The condition of half population of the world always depended on different challenges, responsibilities, philosophies, ideologies of the time which affect society and its norms. Today let’s have a look at these changes, we will start from Indus Valley Civilization, we found shreds of evidence of Mother goddess as well as Pashupati seal but there is no clear evidence of society being matriarchal or patriarchal. The Vedic period (golden age for women) provides equality and freedom, words like “Ardhangini”, “Kanyasraddhas”, Maitri puja” (for the blessing of getting a learned and capable daughter) were widely practiced. Girls were educated as boys (Gosha, Apala, Lopamudra, Indrani, Maitreyi, and Gargi are some known names). They were involved in political affairs (in sabha and samithi), they could wear the sacred thread, and practice brahmacharya (later monopolized by boys). They could own property, choose a partner and even marriage was not mandatory, widow remarriage was popular called “Niyoga.” In the Later Vedic period division of work to control more people was introduced, the hereditary setting of positions, and caste system were introduced. And it denied land ownership, equal religious rights to women and, gradually snatched the rights of Vedic studies, all this happened especially around the Buddhist era.
In Gupta period women’s position started deteriorating with the prevalent dowry, no property rights, no widow remarriage, and even basic freedom was curtailed. Rajput clans contributed most to women’s condition negatively, at this time women were the reason for many wars and their protection was additional responsibility. It was the society with the lowest sex ratio, even lower than Turks and Mughals. Sati, Johar, Pardah, and forced marriage were very common even women were sold and purchased as commodities. Medieval Era (worst phase for women) was the time of Islamic invasion, they took unmarried girls and sell them as sex slaves, and prevalence of parda system, polygamy, dowry, child marriage, sati, Jauhar, etc. Most women were uneducated and there most of life were confined to homes. We witness Little improvement during the Mughal period, as women contributed in agricultural fields, still, their importance was as child-bearer of society with no individuality. There was a high mortality rate due to malnutrition, frequent pregnancy, and death during birth due to a lack of techniques. There was a shortage of women which introduce bride price (new social custom), remarriages were also legitimatized. However, in the British period, leaders of the time tried for many socio-political reform-led changes, and finally, after the independence constitution has provided many rights to women, efforts are still needed.
Today’s women is strong and continuously moving towards heights, society is also moving towards equality. The Constitution of India guarantees to all Indian women equality (Article 14), no discrimination by the State (Article 15(1)), equality of opportunity (Article 16), and equal pay for equal work (Article 39(d)). In addition, it allows special provisions to be made by the State in favor of women and children (Article 15(3)), renounces practices derogatory to the dignity of women (Article 51(A) (e)), and also allows for provisions to be made by the State for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief (Article 42).
It is an irony that, a country where religious and cultural traditions keep women in high esteem, and women are worshiped in the form of many deities, atrocities against them are on the rise. According to 1992-93 figures, only 9.2% of the households in India were headed by females. However, approximately 35% of the households below the poverty line were found to be headed by females.
Let’s see the definition of Dr. Amartya Sen on gender inequality according to him, there is anti-female bias in cultural, social, and behavioral forms of society. Gender disparity is not one affliction but a multitude of many problems. sometimes there is no significant inequality in one sphere but great inequality in another. Evidence is visible in Japan there is no gender inequality in Nutrition, education, health care but great inequality in politics, administration, and business. According to him, there are different types of gender inequality:
- Survival inequality- High women mortality rate, Low sex ratio which is against the scientific average, as there is birth of 106 girls on 100 boys and the concept of “missing women.”
- Natality inequality- preference for boy child that disturbs the sex ratio of society and trigger crimes related to women.
- Unequal facilities- education, politics, business, employment and promotion (boys are preferred)
- Ownership inequality- to own share in parents property
- Unequal sharing of household benefits (if house is having two cars mostly expensive and sporty car will be driven by guy) and house chores (a social norm that women should cook in house)
- Domestic violence and physical victimization, alcoholism is often associated with violence against women in India, many women groups launched antiliquor campaigns in Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and other states. Many Indian Muslim women have questioned the fundamental leaders’ interpretation of women’s rights under the Shariat law and have criticized the triple talaq system. It could be Physical injury, Sexual assault and emotional abuse.
Challenges of Indian women, according to his study
Society prefer birth of sons and neglect daughter, couples produce till they achieve desired number of boys. Economic survey call it “Son-meta preference”, it produce “unwanted girls”, and their number is nearly 21 million, they are also neglected in food and education. Parents keen to get their daughters married quickly to reduce there burden, which led to early marriage then to early pregnancy that obstruct education and career and also bad for health. Doctors also refuse to abort the baby without the consent of parents or spouses, however, no such requirement is necessary according to law.
Health and hygiene there is successive economic services due to lack of toilets in rural area, women hold their food and water intake to avoid untimely defecation results to malnutrition and anemia. They are also considered impure during menstruation, temple entry, worshipping, and generally confined to a corner of house.
Crimes within and outside home are widespread such as domestic violence, dowry, harassment by in-laws if unable to produce a male child. 70-80 percent of Indian women face sexual harassment and raps (Nirbhaya, 2012 and many more) India report 88 rape cases daily still 90% cases are unreported. Muslim women were also facing social boundations and problems like triple talaq, nikah halala, khatana etc.
Glass ceiling in job and politics, patriarchal mindset in political and corporate sector create a glass ceiling and very few able to reach to top leadership positions, we could see only 1 women Prime Minister in last 70 years of independence. There was long period when women were not allowed to serve in permanent commission positions such as fighter pilots in airforce, navy and army. To encourage them to leadership at political position, ushering of necessary legal reforms and fast & harsher punishment for rape, and reservation could also be provided.
Empowerment and Population Kerala’s education is nearly 90% and less then 2 TFR (total fertility rate, total children a women produce during her fertility period), UP, Bihar have 55% of education and more than 3 TFR due to widespread illiteracy. Females are not aware of family planning, no financial independence to assert reproductive rights. People produce more children as economic resource to help in domestic, construction and begging work. However, more educated can earn more and studies also tell that educated can earn better, marry later, and have less children. An educated and aware girl could make herself financially independent, and could also prevent her against wrong. United Nations plan SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) number 5 require India to empower all women & achieve gender equality. Country need to change the mindset and attitude to popularize widow remarriage, mass media and active participation of social and religious organizations together with government. Religious teachers, government, famous personalities, media can set examples and encourage commoners. Money based incentive should be avoided (could be miss used), high old age pension to couples having only daughter can work. Without proper participation of half population, world could not achieve it’s full potential.
The reason behind the above challenges are:
- Women continue to be vulnerable to these crimes because of: Non-Retaliation, Absence of laws addressing their rights.
- Ignorance of the existing statutes, Societal attitude, stigma and conditioning also made women vulnerable to domestic violence and these are the main factors for under-reporting of cases.
- This set of circumstances ensured that a majority of women preferred to suffer in silence, not out of choice but of compulsion.
There is practice of sex-specific abortions, (problem is on demand side not on supply side) which affect CSR. (Child Sex Ratio, defined as the number of females per 1000 males in the age group 0–6 years) Economic prosperity and low CSR level are not related (Haryana and Punjab are rich, Gujrat and Maharashtra are middle, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are poor states, but all have low CSR level. India’s sex ratio in 1991 was 945, in 2001 it was 927, in 2011 it was 918. (Hindu- 913, Muslim- 943, Sikh- 828, Christian- 953, Buddhist- 933 and Rural- 929, Urban- 905)
An study published by Jean Dreze and Reetika Khera established a norm that crime rate are high where sex ratio is low. Low sex ratio may not affect availability of brides, as people will start selecting younger brides, but increase crimes against women clearly visible in haryana and rajasthan. Country’s growth is also not connected to CSR as China is fastest growing country with 860 CSR. We can see clear divide between north east and south east states of India. Related crimes are honour killing, domestic violence and female infanticide.
Method to measure gender equality there are 3 dimensions (under that there are 17 indicators to measure) agency, attitude and outcome:
- Agency- Women’s ability to make decision on reproduction, spending on self, on household and mobility and health.
- Attitude- violence against women or wives, ideal number of preferred daughters against boys.
- Outcomes- Sex ratio (son preference), female employment, choice of contraception, education level, age of marriage, age at first child, physical and sexual violence.
- Women are contributing directly as teacher, wage labor, service sector, Agriculture, manufacturing, etc and now deciding to work outside also.
- Still female labor participation is just 20% with only 35% illiteracy.
- They contribute in Agriculture and Animal husbandry as manual labor, taking care of cattle’s and house hold chores.
- Some more important topics are: cyber crime, pornography, sexual harassment at work places and equal wages.
- Care economy: women take care of family, act as support system, center of family and also carrier of culture.
- Source of education: they are closest to young children, they are first to introduce value, education, and atticates.
- According to United Nations Development Programme index, Gender Inequality Index released in 2019 India’s MMR (maternal mortality rate, deaths due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth) is 174 per one lakh, adolescent birthrate (births to women aged 15-19, per 1,000 women) is 13.
- Economic survey on gender equality- decline in violence, employment, education improved- Son preference- sex selective abortion and differential survival led to skewed sex ratio, leading to 63 million “missing women
- As UN report World Population Prospects, 2019- India expected to cross China by 2027 (Empowering women can help control population)
- Government focus on topics such as: reproduction rights, equal wage, development, demographic decline, sex ratio, low literacy rate, child marriage, domestic violence, dowry, eve tease, child rape victims.
- Acts- Abolition of dowry, Abolition of child marriage, Natal commission for women, 1922 (reviewing laws and regulation for women)
- Chipko andolan, Narmada bachao were women centred.
- There are only 13% seats occupied by women in Indian parliament: with some numbered politicians are Sarojani Naidu, Indra Gandhi, Shila dixit and Sushma Swaraj (India is having reservation to women of 33% in local bodies only and no reservation at higher levels)
- Reservation in representation, Odisha government is promoting Lok Sabha reservation and also gender just policies.
Empowerment includes the action of raising the status of women through education, raising awareness, literacy, and training and also give training related to self defense. Women’s empowerment is all about equipping and allowing women to make life-determining decisions through the different problems in society. Some scholars says Empowerment is the ‘process of existing power relation and gaining greater control over source of power.’ Women empowerment, introduce in women conference in 1985 at Nairobi (that defines redistribution of resources in favor of women). Indian government is also carrying out a project called Stree Swabhiman Project to create sustainable model to provide affordable sanitary products in rural India.
Parameters of women empowerment
- Raising self-esteem and confidence to get equal wages, rights, freedom to move and travel, freedom to spend and enabling them to make informed choices. Government could play its role by ensuring enforcement of constitutional and legal provisions to safeguard women’s right.
- Eliminate discrimination and all form of violence against women- Develop them as more aware individuals.
- Building and strengthening partnership with civil society particularly women’s organizations
- Building positive image in society, recognize there social, economical and political contribution and let them develop ability of critical thinking and foster decision making ability.
If all women participated in GDP, it will rise by 27%. However, workforce participation of female is decreasing from 35% in 1989 to 27% in 2014. (coronavirus time- 25%) To promote women entrepreneurship many schemes like Stand up India, Pradhan Mantri mudra Yojana and Mahila Electronic haat- marketing etc. SHG (under NABARD) emerged during late 1980 and 90s to address poverty and gender-based discrimination, maternity leaves are also increase from 12-26 weeks. Government is also trying to establish hostels for working women and allow access to credit for income generating activities that will gradually improve economic and social advancement of women. And MSME also provide trade related entrepreneurship assistance and development under TREAD.
To empower women, the government should create a national network of public, private, and NGOs to deliver reproductive and child health services for free such as contraceptive delivery services, gender sensitization training in schools, colleges, and other professional institutions. Open more child care centers for working women and ensure the availability of safe abortion care. Improve accessibility and quality of maternal and child health care services and also guardianship and custody of children and their maintenance. Develop health management and health package at all levels. Organize educational and empowerment programs to aware society and improve access to sanitation, drinking water, fuel, wood, and fodder. Promote experimentation and innovations in problems and programs to empower rural women.
How moment developed in India
- First wave During national moment- mass mobilization
- National conference for women in India, was established in 1923 and after then in 1927 All India women conferences and efforts were also made to empower women during non-corporation moment, civil dis-obedience and quit India moment etc.
- That time they were fighting for just and equal society, learning to came out of house, and agitate for their and national rights.
- Second wave from 1960s on-wards
- There was resurgence of political activity
- Many women of All India women conference, Young women Christian association, Self employed women association- SEWA were asking for equal wages and also attacking sources of society oppression.
- Third wave was around 1970s
- Organizations were fighting for domestic violence, unequal distribution of rights, employment.
- 1980s main focus area were development of women who were left behind, and India also going through problem of caste issue, and honor killing.
- 1990- main focus areas were work environment, daily survival, caste issue within gender issue, empowerment and increasing political participation (73&74 amendment- 33% reservation in local government) and awareness about gender rights.
There are many Organizations in India
- All India women’s conference, 1927– it fight for monogamy, Inter community marriage, Legislative rights, adoption, divorce, etc (Kamla devi chatopadhyay and Vijay laxmi pandit are some famous names related to AIWC)
- National federation of Indian women, 1954
- National conference for women in India, 1923– to improve educational efforts for women and children and has expanded its scope to also tackle other women’s rights issues.
- All India democratic women association, 1981
- Young women Christian association, 1855– it works for the empowerment, leadership and rights of women, young women and girls in more than 100 countries
- Centre for Health, Education, Training & Nutrition Awareness- CHETNA, 1984– it is working towards the taking care of health, nutrition of women, children and young people.
- Self-Employed Women’s Association- SEWA, 1972- promotes the rights of low-income, independently employed female.
United Nations development fund for women, 1976
It provides financial and technical assistance to innovative approaches of women aimed at fostering empowerment and gender equality. Today the organization’s work touches the lives of women and girls in more than 100 countries. It help in acquiring knowledge, develop sense of self-worth, understand gender relation and the way they could be changed and challenge the ideology of male domination. Enable women to gain equal access and control over resources (material, human and intellectual).
Now is the time to have a look on governments efforts:
- Pre-conception and Diagnostic Technique Act, 1974– to stop female foeticides and arrest the declining sex ratio in India
- The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971– to provide for the termination of certain pregnancies upto 20 week for normal and 24 week for rape victims by registered Medical Practitioners. It also provide access to maternal care to safe abortions and contraceptives and create awareness for adolescent sexuality and prohibition of forced sterilizations.
- Mission Parivar vikas, 2017– to accelerate access to high quality family planning choices based on information, reliable services and supplies within a rights-based framework. Improve access to contraceptives through delivering assured services, dovetailing with new promotional schemes, ensuring commodity security.
- Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan, 2016- aims at boosting the health care facilities for pregnant women, especially the poor and the scheme also tries to protect pregnant ladies from infectious diseases for that they conduct free checkups on 9th of every month.
- Pradhan Mantri Matritva Vandana Yojana, 2016– to financially support and ensure better nutrition to child and mother during after pregnancy, Rs 5000 are given to beneficiary in 3 installments.
- Laqshya, 2017- will improve quality of care for pregnant women in labour room, maternity Operation Theatre and Obstetrics Intensive Care Units (ICUs) & High Dependency Units (HDUs).
- National Nutrition Mission or Poshan Abhiyan, 2020- to improve the nutritional outcomes of adolescents, children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
- Stree Swabhiman, 2018- aim is to create sustainable model for providing adolescent girls and women an access to affordable sanitary products by leveraging Common Service Centres (CSCs).
Child and Adolescence Health
- Vatsalya- Maatri Amrit Kosh, 2017- protect, promote and support breastfeeding and support to mothers through dedicated lactation counsellors. The project will act as the teaching, training and demonstration site for other milk banks to be established under the Ministry Of Health and Family Welfare.
- Project Dhoop, 2018– urges schools to shift their morning assembly to noon time, mainly between 11 am and 1 pm to ensure maximum absorption of Vitamin D in students through natural sunlight
- Mission Indradhanush, 2018- to ensure full immunization with all available vaccines for children up to two years of age and pregnant women.
Supreme Court rulings and other data
- Triple Talaq case of Shayara Bano case, 2017 supreme court declare “Triple Talaq” unconstitutional and also make it cognizable and non-bailable offence under Muslim women bill, 2017. The supreme court also provide property rights to daughters by birth, allow temple (Sabarimala temple) entry to women of menstruating age.
- Physical Molestation- under Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 (>16 yr) if heinous offence is done by under 18, person will be treated as adult. Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018- Increased punishment in rape of girl under 16 yr age.
- The judgement dealt with the statutory scheme of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. It has allowed women fighting domestic violence cases the right to reside in the ‘shared household’ even if her husband had no legal right to the house and the same was owned by the father-in-law or mother-in-law.
- Least Reported Form of Cruel Behavior: The court noted that the domestic violence in India is rampant yet underreported. Women in India faced violence and discrimination in one form or the other in their various roles as daughter, sister, wife, mother, partner or single woman. The National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16) (NFHS-4) suggests that 30% women in India in the age group of 15-49 have experienced physical violence.
- As per the UN Women, globally in 2019-20, 243 million women and girls (aged 15-49) across the world have been subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner. Less than 40% of women who experience violence seeking help of any sort or reporting the crime.
Government should support with affirmative initiatives for eg reservations, may results to increasing female political participation and better responsiveness of states to crime against women and harassment. Availability of suitable jobs such as healthcare workers, and teachers. Both societal norms for behavior and the built environment affect a woman’s safety in public spaces. Knowledge of women’s issues might begin to make a shift in the way women are treated and respected in the society. While retaliation and rejecting the notion that it is okay to be inappropriately treated in public is perhaps a beginning, the journey is much longer. A crucial step is to generate more awareness about women’s safety issues in public spaces.
The behavior and attitudes of the society cannot be transformed overnight, but the built environment can be controlled and can be used as a medium for change. As a beginning we can start with creating favorable urban infrastructure, like proper lighting on the public places, safe and secure urban transportation, installing CCTV cameras at places thought to be prone to sexual violence etc. Setting up of specially designed courts (Fast Track Courts) for trying cases of violence against women.
Unlike the cases of sexual molestation registered in police stations, there is a large portion of women in India who are subjected to rape and other forms of sexual assault on a daily basis and still their cases go unnoticed. These women are the unfortunate wives who have to indulge in sexual intercourse with their husbands even if they don’t want. They don’t actually have a say in front of their husbands when it comes to sex, they have to comply with the needs and demands of their husbands.
(Pictures from google)