|Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual introduction.
Body. Discuss various initiatives taken so far by the Government towards gender equality in India. Why these initiatives have limited impact?
Conclusion. Way forward.
The reality of gender inequality in India is very complex and diversified. Gender equality and women’s empowerment have been recognised as key not only for the health of nations, but also of their social and economic development. Toward this, Article 14 and Article 15 envision for the equality to women, 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments have provided 33% reservation for women in Panchayati Elections and many schemes and initiatives were launched by the government.
Various initiatives taken so far by the Government towards gender equality in India:
- Equal Remuneration Act, 1973 provides for payment of equal remuneration to men and women workers for the same work of similar nature without any discrimination. In order to ensure social security to the workers, including women in the unorganised sector, the Government has enacted the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act 2008.
- The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 regulates employment of women in certain establishments for a certain period before and after childbirth and provides for maternity and other benefits.
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 has been enacted, which covers all women, irrespective of their age or employment status and protect them against sexual harassment at all workplaces both in public and private sector, whether organised or unorganised.
- Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, makes women absolute owners of their properties. The Act was amended in 2005 to give equal rights to women regarding inheritance of family property.
- Support to Training and Employment Program for Women (STEP) to ensure sustainable employment and income generation for marginalised and asset-less rural and urban poor women across the country.
- Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) to provide microfinance services to bring about the socio-economic upliftment of poor women.
- National Mission for Empowerment of Women (NMEW) to strengthen the overall processes that promote all-round Development of Women.
- One Stop Centre to provide integrated support and assistance to women affected by violence.
- Sabla Scheme for holistic development of adolescent girls in the age group of 11-18 years.
- Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) Scheme is being implemented as Conditional Maternity Benefit for pregnant and lactating women to improve health and nutrition status to better enabling environment by providing cash incentives to pregnant and nursing mothers to partly compensate wage loss both prior to and after delivery.
- Beti Bachao Beti Padhao(BBBP): To address the declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) and related issues of empowerment of women over a life-cycle continuum. It is a tri-ministerial effort of Ministries of Women and Child Development, Health & Family Welfare and Human Resource Development.
- Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), (erstwhile Maternity Benefit Programme) to contribute towards better enabling environment by providing cash incentives for improved health and nutrition to pregnant and nursing mothers.
- National Nutrition Mission (NNM): aims to attain a “Suposhit Bharat” and has also the objective of improving the nutritional status of pregnant women and lactating mothers and reducing anaemia among women along with children.
- Mahila e-Haat, a unique direct online digital marketing platform for women entrepreneurs/ SHGs/ NGOs,
- Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra, which will empower rural women through community participation to create an environment in which they realize their full potential,
Why these initiatives have limited impact?
- Limited role: Women in Indian culture is shown as one with limited role of homemaker with status of mother, sister and wife. This lead to discrimination of women and inequalities.
- Illiteracy: It is a big hindrance for various government initiatives. Lack of education in women has lead to poor literacy leading to the ender gap in literacy rate and higher education. Literacy rate of India in 2011 is 74%. The Male literacy rate is about 82% and Female literacy rate is 65.5% according to Census 2011 showing wide gender gap regarding literacy.
- Social bottlenecks: Detrimental cultural practices like after marriage husbands dominating the family, never or rarely considered for any decision making, early marriage, patriarchal attitudes are also contributing factor to the persistent inequality.
- Gender equality seen in isolation: Various policies and initiatives focus only on one gender and try to empower women without focusing on the opposite gender. This leads to the continuation of patriarchal mindset and hence inequalities.
- Law design: The laws made are gender biased rather than gender neutral laws. Gender neutral laws would have better outcomes in reducing gender gap. For example, maternity benefit act provide provisions only regarding maternity leave and there is no provision for paternity benefits, which is equally important when it comes to nurture a child.
- Poor political representation: Without political representation, gender equality can’t be achieved. Political empowerment make women decisive and aware of women’s rights. Hardly any steps for political representation of women. An Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women report, ‘Women in Politics 2017’ report that Lok Sabha have 64 (11.8% of 542 MPs) and Rajya Sabha 27 (11% of 245 MPs) women MPs.
- Women literacy gap must be reduced by ensuring the safety of the women in the schools and through better infrastructure.
- Increasing women’s economic independence through improving financial literacy, access to financial services and assisting women to develop their employment prospects is important.
- It is important to work on vulnerable populations to enable the realisation of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
- Skill development through life skills education for low-income women equipping them with knowledge, skills and an understanding of their rights and entitlements enabling them to manage their lives better.
- Improving the prevention of violence and violence response systems through community-based mechanisms and concerted sensitisation mechanisms.
- The meaningful involvement of women and men affected by gender-based violence in the design and delivery of services and advocacy and policy response through the provision of technical assistance should be encouraged.
Gender equality should encompass men and women both. There is a need for change in societal mindset. Men and women should respect each other. Real education begins at home. It is the duty of parents and teachers to incorporate healthy values right from a young age.