Status of Women in India Issues since 1991




Status of Women in India Issues since 1991:

The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles. The Constitution not only grants equality as a fundamental right to women but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. Despite this, women continue to face discrimination. Some of the important gender-related issues in the Indian context are as follows:

1. Economic inequality:

The major problem that India faces is a high level of the male-female wage gap. Similarly, the participation of women in the labour market is also as low as 28.2% compared to the men which is 78.8%.

2. Trafficking and exploitation:

A 2013 UN Office on Drug and Crime report highlighted that women from India were trafficked for forced marriage. They are often “exploited, denied basic rights, duplicated as maids and eventually abandoned.''

3. Literacy rate:

The literacy rate of women in India is low as compared to men. As per the Census Report 2011, the male literacy rate is 82.14%, whereas female literacy rate is 65.46%.

4. Political representation:

The low percentage of women in Parliament and State Assemblies has been one of the problems since independence.

Find out?

Find out the number of women representatives in the 17th Lok Sabha. In India, within the framework of a democratic polity, laws, development policies, plans and programmes have aimed at women’s advancement in different spheres. The Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB) was established in 1953 to carry out welfare activities for the general welfare of family, women and children.

The initial approach to women’s issues in India can be described as a ‘welfare approach’. The focus was on community development through Mahila Mandals, protection of women against injurious work, provide maternity and child care benefits, etc. In the 1960s the emphasis was on education as a welfare strategy. Health programmes concentrated on maternity and child services, health education and nutrition and family planning. In the 1970s the approach towards women’s issues shifted from ‘welfare’ to ‘development’. The 1970s was the United Nations’ Decade for Women. The Report of the Committee on the Status of Women in India titled ‘Towards Equality’ talked of rights and status of women in the context of changing social and economic conditions in India. The 1980s saw a further change in the approach towards women in India. Now the focus was on health, education and employment.

The 1990s saw a shift from ‘development’ to ‘empowerment’. The government wanted to ensure that the benefits of development do not bypass women and therefore their participation in planning and implementation was necessary. The National Commission for Women was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1990 to safeguard the rights and legal entitlements of women. The 73rd and 74th Amendments (1993) to the Constitution of India have provided for reservation of seats in the local bodies of Panchayats and Municipalities for women, laying a strong foundation for their participation in decision making at the local levels.

The socio-cultural landscape for women is a complex mixture of the old and the new. Industrialisation, globalisation, urbanisation, and modernisation have led to major changes in the lifestyle of women. On the one hand, liberalisation has provided better opportunities for women in terms of education, jobs, and decision-making power. On the other hand, increased violence, wage differences and discrimination continue. Change in social norms and mindsets can be brought through institutional initiatives. This involves the family, community, religious and educational institutions. It can initiate, strengthen, and implement economic and social policies for gender equality.

The Department of Women and Child Development, Government of India, came into existence as a separate Ministry in 2006. Earlier since 1985, it was a Department under the Ministry of Human Resources Development. The Ministry was constituted with the prime intention of addressing gaps in State action for women and children and to create gender equitable and child-centred legislation, policies and programmes. The Ministry aims at achieving empowerment of women living with dignity and contributing as equal partners in development in an environment free from violence and discrimination.

The Ministry has prepared the National Policy for the Empowerment of Women (2001) and the Draft of the National Policy for Women (2016) that seeks to articulate a vision for empowerment of women. Various important legislations are passed by the Indian legislature in recent years. These include the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005; the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prohibition, Prevention and Redressal) Act, 2013; Muslim Women (Protection of Right on Marriage) Act, 2019.

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