New Delhi(N.C. Joshi) The status of women in India has been subject to great many changes over the past few millennia. Women in India now participate in all activities such as education, politics, media, art and culture, service sector, science and technology, etc. Our Constitution guarantees equal rights for men and women. The Constitution is firmly grounded in the principles of liberty, fraternity, equality and justice. It contains a number of provisions for the
empowerment of women. Women’s right to equality and non/discrimination are defined as justiciable fundamental rights. The Constitution explicitly clarifies that affirmative action programmes for women are not incompatible with the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of sex. The Government of India has always attached great importance to the protection and promotion of the human rights of women and is committed to achieving it. National plans and policies have consistently reflected a vision of progress that is not narrowly confined to expanding incomes, but gives a central place to the achievement of human rights, freedoms and well-being for all.
Women Welfare In Planning Process
The planning process has evolved over the years from purely ‘welfare’ oriented approach where women were regarded as objects of charity to the development programmes and currently to their ‘empowerment’. The Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-2007) called for the three-pronged strategy of social empowerment, economic empowerment and providing gender justice to create an enabling environment of positive economic and social policies for women and eliminating all forms of discrimination against them and thus advance gender equality goals. The Approach Paper to the XI Plan has also laid great emphasis on removing gender disparities. XI Plan will seek to reduce disparities across regions and communities by ensuring access to basic physical infrastructure as well as health and education services to all. It will recognize gender as a crosscutting theme across all sectors and commit to respect and promote the rights of the common person.
Acts For Empowerment Of Women
New Acts have been passed and some existing acts amended during the X Plan period. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is first of its kind in the country and gets into the private sphere of a household. For the first time the term ‘domestic violence’ has been widened in meaning and scope from the culture specific restriction of ‘dowry deaths’ and penal provisions to positive civil rights of protection and injunction. The Hindu Succession Act has been amended to give daughters equal rights as sons in ancestral property. Property here includes agricultural land as well. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act seeks to provide for the enhancement of livelihood security of the households in rural areas of the country by providing at least one hundred days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. Specifically, the Act seeks the ‘creation of durable assets and strengthening the livelihood resource base of the rural poor’. Priority is being given to women by reserving at least one-third of the jobs for women who have registered and requested for work under this Act. The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act is being amended to strengthen its provisions, enforce more stringent punishment for traffickers and prevent revictimisation of victims. States are being requested to set up anti human trafficking units.
Improvement In Women Status
The impact of the various developmental policies, plans and programmes implemented by the government over the last years has brought forth a perceptible improvement in the socio-economic status of women. Expectation of life at birth has increased over the years. While it is 62.79 years for males, it is slightly higher for females at 65 years. Sex ratio has registered a marginal improvement from 927 in the year 1991 to 933 in 2001. There has been a decline in the infant and maternal mortality rates. Infant Mortality Rate has declined from 80 in 1990 to 64 in 2002 and further to 58 in 2005. The corresponding rate for women has decreased from 81 to 65 and further to 61 during the same period. The Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) has declined from 407 per 100,000 live births in 1998 to 301 in 2001-03. The work force participation rate for women has increased from 14.2 in 1991 to 25.7 in 2001.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development has been implementing a number of schemes, which strive towards both economic and social empowerment. Swayamsiddha is the flagship scheme of the Ministry for women. It aims at holistic economic empowerment. The schemes for economic empowerment also include the Support for Training and Employment Programme (STEP), which aims to raise the incomes of rural women by updating their skills in the traditional sectors. The Ministry has also set up support systems like Working women hostels and crèches to help women in their struggle towards economic empowerment. Swadhar and short stay homes have been set up to provide shelter and care services for women in distress. The Ministry also implements laws and legislations for women including Sati Prevention Act, Dowry Prohibition Act, Protection from Domestic Violence Act, ITPA etc.
Rashtriya Mahila Kosh provides micro-credit in a quasi-informal manner, whereby it lends to intermediate micro-credit organizations (IMO’s) such as NGO’s and Violuntary Organisations women development corporations, women co-operative societies, suitable Govt./local bodies etc. RMK has 36 nodal agencies.
In the XI Plan, the Ministry proposes to take up the second phase of Swayamsiddha. This phase would be a countrywide programme with larger coverage in States lagging behind on women development indices. The lessons learnt in Swayamsiddha, Phase-I and Swa-Shakti would be incorporated in the next phase giving an integrated set of training inputs relating to social and economic empowerment, including skill development and training in traditional and non-traditional sectors. The scheme for construction of working women’s hostel is being revamped. Considering the increasing need of shelter homes, it is proposed to set up one Swadhar home per district. A new scheme for rehabilitation of rape victims has been launched.