DRAFT NATIONAL POLICY FOR WOMEN
Aiming at bridging the gender gap, the central government in 2016 came up with a draft National Policy for Women. The proposed legislation aims at creating a conducive socio-cultural, economic and political environment for women; mainstreaming gender for all round development; a holistic and life-cycle approach to women’s health for appropriate, affordable and quality health care; and improving and incentivizing women and girls to universal and quality education.
Besides, it also envisages increasing and incentivizing workforce participation of women in the economy; equal participation in social, political and economic spheres, including in institutions of governance and decision making; transforming discriminatory societal attitudes, mindsets with community involvement and engagement of men and developing a gender sensitive legal-judicial system.
The other objectives of the draft policy include, elimination of all forms of violence against women through policy strengthening, legislations, programmes, institutions and community engagement; development and empowerment of women belonging to vulnerable and marginalize groups; building and strengthening stakeholder partnerships in women empowerment; and strengthening, monitoring, evaluation, audit and data system to bridge gender gaps.
The proposed legislation has also set up priority areas like health, education, economy, governance and decision making, violence against women, enabling environment, and environment and climate change.
BETI BACHAO, BETI PADHAO SCHEME
Aiming at creating a large scale awareness programme to reduce the preference for male children and empower girls through education, the Ministry of Women and Child Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Human Resource Development in 2015 rolled out the ambitious ‘Beti bachao, beti padhao’ (Save daughters, educate daughters) scheme.
The broad objective of the programme is to prevent selective gender elimination, protection and survival of girl child and ensuring their overall right to development through proper education and participation in every area of development.
The programme aims at challenging the thought process of a person to counter the regressive age-old patriarch-centric mindset, which considers men as supreme human beings.
LEGISLATION TO BOOST WOMEN SAFETY & INCLUSION
The Government is making very conscious effort to bring women at par with the men in sync with the Article 14 and Article 15 of the Indian Constitution through progressive women specific legislation and Act, namely, Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal ) Act, 2013, The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987, The Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994, The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (Amended in 1986), The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 and women related legislation, such as, The Indian Penal Code, 1860 and The Evidence Act,1872.
The Government initiatives towards empowerment have been considered as an enabling process to achieve both social and economic independence. Ensuring gender equality, and combating discrimination and violence against women are integral to our national pursuit of forging inclusive society and development. Criminal Law (Amendment), Act 2013, which has been enacted to make the punishment more stringent for offences like rape and has broadened the definition of sexual assault and harassment. New offences like acid attack, sexual harassment, voyeurism and stalking, disrobing a woman, have been incorporated in the Indian Penal Code. The Act has also made provisions for greater accountability of public officials including the health care providers for immediate relief to the woman affected by violence.
In order to ensure women’s safety pertaining to the strategic areas of prevention, protection and rehabilitation, Government has established a Nirbhaya Fund under which, the key programmatic interventions have been made and so far, 15 proposals amounting to around Rs. 2000 crore have been recommended under the Nirbhaya Fund. These include the ‘One Stop Centres’ for facilitating/providing medical aid, police assistance, legal counselling/ court case management, psycho social counselling and temporary shelter to women affected by violence, women Helpline for providing 24- hour emergency and non-emergency response, Investigative Units for Crime against Women (IUCAW) in all police districts of the country, installation of CCTV surveillance cameras in coaches to strengthen security on trains, National Emergency Response System, creation of Central Victim Compensation Fund (CVCF), Cyber Crime Prevention against Women & Children (CCPWC) and so on.
To increase the visibility of women in the police force, 33 per cent reservation has been made for women in the police force, in UTs and some states. There has been an increasing emphasis on gender sensitivity of police force through training programmes, performance appraisal, women police stations to tackle crime against women.
Control over women’s sexuality is another area which needs to be studied, understood and addressed. Early marriages, purdah, restrictions on women’s mobility, which are all ways of controlling women’s sexuality, have drastic implications for the freedom and autonomy of girls and women. Education of women is indeed the most important component and intervention for women’s empowerment, provided both the contents and methodology of this education are pro-women.
THE BIG PICTURE
Gender parity is of paramount importance as it is the bedrock on which the social liberalization of women rests. Despite various programmes and projects available to speed up the process of women empowerment, there still remains a huge gender gap. Data suggest that women schemes may still be a long way from addressing India’s bias against girl child.
The sex ratio in the country as a whole is not favorable for women. Statistics show that males still outnumber females. The big reason for this skewed ratio is India’s strong preference for male children. The 2017-18 Economic Survey states that male preference results in families having children until they have a son and, consequently, there are 21 million ‘unwanted’ girls in India. This very fact puts a big question mark on the effectiveness of control mechanisms to prevent gender discrimination.
Addressing gender inequality requires a multi-pronged approach. Women empowerment programmes cannot work in isolation. The effective enforcement of such initiatives can only happen when there is active participation and compliance by citizens and stake holders of various acts such as the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, the Right to Education Act and various other legislations.
The need is to put women at the centre, woman’s productive work is the thread that weaves a society together. When you have work, you have an incentive to maintain a stable society. You not only think of the future, but you plan for the future. You can build assets that reduce your vulnerability. You can invest in the next generation. Life is no longer just about survival, but about investing in a better future. Holistic and critical empowerment of women is the need of the hour wherein all stakeholders should have synergy for concrete action on the ground, for which both women and men will have to work together in collaborative approach.
Let us unite together to salute the spirit of womanhood and to achieve the objective of 2020 theme of International Women Day ‘‘I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights.”