Women workforce in the country fell to 18 per cent in 2019 from 37 per cent in 2006, non- government organisation Azad Foundation said on the International Women’s Day. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report this year ranks India at 149th position out of 153 countries on economic participation and opportunity. According to the Foundation, the Global Gender Gap Report estimates that raising women’s participation in the labour force can increase India’s GDP significantly. The declining women’s labour force participation, gender pay gap, high rates of informal work with lack of social security are seen as impediments to the goal of gender equality and empowerment of women in India. Over the last few years more women have taken up Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics courses and are aspiring to enter the workforce. However dropout rates among women is also high, particularly around marriage, maternity and motherhood. There are options like working from home, creches and so on, yet a lot more needs to be done. On this edition of The Big Picture, the importance of women in the workforce has been analysed in multiple perspectives for UPSC.
Why RSTV? RSTV assumes significance for UPSC examination as it touches the current happenings of all areas with relevant inputs. However, it is suggested not to waste your time on videos. Here we are providing Gist of Rajya Sabha TV discussion for UPSC Exam on World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report.
Topic relevance from RSTV Debate on World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for UPSC: Direct questions can be asked on:
Global Gender Gap
Social security in our society
Women’s participation in economy
Importance of women workforce
Edited excerpts from the debate:
What’ the Report is all about?
Now in its 14th year, the Global Gender Gap Report 2020 benchmarks 153 countries on their progress towards gender parity in four dimensions:
Economic Participation and Opportunity,
Health and Survival
In addition, this year’s report examines gender gap prospects in the professions of the future.
The report presents a decidedly mixed picture. Overall, the quest towards gender parity has improved, ducking back under a century and registering a marked improvement on the 108 years.
Greater political representation for women has contributed to this, but overall the political arena remains the worst-performing dimension.
At the other end of the scale, it is forecast to take just 12 years to attain gender parity in education, and in fact, overall, gender parity has been fully achieved in 40 of the 153 countries ranked.
What does the number shows?
Drilling down into the facts and figures, it will take 95 years to close the gender gap in political representation, with women in 2019 holding 25.2% of parliamentary (lower-house) seats and 21.2% of ministerial positions.
Positively, the so-called “role model effect” may be reaping dividends in terms of leadership and wages.
Improving political empowerment for women has, as a general rule, corresponded with increased numbers of women in senior roles in the labour market.
In contrast to this positive progress in the lofty world of leadership, women’s participation in the wider labour market has stalled and financial disparities are increasing.
Globally, the trend is towards a deteriorating picture in emerging and developing economies, which is offsetting the gains made in OECD countries.
Although education attainment as well as health and survival enjoy much closer to parity (96.1% and 95.7% respectively), one important area of concern is that of economic participation and opportunity.
This is the only dimension where progress has regressed.
Here, the figures are sobering, with a deteriorating situation forcing gender parity to a lowly 57.8%, which in time represents a massive 257 years before gender parity can be achieved.
The report highlights three primary reasons for this: women have greater representation in roles that are being automated; not enough women are entering professions where wage growth is the most pronounced (most obviously, but not exclusively, technology), and women face the perennial problem of insufficient care infrastructure and access to capital.
Best in class: Countries
The top country for gender parity remained Iceland (for the 11th year running). The most-improved countries were Albania, Ethiopia, Mali, Mexico and Spain.
Of the 149 countries ranked, 101 improved their scores on the 2019 index (this excludes the five new countries that have joined the ranking this year).
A further 48 saw their performance unchanged, while the top 10th percentile saw their scores improve more than 3.3% year-on-year.
A total of 35 countries have achieved gender parity in education.
In healthcare, 48 countries have achieved near-parity and 71 have closed at least 97% of the gap.
What is the situation in India?
India’s poverty is one of the main reasons for low literacy among women. Only 13% of farm is owned by women across India, however, this figure is very low when it comes to Dalit women in India. About 41% women in India make their living by manual labour.
Women’s participation in the force is quite low, and has been falling over the last few years. The female to male ratio is only 0.36. This is worsened by lack of choices that women have to engage in paid work related to work type and location, patriarchal gender norms, and the undue burdens of unpaid care work that women bear.
At 17% of GDP, the economic contribution of Indian women is less than half the global average, and compares unfavorably to the 40% in China, for instance.
The wage gap between Indian men and women is amongst the worst in the world, a report by international confederation of charitable organisations, Oxfam, said. The Monster salary Index (MSI) says, Indian men earn 25% more than women in the same kind of work done by both men and women.
The average gender gap is 38.2%. However, Accenture research says that the gender gap in India is as high as 67%.
More than 47% of women in India are involved in Agriculture related works, however the wage gap is beyond comprehension, because of non-uniformity in sectors, which is the same for other unorganized sectors in India.
Recently, Supreme Court ruled that women could serve as army commanders, dismissing the government's stance that male soldiers were not ready to accept orders from female officers as "disturbing".
The SC also ordered the government to extend permanent service - which has only been applicable to men so far - to all women officers, signalling a move towards gender parity in the traditionally male bastion.
With this women will get the same opportunities and benefits as their male colleagues, including ranks, promotions and pensions, and be allowed to serve longer tenures.
Currently women are inducted through a short service commission that lets them work for up to 14 years, and only allowed permanent commission in the army's legal and educational wings.
Women Rights in India: Constitutional Rights and Legal Rights
The rights entitled to women in India can be classified broadly into two categories namely constitutional rights and another one is legal rights but there is an exception in the case of fundamental rights.
Fundamental Rights: The Supreme Court is the guardian of fundamental rights. Further, all constitutional rights not fundamental rights e.g. right not to be subjected to taxation without authority of law (Article 265), right to property (Article 300A), and freedom of trade (Article 301).
Legal Rights: The legal rights are provided in the various laws of the Parliament and the State Legislatures. These rights are protected by an ordinary law, but they can be altered or taken away by the legislature by changing that law.
What are the reasons for various challenges and issues with women in India?
Patriarchy: The society of India has been a male-dominated society and it has lead to inferior treatment to women in the society in almost every front of life.
A Liability for society: Today, strong patriarchal traditions persist in many different societal parts, which give women less opportunity to express their rights. In this modern era, daughters are often regarded as a liability.
Prevailing dowry system: Though, India made dowries illegal in 1961, the practice still persists as it is considered to be the utmost discrimination against women.
Discrimination: Majority of Indian women face discrimination throughout all stages of their life which varies from one social stratum to another and from state to state.
Lack of education: As per Census 2011, the literacy rate at all India level was 72.98% and the literacy rate for females and males are 64.63% and 80.9% respectively. During the last decade, the highest improvement in literacy rate was observed for rural females (24%).
Why gender parity matters?
Gender parity has a fundamental bearing on whether or not economies and societies thrive.
Developing and deploying one-half of the world’s available talent has a huge bearing on the growth, competitiveness and future-readiness of economies and businesses worldwide.
The index’s rankings offer an effective means to benchmark progress.
They are designed to create global awareness of the challenges that gender gaps pose, as well as the opportunities that emerge when action is taken to reduce them.
How will countries perform in future?
Looking to the future, the report reveals that the greatest challenge preventing the economic gender gap from closing is women’s under-representation in emerging roles. In cloud computing, just 12% of professionals are women.
Similarly, in engineering and Data and AI, the numbers are 15% and 26% respectively.
To address these deficiencies, workforce strategies must ensure that women are better equipped (in terms of improved skills or reskilling) to deal with the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Diverse hiring is another area for improvement (reflecting the current situation that sees gender parity in an in-demand skillset but not equal representation), along with creating inclusive work cultures.
The report clearly highlights areas where policy-makers need to focus greater attention. Looking ahead, policy-makers, communities and countries need to take action to better equip younger generations, with the skills to succeed in the world of future jobs. Increasing formal education attainment is necessary – and the strong gender parity in this area to be applauded – but it is insufficient to provide young men and women graduating from every level of education with the types of skills needed for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s job market. In this respect, gender gaps remain and are likely to become exacerbated unless addressed now.
The Supreme Court passed directions for all courts across the country to extensively use video-conferencing for judicial proceedings saying congregation of lawyers and litigants must be suspended to maintain social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. The top court, which has restricted its functioning and is conducting hearing through video conferencing since March 25, exercised its plenary power to direct all high courts to frame a mechanism for use of technology during the pandemic. A bench headed by the Chief Justice stressed that "technology is here to stay". On this edition of The Big Picture we analyse the concept of virtual courts and the way ahead.
Excerpts from the debate:
What are virtual courts?
A virtual court is a conceptual idea of a judicial forum that has no physical presence but still provides the same justice services that are available in courtrooms.
Virtual courts do not exist in physical form nor do they enjoin upon the defendants and petitioners to be physically present at their premises. This is a technology-based system where the internet is heavily relied upon for its smooth functioning.
Access to virtual courts would, however, be limited to online access, videoconferencing and teleconferencing.
Videoconference technology allows witnesses to testify at trial without being physically present in the courtroom.
In contrast to a traditional, in-person witness, the videoconference witness is not physically present in the courtroom, but ‘virtually present’ through the use of technology.
This enables the witness and those in the courtroom to interact with each other.
What is the importance of artificial intelligence (AI) for courtrooms?
With nearly 3 crore cases pending, delays in courts remain a grave concern. Technology can, indeed, be a major catalyst in facilitating reduction of backlog in courts.
The judiciary could explore the assimilation of technology that is disruptive and seamless to build upon its proactive effort to integrate IT and communication-led technologies, including through the e-courts project.
Tools derived from AI will help expedite case-flow management, unclog the processes that are slowing justice down, and in many cases, ease administrative aspects.
The use of AI in Indian courts does not envision replacing the wisdom, experience and objectivity of judges in determining verdicts.
In the conceivable future, there is absolutely no question of replacing human reasoning, logic and intelligence of the judiciary with automations.
But there are many usages of technology that can be adopted and integrated immediately. This could free up the judiciary to solve complex matters that require its full attention and expertise.
Significant progress has already been made. There is now standardisation of data collection.
AI would enable real-time governance of courts based on simple metrics like frequency of case disposal per judge, or categorisation of subject matter with respect to judges.
The CJI and chief justices of high courts can have a live dashboard constantly updating them on the performance of lower courts based on colour-coded markers for various key performance indicators (KPIs). This would bring a great deal of accountability and trust in the system.
AI systems in the US and Canada have been implemented to assist judges with matters that include bail applications and parole matters. In the US, algorithms reportedly help recommend criminal sentences in certain states. Chinese courts are believed to have established dedicated public platforms to facilitate the availability of information to litigants through IT-based options.
Can a litigant raise a challenge based upon the doctrine of “coram non judice” ?
The concept of virtual court can raise an issue of legality of a potential challenge to the proceedings on the ground that the adjudication happened neither in a courtroom nor even a place declared to be a Court. Can a litigant raise a challenge based upon the doctrine of “coram non judice” on the ground that neither the adjudication took place in the court room/court precincts declared as such nor the Judges and/or the lawyers even attended the Courtroom?
Though the Civil Procedure Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Rules framed for the High Courts and the Supreme Court provide for the “seat” of the court, it does not provide for the “venue” (to loosely borrow the expressions used in arbitration law).
Though the issue appears to be a mere twattle, the ingenuity of a legal mind and the dauntless adventurous nature of some compulsive litigants can never be underestimated.
What are the pros of this concept?
Cost effective: Through virtual courts, video and audio enabled hearings is beneficial as it saves significant court costs in terms of building, staff, infrastructure, security, transportation costs for all parties to the court proceedings, especially transfer of prisoners from jails.
Saving manpower: Virtual courts will cut much police work and spare a large number of them for other duties. On an average, one in every five policemen is generally out on duty for court-related matters—serving of summons.
Transparency & accountability: Virtual courts can bring transparency and accountability in the judicial system as they can bring a lot more judicial reforms in India while helping in dealing with the long pending cases.
Boosting India’s legal framework: E-courts will prove to be a major step in the evolution of India's legal framework and will play a major role in boosting the confidence of domestic and foreign businesses as they explore investments in India.
What are the major challenges?
Authenticity issues: The use of video and audio enabled hearings have also faced significant legal and practical problems including admissibility and authenticity of the evidence received through the video and/or audio transmissions, the identity of the witness and/or individuals subject of the hearings, the confidentiality of the hearings.
Connectivity issues: The practical issues have been wide ranging; they include poor quality of internet connection, poor and outdated the audio and video equipment, power cuts, inability to establish connection at the agreed time, inability for multi-party to partake especially involving interpreters and vulnerable witnesses.
So, it is crucial to have good infrastructure for audio-video enabled hearings to be effective and successful. This would involve significant investment in court and IT infrastructure.
Difficult in confidential discussions: Defendants in virtual court hearings find it difficult to hold confidential discussions with their lawyers, become disconnected from remote proceedings and may be disadvantaged during sentencing.
What needs to be done?
Access to justice is fundamental to India’s democratic framework and must not be ignored even in these dire circumstances. One way to retain access for most litigants as quarantine, self-isolation and social distancing are being implemented to avoid contracting the deadly virus, is by using technology. Some jurisdictions abroad have the facility to operate online courts and even telephone hearings for non-substantive issues.
Adopting judicial platform: The importance of allowing technology within the judicial process is already recognised in studies conducted by Indian legal analysts. For instance, DAKSH’s white paper serieson a next-generational justice platform moots the idea of re-calibrating the Indian judicial system through a natively digital platform.
E-filing of cases: Also, filings related to a case, and non-essential hearings — which take up a substantial amount of time — can be moved online.
E-filing and video conferencing should be available to litigants at all levels.
In matters of bail hearings and habeas corpus petitions, where individual liberty is at stake, it is imperative to allow for video conferencing or other suitable mechanisms to ensure their disposal.
While courts cannot function in the manner they do regularly in the midst of a pandemic, using technology can help to some extent. We need the judiciary to be a pro-active force that will ensure access to as many litigants as possible, even during a health crisis.
In a nutshell, justice-sector reforms should provide increased access to e-justice, enabling citizens to get their disputes resolved more conveniently and quickly. Litigants should engage with online proceedings that ensure, first and foremost, procedural fairness.
Across the world, we are witnessing lockdown of public and private services in an attempt to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in such extraordinary circumstances, the role of the judiciary is even more vital to the survival of democracy. In this context, the move of the Supreme Court is a welcome and extremely important step in these unprecedented times. These measures will for sure strengthen India’s justice system and enhance its capacity to meet the global crisis, including, in the first instance, the crisis growing out of encounter with the Covid-19 virus.
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