Woman in ancient India was an epitome of strength and worshipped in the form of Goddess. Trend of worshipping is still there but except for this scenario in modern India seems to be entirely different where woman is regarded as a second grade citizen. Gender discrimination, gang rapes with girl and women of every age, acid attacks and other kinds of violence against women are happening in every city of India. It is hard to figure out why and what has changed the status of women in India and when it became such a flashy issue. Though every media is extensively covering the subject, but has the topic women empowerment becomes just a fashionable one with more of hype and less of substance?
Women empowerment is used both in general and specific sense. In general sense it means making women self dependent and giving them all the freedoms and opportunities. In a specific sense, women empowerment means improving the position of women in the society’s power structure.
In reality crime against women is on rise in India. Reports by the National Crime Records Bureau are the real eye openers which throw light on the total number of different crimes against women. In year 2006 number of reported cases of rape were 19,348 whereas the number rose to 24,923 in 2012. Reported cases of dowry deaths in 2006 were 7,618 and in 2012 these were 8,233. Similarly, rise in other crimes against women such as torture, molestation, sexual harassment, immoral trafficking, importation of girls, kidnapping and abduction has also been reported.
Roadblocks to women empowerment
Extremely low rate of women literacy is the major curse and roadblock to women empowerment in India. Our country has shown growth in many sectors but still a major gap between the education level of women as compared to men exists. In India 65.46% of adult women are literate where as the percentage in case of male is 82.14%.
Another hurdle is the denial of women’s participation in the family decisions. Family is making women dependable and forcing a second grade status on her. She should be encouraged to take part in the decision making process.
Poverty in India is plaguing many issues and posing the greatest threat. Condition of poor women is far pitiable than their middle class or rich counterparts as far as women empowerment is concerned. Widespread poverty leads to the exploitation of women. Sex slaves, selling girls and women, forced marriage and more crimes of these kinds are directly linked to poverty. State of Andhra Pradesh, which is a home to many rural poor, accounts for the half of the sex trafficking cases in India.
An important factor that determines the empowerment of women in India is the health and wellbeing of females. But maternal health in India is still in a shocking state. Though the maternal mortality rate (MMR) is dropping but India has to cover a long way. According to the data released by the Registrar General of India, there is a 16% drop in MMR in 2011-12 as compared to 2007-09. On the other hand UNICEF’s website has updated that there is a decrease in the child mortality rate but neonatal and maternal mortality is almost the same in the South Asian countries. In the new born deaths, contribution of India is a quarter of the world total. Mother’s health plays a vital role in MMR. It can be improved by providing nutritious diet during pregnancy. This is possible only if India works hard to eradicate poverty. NGOs and government are working towards it but still lot more is required to be done.
What steps are being taken to empower women in India?
Women are the building blocks of our society. She must be made strong for a stronger society and her status should come at par with men. To promote gender equality and to empower women in India, the United Nations Development Programme created Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Out of eight goals, the third MDG is constituted for India. Target was to achieve gender equality in primary and secondary education by 2005 but India failed to achieve the said target. Next target is to eliminate gender disparity in all levels of education by 2015. This is still a big challenge.
Certain changes have also been made in the Constitution of India. Woman has been given the right to divorce under certain circumstances in the modified Hindu Marriage Act. Daughter of the family has been provided with the right in the property of her parents under the Hindu Succession Act.
In 1985 government took a step for the overall development of women and children by creating the department of the Ministry for Women and Child Development under the Ministry of Human Resource Development. In 2006 this department was upgraded to the status of a Ministry. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 was enacted by the Ministry. It also brought in a unique law – the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. It launched several schemes for the welfare of women and children such as the Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (RGSEAG), Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme etc.
Within the Ministry of Women and Child Development is the department of the National Commission for Women. The objective of setting this department was to help women through the Constitution.
Actual picture of women empowerment in India
Though government is taking all the necessary steps to empower women but something is still lacking and creating a gap between the constitutional position and the realty. Because of this gap it can be said that concept of empowering women in India looks more of hype and less of substance.
An Indian woman is still deprived of her rights. In addition to this there is a demographic difference. Most of the aroma of liberation is enjoyed by the urban woman but not by her rural counterpart. Rural women and even some of the urban are living a miserable life, entangled in poverty, superstitions and slavery. Still there is a huge gap between the Laws made and their enforcement.
For the empowerment, she must be made economically independent. Without such independence all the laws, schemes and policies for her welfare would merely be written documents.
Mindset of the people especially male towards women is also a challenge. It needs a huge change. At the same time value and behavior system of the society should certainly undergo transformation to incorporate new thinking.
Above all women must empower themselves to actually change their status in the society then only women empowerment will happen in realty but not in illusion.
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