Bombay, Pune and Delhi brought out documents, position papers, manifestoes, pamphlets and reproduced whole lot of documents of the women’s liberation movements in the other countries containing debates which had direct bearing on our situation.
- They had tremendous urge to reachout to more and more like-minded women. Their meetings were throbbing with new ideas, powerful polemics on epistemological issues, at the same time they reflected deep concern for immediate problems of women.
- As they believed that women’s issues needed to be taken up on a day-to-day basis and patriarchal power needed to be challenged in both ’personal’ and ’political’ spheres of life.
- They simultaneously started support work to individual women, solidarity work for the mass movements and united front work on an issue to issue basis.
- But, at the same time, maintaining their own political autonomy and organisational identity. These groups kept in touch with each other by circulating their leaflets in English and regional languages, mimeographed documents and letters.
- They functioned purely on an informal basis and organised meetings in the homes of one of the members or sympathizers. Between 1977 and 1980, only in Maharashtra, a new culture of exclusively women’s workshops, women’s conferences and women’s gatherings, in which women of politically diverse views were invited, was found.
- As these gatherings were multi-class and multi-caste (within the matrix of Brahminical Hinduism), women pursuing different occupations – right from agricultural labourers, beedi workers, industrial working class women, students, teachers, journalists, writers, researchers, white collar employees – shared their experiences and put forward their demands.
Proliferation of the Autonomous Women’s groups:
- Nationwide anti-rape campaign in 1980 resulted into emergence and proliferation of the autonomous women’s organisations in several cities and towns of India.
- These groups such as Forum Against Oppression of Women (Mumbai), Saheli (Delhi), Stree Shakti Sangathana (Hyderabad), Vimochana (Banglore) managed to get tremendous publicity in the print as well as the audio-visual media because at that time ’violence against women’ was the most sensational and the newest issue.
- Family members, especially fathers and brothers of the women victims of violence flooded the women’s groups. Later on, the women victims started approaching these groups on their own.
- While doing agitational and propaganda work against series of rape cases in custodial situation, domestic violence and dowry harassment, these groups realised that to work on a sustained basis and to take care of there habilitative aspects of violence against women, it was important to evolve institutional structures for support to the women victims of violence based on feminist principles of solidarity (mutual counseling) and sisterhood.
- Criminal legal system in India made it inevitable for these groups to establish rapport with the police for an immediate redressal to the women victims of violence. Condition of women in the remand homes and the Nari Niketans were so repugnant and barbaric that they could not be trusted for women’s rehabilitation.
- In fact, many women who suffered at their hands approached the new women’s groups. The women activists had to deal with the attitude of victim-baiting and double standards of sexual morality, sexist remarks, sick humour from the staff of the police, the legal apparatus and the public hospitals.
- At each and every step, they encountered class, caste and communal biases. These resulted into confrontation between the women’s groups and the established institutions.
- But in course of time, they realised that it was necessary to suggest concrete alternatives in terms of legal reforms, method of interventions and the staff-training for attitudinal changes.
- For public education, literature written in convincing style was a must. Audio-visual material for reaching out to more and more people was necessary. Professional bodies and educational institutions were approaching these groups for understanding the women’s question.
In these context SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS focusing on agit-prop, media-monitoring, resource material for consciousness raising, creation of cultural alternatives, publications, research and documentation, bookstalls, legal aid work came into existence during the eighties and got consolidated in the 1990s.
These groups played complementary roles in each other’s development, though the process was not so smooth.
Issues Taken up by the New Women’s Groups:
A. Campaign against Violence against Women
From these experiences of direct action the activists of the women’s groupsgot to know the power relations operating within modern families (working class, middle class and upper class), different religious communities and various caste organisations.
B. Fight Against Unjust Family Laws
While providing support to women facing problems concerning marriage, divorce, maintenance, alimony, property rights, custody of child/children and guardianship rights, the activists realised that the existing personal laws and most of the customary laws were discriminating against women.
Hindu daughters were deprived of coparcenary rights in parental property as per the codes of Mitakshara.
- Christian women could not get divorce on the ground of husband’s adultery; it had to be coupled with cruelty, bestiality and sodomy.
- While Christian husbands could just declare their wives as adulteresses and divorce them. These antiquated laws were enacted in the colonial period to serve the interests of the British bureaucrats who had their legally wedded wives in England and were cohabiting with the Indian (in their language ’native’) women.
- Parsee daughters who married non-Parsee men lost their property rights and non-Parsee wives of Parsee husbands got only half the shares in husband’s property as per the Parsee Personal Law.
- Shariat Law subjugated Muslim women by imposing purdah, allowing polygamy and unilateral divorce by men to his wife/wives and by depriving divorced Muslim women of maintenance rights.
- Underlying philosophy of all these personal laws was that: women are not equal to men. They are governed by the patriarchal ideology. Irrespective of their religious backgrounds, these personal laws perpetuate patrilineage, patrilocality, double standard of sexual morality for men and women and perceive women as dependent on men.
- Individual women from different communities have challenged the constitutional validity of discriminatory aspects of the personal laws in the Supreme Court of India. Increasing number of educated working women and housewives from all religious backgrounds have been approaching secular women’s organisations.
- Main problems faced by them from their natal families have been forcible marriage, murderous attacks in cases of inter-caste, inter-class and inter-religious marriages, property disputes, incest and from their husbands and in-laws have been adultery, bigamy, polygamy, divorce, custody of child/children, property, incest etc.
- As the issue of personal laws is intertwined with the religious identities, the secular women’s movement had to face tremendous hostility from the elities of the different communities, mass organisations, patriarchal secular lobby and the parliamentary parties cashing on block-votes.
- Individual women (divorced, deserted, single and married under duress) are questioning discrimination in the customary laws. Tribal women in Maharashtra and Bihar have filed petitions demanding landrights in the Supreme Court of India.
- Several women’s groups (Saheli, Delhi, Vimochana, Banglore and Forum against Oppression of Women, Mumbai) and human rights lawyers’ team (The Lawyers Collective, Mumbai and Indian Social Institute, Delhi) have prepared drafts containing technical detail of gender just and secular family laws.
C. Legislative Reforms: Laws Concerning Violence Against Women:
- India was the 1stto enact the Family Courts Act (1984). Domestic Violence Bill (2002) to be tabled soon for deliberations in the Parliament of India. Women’s movement has pushed for legislation to provide protection for abused women.
- There is a need for broadening the definition of domestic violence to include violence against women senior citizens (abuse of “mentally unfit” certificate), incest & rape by family members and relatives forcing women & girls into prostitution.
- From the very beginning of the women’s movement legal reforms has been the top most priority. Women’s organizations campaigned for reforms in the rape law (1980) and dowry prohibition Act.
- For thirty years, campaign demanding Protection of Women from Domestic Violence resulted in an Act in 2005.
- Similarly struggle against pre birth elimination of girls resulted (Patel1988) in inactions of the Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Technique Act (2002), Public Interest Litigations to deal with sexual harassment at work place filed by the NGOs resulted into Supreme Court Directive for Prevention of Sexual Harassment At workplace, 1997.
- We need common legislation for the region to deal with cross-country trafficking of women and girls for sex-trade and organ transplant. Many cases of VAW also get resolved in the neighbourhood committee, communityorganisations and lok adalats(People’s Court).
- Women’s movement has emphasized that violence against women is a manifestation of unequal power-relation between men and women. If women are empowered by the community and official support, we can tilt the balance infavour gender justice.
D. Reproductive Rights of Women
- When it comes to reproductive rights of women, most of the efforts of the women’s groups in India have been directed against excesses committed in the name of family planning programmes.
- Now, Indian Council of Medical Research, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Institute of Research in Reproduction (IRR) has shown readiness to discuss scientific, medicolegal and operational dimensions of bio-medical researches conducted on human subjects. UNFPA (1998) and WHO have drawn guidelines about population policies that its focus shifts from targeting women for population control to women’s reproductive rights.
- Ethical guidelines for bio-medical research are drawn. Still in the interior parts of India, poor women have been the main targets of the abusive sterilization operations and unsafe injectable and oral contraceptives.
- Recent researches on adolescent girls and abortion have highlighted the problem of teenage pregnancies, trafficking of young girls for sex trades and complicity of the criminal justice system.
- Campaign against sex determination resulted into central legislation banning amniocentesis, chrion-villai-biopsy and sex pre-selection techniques for femicide. But, much is needed to be done to make the legislation effective in the real life.
- CEHAT and the Lawyers Collective have jointly supported a petition (Public interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India) filed by Dr. Sabu George for effective implementation of the Act
E. Anti Arrack/alcohol Movement
- Since mid seventies, tribal women in different parts of country – Andra Pradesh, Manipur, Maharashtra have been fighting against alcohol/lecre sale inducing alcoholism among men resulting into devastation of families and domestic violence against women and children.
- In Andhra Pradesh, the anti-arrackmovement was strong in 1992 to 93 and it spread into other states at different levels. More than 40,000 women uniting and blocking the arrack auction in Andhra was a historic chapter in the Indian women’s movement.
- In Maharashtra, the elected women representatives in local self government institutions, Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) have forced the state government to declare their block/village/taluk ‘alcohol free zone’ if 50% of women in the area give their vote against sale and distribution of alcohol.
F. Women’s Movement and Peace Initiatives
- The most important contribution of the women’s movement has been its commitment for peace-initiatives in the disturbed areas torn by communal conflicts, ethnic tensions and mob violence.
- Media publicity on this issue is extremely important so that such work can be replicated in the places where such groups don’t exist.
- During communal riots in 1992 and 2002 in Gujarat, women’s movement played pivotal role in proving support to the victims of violence and also took up campaign against xenophobia and jingoism.
Women’s Movements and the Development Agenda:
- During 1970s and 1980s, the women’s movement highlighted marginalisation of women from the economy. The efforts of women activists were directed in agitation and propaganda for women’s rights, street-fighting against escalating violence against assertive women and team-building to counter sexual harassment at work-place.
- In the 1990, the women’s movement is demanding its legitimate place within the mainstream with its own agenda of empowerment of women with partnership with men. It has been able to identify its allies in all sections of society.
- Its horizontal and vertical networking has created congenial atmosphere to execute development agenda with the help of effective use of information technology, communication channels, modern managerial practices, efficient law and order machinery.
- The most difficult areas have been providing educational opportunities for the poverty groups, dalit and tribal women, low-cost housing, environmental and occupational safety and human rights concerns.
- The state, political parties and beneficiaries of women’s groups too have duty to ensure democratic and multicultural atmosphere within which the women activists can take judicious and gender-just decisions about allocation of developmental resources and development funding for construction of schools, community centres, sports-clubs, libraries and reading rooms, low cost hospitals and low cost housing for the poverty groups.
- Gender Budgeting as a tool is used by elected women representatives to promote gender equality.
- Despite “on-paper” advancements, many problems still remain which inhibit women from fully taking advantage of new rights and opportunities in India.
- There are many traditions and customs that have been an important part of Indian culture for hundreds of years.
- Religious laws and expectations, or “personal laws” enumerated by each specific religion, often conflict with the Indian Constitution, eliminating rights and powers women should legally have.
- Despite these crossovers in legality, the Indian government does not interfere with religion and the personal laws they hold. Indian society is largely composed of hierarchical systems within families and communities.
- These hierarchies can be broken down into age, sex, ordinal position, kinship relationships (within families), and caste, lineage, wealth, occupations, and relationship to ruling power (within the community).
- When hierarchies emerge within the family based on social convention and economic need, girls in poorer families suffer twice the impact of vulnerability and stability.
- From birth, girls are automatically entitled to less; from playtime, to food, to education, girls can expect to always be entitled to less than their brothers. Girls also have less access to their family’s income and assets, which is exacerbated among poor, rural Indian families. From the start, it is understood that females will be burdened with strenuous work and exhausting responsibilities for the rest of their lives, always with little to no compensation or recognition.
- India is also a patriarchal society, which, by definition, describes cultures in which males as fathers or husbands are assumed to be in charge and the official heads of households.
- A patrilineal system governs the society, where descent and inheritance are traced through the male line and men are generally in control of the distribution of family resources.
- These traditions and ways of Indian life have been in effect for so long that this type of lifestyle is what women have become accustomed to and expect.
- Indian women often do not take full advantage of their constitutional rights because they are not properly aware or informed of them. Women also tend to have poor utilization of voting rights because they possess low levels of political awareness and sense of political efficacy.
- Women are not often encouraged to become informed about issues. Due to this, political parties do not invest much time in female candidates because there is a perception that they are a “wasted investment.”
- The female-to-male ratio in India is 933 to 1000, showing that there are numerically fewer women in the country than men. This is due to several factors, including infanticides, most commonly among female infants, and the poor care of female infants and childbearing women.
- Although outlawed, infanticides are still very common in rural India, and are continuing to become even more prominent. This is due to the fact, most especially in rural areas, that families cannot afford female children because of the dowry they must pay when their daughter gets married. Like infanticide, the payment of dowry is also illegal, but is still a frequent and prevalent occurrence in rural India.
- Women are considered to be “worthless” by their husbands if they are not “able” to produce a male child, and can often face much abuse if this is the case.
Waves of feminist movements: A glance
Impact of feminist movements in India:
- Feminism did not gain meaning or become an operational principle in Indian life until the country gained independence in 1947 and adopted a democratic government.
- The Indian Constitution then granted equality, freedom from discrimination based on gender or religion, and guaranteed religious freedoms.
- Also, seven five-year plans were developed to provide health, education, employment, and welfare to women. The sixth five-year plan even declared women “partners in development.”
E-Governance and its impacts on women:
E-government development in India is currently poised at a critical milestone. This section attempts to bring together the key analytical threads from the previous sections to take stock of where the agenda of gender equality and women’s empowerment stands in relation to e-government development.
- No strategic vision on gender equality and women’s empowerment in e-government:
India does not have a cohesive policy document on e-government at this juncture except the programmatic document of ‘Digital India’ (2014), encompassing:
- On-demand provisioning of governance services through digital platforms
- Universalizing access to digital infrastructure
- Digital empowerment of citizens
While Digital India marks a clear departure from previous piecemeal approaches to using ICTs in re-engineering governance and administrative systems, it overlooks completely the significance of e-government for gender equality.
It does not spell out a strategic vision for furthering gender equality and women’s empowerment in, and through, e-government.
- Ad-hoc approach to addressing the question of gender inclusive service delivery:
E-government for women’s empowerment is not an idea that has been institutionalized; it is an experimental trend that women’s rights champions in public administration have set. There are islands of innovation in e-service delivery such as the Mission Convergence initiative of the government of Delhi and the Sree Sakthi portal of the government of Kerala and the Ministry of Women and Child Development’s Mission Mode Project for digitalizing its services.
However, these initiatives do not add up to a clear direction on gender mainstreaming in e-service delivery. Such an ad-hoc approach cannot hence bring about sustained, large-scale gains for the gender equality agenda.106
- Absence of effective PPP frameworks in e-government can compromise last-mile service delivery and citizen interests in governance:
Currently, the Indian state has opted for PPP arrangements for last mile service delivery through the Common Service Centre scheme.
Village level entrepreneurs and corporate franchisees running last mile service delivery centres have to balance commercial considerations with service delivery.
The absence of a citizen entitlements perspective and of gender and social inclusion mandates are a significant reason why the scheme has failed to reach public information and services to women and other socially marginalised groups.
Concerns about PPP frameworks with respect to public interest, transparency and accountability have also come up, as in instances of data management and control, and conflict of interest in policy development and service quality monitoring.
- Connectively is largely seen as a technical issue:
State policy on connectivity infrastructure and broadband continues to cast connectivity as a technical issue, divorced from the question of creating empowering cultures of use at the last mile.
The Sanchar Shakti pilot project that has used the Gender Budget of the Universal Service Obligation Fund, to bring meaningful connectivity to rural women (through mobile-based informational services) is an exception, and has not been scaled up.
Online citizen engagement is not tied to concrete processes of policy consultations, and the feedback loop is not effectively closed:
Online citizen engagement is a relatively nascent area for e-government programming in India, with the citizen portal mygov. in being launched only in 2014.
However, there is no clear process for encouraging women’s participation or for closing the feedback loop with citizens, on the policy issues debated or discussed on the portal.
- Digital literacy programmes recognize the need for specifically targeting women, but are narrow in their scope:
In 2014, the Indian state launched the Digital Saksharata Abhiyan (DISHA) that aims at equipping 5 million people across the country, in digital skills.
A sub-component of this programme specifically targets women community workers. The active participation of girls and women as equal digital citizens depends on wider policy coherence on capacity development, education, employment, political participation and the role of e-government.
While Digital India does speak of creating a ‘IT-ready workforce from India’s small towns and villages in 5 years’, the thinking on these lines is not gendered nor geared to take on the aspirations of young women and men.
- The absence of data privacy legislation puts marginalized women at greater risk of social discrimination:
Currently, the Indian state is building a national citizen identity card scheme, with a unique identification number, to create a deduplication mechanism for direct benefit transfers.
However, in the absence of data privacy legislation, the risk of tracking, profiling and surveillance of citizens at the margins, increases.
- Open data policy frameworks exist, but implementation lags behind:
India has made some initial strides in the area of evolving Open data policies through the launch of the Open Government Data portal (OGD) and the adoption of the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP).
However, progress in implementing these policies has been very slow, and partly this is because NDSAP stops short of laying down concrete guidelines for developing a full-fledged programme for Open Government Data.
Without such a push, there is no progress on overcoming the shortcomings of legacy data systems such as
- lack of interconnections between data sets of different departments,
- interoperability issues and
- department-centric rather than citizen-centric focus in presentation.
The promise of open data for monitoring gender outcomes of policy and programme implementation cannot be realized without empowerment of women and addressing the associated issues on gender inequality.
In conclusion, women can be powerful actors for peace, security, and prosperity. When they participate in peace processes and other formal decision-making processes, they can play an important role in initiating and inspiring progress on human rights, justice, national reconciliation and economic revitalization.
SOURCES AND REFERENCES:
- IGNOU materials – MA SOCIOLOGY
- MDG’s- Bulletin
- 20th WCP- Status of women in India report
- WHO- Women and Health report
- UN WOMEN
- WEF- Issues brief
- Vikaspedia, Articles from newspapers and magazines
- NCRB reports, MOW&CD website