Invoking Goddess Durga, Prime Minister reaffirmed the central government’s irrevocable commitment to women’s empowerment. “From opening Jan Dhan accounts for 22 crore women, giving soft loans to them under the Mudra Yojana, to launching Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao initiative, granting permanent commission to women in the armed forces and extending maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks, the Prime Minister listed out reforms that his government has carried for the betterment of women. He also said anti-rape laws were made more stringent to include the death penalty. Noting that Goddess Durga was worshipped as a symbol of ‘Shakti’, PM said his government was consistently working for the empowerment of women.
EDITED EXCERPTS FROM THE DEBATE
List of Major Women Empowerment schemes in India
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme
To prevent gender-biased sex selective elimination
To ensure survival & protection of the girl child
To ensure education and participation of the girl child
One-Stop Centre Scheme
To provide support and assistance to women affected by violence, both in private and public spaces.
To Facilitate/Assist in filing First Information Report (FIR/NCR)
To provide psycho-social support and counseling to women/girl
Women Helpline Scheme
To provide toll-free 24-hours telecom service to women affected by violence.
To facilitate crisis and non-crisis intervention through referral to the appropriate agencies such as police/Hospitals/Ambulance services/District Legal Service Authority (DLSA)/Protection Officer (PO)/OSC.
To provide information about the appropriate support services, government schemes, and programs available to the woman affected by violence, in her particular situation within the local area in which she resides or is employed.
To prevent the trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation.
To facilitate the rescue of victims from the place of their exploitation and place them in safe custody.
To provide rehabilitation services with both immediate and long-term to the victims by providing basic amenities/needs such as shelter, food, clothing, medical treatment including counseling, legal aid and guidance, and vocational training.
To cater to the primary need for shelter, food, clothing, medical treatment, and care of women in distress.
To provide women with legal aid and guidance.
Nari Shakti Puraskar
To strengthen the place of women in society.
To facilitate institutions that work towards the progress and development of women in society.
Mahila Shakti Kendras (MSK)
To create an environment for women where they have access to healthcare, quality, education, guidance, employment, etc.
To facilitate these opportunities at the block and district level in the country.
To facilitate safety and security for women at various levels.
To ensure strict privacy and confidentiality of women’s identity and information.
Provision for real-time intervention as far as possible
To facilitate entrepreneurship opportunities online for women.
To educate women on various aspects of online selling and helping them establish their venture.
What is meant by Women’s Empowerment?
Based on the assumptions that women differ from men in their social positions and that those differences consist of asymmetric, unequal power relations between the genders, “women’s empowerment” refers to the process of increasing women’s access to control over the strategic life choices that affect them and access to the opportunities that allow them fully to realize their capacities.
Contemporary Issues Relating To Indian Women
Domestic violence in India is endemic. Around 70% of women in India are victims of domestic violence, according to a former Union minister for Women and Child Development. This all occurs despite the fact that women in India are legally protected from domestic abuse under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.
Dowry has become a social menace in modern India, because due to its practice women are subjected to many types of atrocity and harassment, the most brutal and inhumane of which is ‘dowry death.’
A more recent time the shift in migration patterns relates to an increase in the migration of single women and partnered women who migrate without their families.
Nowhere are the inequalities facing urban woman more evident than in informal settlements where women account for over half the population. In these settlements, women face the most serious urban challenges: poverty; overcrowding, sexual harassment and assault, and lack of access to security of tenure, water and sanitation, transport and sexual and reproductive health services.
The violence that often defines women in society has reached endemic proportions, becoming ordinary instead of extraordinary. Violence, necessarily, is not physical (like rape- which is the most brutal form of violence), but it may also include- stalking, voyeurism, etc.
Factors like income of other members of the household, social background and place of residence also add to the lack of women’s participation in the workforce. Non-availability of white collar jobs, disproportionate long hours and lesser job security narrow down the job opportunities for educated women in India.
Unavailability of better marriage prospects. While educated women marry similarly educated men around the world, women in India frequently marry men with lower education than themselves.
Women in India have been seen as an extension of the men in their households and there has been a lack of political will to work on the issues related to marriage, divorce and inheritance or women economic opportunities.
Suggestions for better improvement in women’s life
The Domestic Violence Act of 2005 provides victims of abuse with a means for practical remedy through prosecution. Domestic violence is currently defined in India under Section 3 of this Act. This Act prescribes stringent punishment for domestic violence.
The payment of a dowry has been prohibited under The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 in Indian civil law and subsequently by Sections 304B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). 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.
There are a number of important human rights instruments that aim to ensure equality. Some of these are not specific to migrants but include citizens and non-citizens. Others are specific to migrants and victims of trafficking and these apply to include regular and irregular workers.
At the national level there are policies like the National Policy for the Empowerment of Women 2001, which aims to advance, develop and empower women through gender sensitization and by ensuring access to some fundamental rights for women in India. These rights include access to basic infrastructure and amenities.
Public transport safety must be guaranteed during the whole length of the trip: on vehicles, during the waiting time, and on the routes of access to stations and stops.
Special Initiatives for Women
National Commission for Women: In 1992, the Government set-up this statutory body with a specific mandate to study and monitor all matters relating to the constitutional and legal safeguards provided for women, review the existing legislation to suggest amendments wherever necessary, etc.
Reservation for Women in Local Self -Government: The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Acts passed in 1992 by Parliament ensure one-third of the total seats for women in all elected offices in local bodies whether in rural areas or urban areas.
The National Plan of Action for the Girl Child (1991-2000): The plan of Action is to ensure survival, protection and development of the girl child with the ultimate objective of building up a better future for the girl child.
National Policy for the Empowerment of Women, 2001: The Department of Women & Child Development in the Ministry of Human Resource Development has prepared a “National Policy for the Empowerment of Women” in the year 2001. The goal of this policy is to bring about the advancement, development and empowerment of women.
Looking to 2030, the global community must come together to fund development and health programs that provide comprehensive, holistic care. Understanding how to reach women and girls with such services will determine our success. But all of these efforts will be wasted without addressing the harmful gender norms and discrimination that make a girl’s life less valuable than that of her male peers, and too often make her a victim of violence. Ultimately, our investments need to empower girls and women to make decisions about their own lives. Their health and well-being is the key to unlocking better health and well-being for everyone. That is how we are going to end epidemics, prevent diseases, fight poverty and continue saving lives.