Monday, February 11, 2013

Women Empowerment - Part 1

India cannot develop leaving women behind. The development of the agency of women as Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze note is not only a means of development but also the end of development as what is development with half of our population living a life of inequality (actually with falling female male ratio, I take pain while referring to women as half the population).

Some Facts to start with
New intensive production techniques tended to prioritise men’s labour over women’s have tweaked the division of labour that existed in the hunter-gatherer societies where men used to hunt and women used to gather argues Chris Harman in his book ‘A People’s History of The World’. With India eyeing on higher GDP growth rate and declining female male ratio can we co-relate Chir Haris view with the societal need of growing economic productivity  in order to make it more “developed”? Though the Prime Minister of India talked about “sustainability” and “inclusiveness” as two fundamentals to our growth at the recent Nation Development Council meet, but if we look into the brisk way in which we want to achieve growth is our women folk ready to take part in the making of our country?
Starting with literacy and education:
Men – 82.1 % Women – 65.5% (census 2011). The figures go on declining from primary to secondary and higher secondary levels of education and the dropout rates go on increasing.
Health and well-being:
Maternal mortality rate has come down from 254 in 2004-06 to 212 during 2007-09.
Infant mortality (number of deaths per 1000 births):
Male: 46 Female: 49
48.8% deliveries were assisted by doctors, trained ‘dais’, midwives, nurses.
Crimes against women in 2011
10.4% cases of cruelty by husband and relatives came for trail and conviction rate was in 8.3%.

The Antecedent Question
India, like other societies, has always been patriarchal society. But there are several evidences that show that women enjoyed a respectable status in our society and most of the Hindu scriptures including Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Vedas have several dialogues involving women characters. Draupadi for example in Mahabharata, after being humiliated in front of a congregation of royalty asked whether a man loses himself first or his wife? Sita decided to go back to mother earth rather than live a humiliating life in a society that questioned her purity. The “male” dominant society has to face the fierce questions of these great ladies and could do nothing but hide its face and say as “Pitamah” answered Darupadi by saying, ‘dharma sookshma hai’ (or the question of justice is subtle).
The self made Pitamah’s of today’s India argue back to the indignant Draupadis of our nation who demand 33% reservation in legislature with arguments that such a reservation will prove that men think of women as less competent and will not be an affirmative action by not addressing the real problem of criminalization of politics. I had to use the word male in double quotes in the previous paragraph as I was talking about none other but Bheesh Pitamah, undoubtedly one of the greatest men mentioned in any scriptures of this land. The present day male in India who leave the women behind and force them to remain indulged in homely works only do not deserve such comparison. The constitutional amendment bill on women reservation has been pending since 2008. Other bills like reservation for oppressed classes in government jobs get passed without much debate as, as much as they address to a serious problem, that also entails to more votes in next general elections for the ruling party. The opposition did not stand up with views of such actions not being affirmative actions and the fact the oppressed classes could not go up in governmental jobs after recruitment because of nepotism and red tapism as they do not want to alienate the people from these groups. Similar the reason behind no one going for steps like curbing subsidies in agriculture.  India can address to many problems if for once it evolves politically and the legislature starts to see beyond the next general elections only.
The question of Draupadi and the choice of Sita remain very pertinent even today. Is ours’ a society where women can live with dignity and without fear? Is a woman safe in our cities and villages?
The article is an attempt in touching various aspects of women empowerment and trying to understand the present day situation in India.

The State and Women

The Preamble to the Constitution of India enshrines the ethos of Justice and equality for all.

Political Participation
Talking about women there has been some positive development in terms of women coming together and actively participating in national debates on different fora. Organizations such as (All India Democratic Women’s Association) AIDWA (a women wing of CPI(M)), (Mahila Dakshata Samiti) MDS, All India Coordination Committee for working women and the Joint Women’s Programme (JWP). Also two informal fora have emerged – Forum for Women Politics and Forum for National Women’s Organization. Each of these organizations have promoted lateral networks, making effort of bring members together through workshops, regular visits, conventions campaigns. (Ramaswamy 1997).
Since the liberalization on Indian economy and the abdication of social responsibilities by the state to non-governmental organizations (NGOs).since 1990s, empowerment has become a prerequisite for productive investment. Empowerment of women is one of the millennium development goals. India has been taking several steps in addressing the needs and aspirations of women.
Some women have grown in prominence on the political turf. Chief among them are – Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati, Jayalalitha, Mamata Banerjee, Sushma Swaraj, Bindra Karat, Mehbooba Mufti, Meera Kumar. Though these are just few names but one can see the diverse backgrounds from which these leaders have come. Sonia Gandhi came very late to politics and she came to politics and received public love and respect with her husband and former Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi’s image very vivid in the minds of the people, who was assassinated in early 1984. She showed considerable leadership skills and was offered Prime Ministerial position which she refused to take amidst growing opposition for her being of foreign origin. Sushma Swaraj on the other hand is a flamboyant leader of BJP. She comes from Haryana, a state with lowest female to male ratio, she has 36 years long political career. Mayawati, the miracle of democracy as former prime minister P.V. Narsimha Rao called her, is a four times chief minister of the most populous state of India (U.P.). He comes from a dalit family and is actively involved in addressing the problems of the oppressed class. One can credit her for not letting a Naxalbari happen in Uttar Pradesh, a state that is majorly dependent of agriculture and had feudal landlord structure since pre-colonial era. Jayalalitha (known as Puratchi Thalaivi  “revolutionary leader”) was a famous movie actress before entering in politics. Mamata Banerjee coming from a lower middle class family, grew to prominence and is now the Chief Minister of West Bengal. In 2012 Time magazine named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Mehbooba Mufti Saeed is Jammu Kashmir People’s Democratic Party. She is daughter of former Chief Minister of J&K.
One can easily see the diverse background from which these leaders have come from. In a highly unequal society of present day India, divided on class, creed and caste, one can say that homogenising the women cause is always fraught with danger of alienation and non-representativeness of the women movement in India (Anupama Roy).

Amartya Sen: Missing Women and  women agency

Missing women” – a concept developed by Amartya Sen (1990, 1992) – refers to the observation that in parts of the developing world, notably in India and China, the ratio of women to men is suspiciously low. Sen translated those skewed sex ratios into absolute numbers by calculating the number of extra women who would have been alive (say in China or India) if these countries had the same ratio of women to men as in areas of the world in which they purportedly receive similar care. Sen estimated that more than 100 million women were “missing”, presumably from inequality and neglect leading to excess female mortality.

Sen argues that female infanticide cannot alone be the reason behind the falling female male ratio. When we talk about the female child deaths in the age group of 0-5 years, as infanticide occurs just after child birth one have to look into the cause of deaths that occur after 1 year of age. In our society, in general, the male child gets better health and nutritional care. There is a bias in the upbringing of the children and the male child of the family get preference over the female  and this is the major reason behind the fact that female child either dies before reaching the age of 5 years or grows up suffering from anaemia many a times.

Taking about the “women agency”, Amartya Sen says that “The agency role of women had a direct bearing on women’s well-being”. Sen argues that there is correlation between infant mortality and female empowerment. The more empowered a woman is the more is the chance of survival of the new born and proper upbringing of the children. The different aspects (women’s earning power, economic role outside the family, literacy and education, property rights and so on) may at first sight appear to be rather diverse and disparate. Buut what they all have in common is their positive contribution in adding force to the women’s voice and agency – through independence and empowerment.

The agency role of women is also particularly important for the reduction of fertility rate. (Amartya Sen). Women agency can help in promoting child survival and to reduce fertility rates.

The Government of India and Women Development

There are some impressive steps being taken by the Indian government to address the problems faced by women. I discuss many of them one by one in brevity.


The Government of India has been implementing various schemes and programmes for the welfare and empowerment of women in the areas of poverty alleviation, skill up-gradation, micro credit, development and sustainable income generation, science and technology, education, health services, awareness generation, legal literacy and support services.

Indira Mahila Yojana

The scheme was introduced in 1995. The programme seeks to organise the women’s development at aganwadi lvel in Indira mahila kendras where their need is identified, prioritised and evolved into micro plans. These plans are combined at the block level and then at the district level district plans are formulated. The institutional mechanism helps improve women participation. The spectrum if services at the Indira Mahila Kendra are:
·         Easier access to credit available for women in government schemes
·         Preparation of sub-plan for women
·         Information sharing
·         Awareness and confidence building
·         Creation of opinion groups
·         Raising of resources

The objectives of the scheme are:- To improve the health and nutrition status of pregnant, lactating women and infants by:
i. Promoting appropriate practices, care and service utilisation during pregnancy, safe delivery and lactation
ii. Encouraging the women to follow (optimal) IYCF practices including early and exclusive breast feeding for six months
iii. Contributing to better enabling environment by providing cash incentives for improved health and nutrition to pregnant and nursing mothers



·         To mobilise women in small viable groups and make facilities available though and access to credit.
·         To provide training for skill upgradation.
·         To enable groups of women to take up employment-cum-income generation programs by providing backward and forward linkages.
·         To provide support services for further improving training and employment conditions for women.

The Swashakti, Rural Women’s Development and  Empowerment Project in 57 Districts of 9 States for a period of 5 years. About 17647 SHGs have been formed under the project so far, enabling about 243,962 women to enhance their confidence and to increase their control over income through their involvement in skill development and income generating activities.  By March 2004, nearly Rs.3904 million had been disbursed to about 1.1 million SHGs formed under the Support and Linkage Programme launched by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). About 90 per cent of these groups are exclusive women’s groups.  Micro-finance institutions have increased outreach and NGOs have promoted SHGs at the village level.

Swadhar (launched in the year 2001)

It is an innovative approach catering to the requirements of women in difficult circumstances. It specially focuses on the rehabilitation of sex workers, women/girls offered to temples, viz., devadasis, basavis, joginis, women/ girls in social and moral danger, destitute/young/elderly widows, displaced women, single women, women-headed households, women affected by natural calamities and other women in distress in diverse situations under difficult conditions. The scheme provides shelter, counseling and training for those women in difficult circumstances who do not have any social and economic support.

Swayamsidha (launched in the year 2001)

It is an integrated program for the empowerment of women through the net work of self help groups of women by ensuring their direct access to and control over resources.  It seeks to achieve convergence of all women related schemes of Central and State Governments in about 650 blocks, throughout the country.  Another important programme discussed earlier of the DWCD is the Support to Training and Empowerment Programme (STEP). This programme provides updated skills and knowledge to poor and asset-less women in traditional sector, such as dairying, animal husbandry, sericulture, handlooms, social forestry, etc.

The  Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) (since its registration in 1993)

It has established its credentials as the premier micro-credit agency with its focus on women and their economic empowerment through the provisions of credit to poor and asset-less women in the informal sector. It has sanctioned about Rs. 1544 million and disbursed about Rs.1182 million benefiting about 507,650 women through 1130 NGOs, as on September 2004.

The Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY)

It aims at bringing beneficiary families above the poverty line by providing them with income-generating assets through a mix of bank credit and Government subsidy. Although 40 per cent of the benefits under this scheme have been earmarked for women, as on 31st March 2005, the percentage share of women benefited under this scheme reached 48.44. About 2 million SHGs have been formed under this scheme since 1st April 1999, of which 1.36 million are exclusively by women. A cumulative sum of Rs.29431.7 million has been disbursed as credit to 220,000 self-help groups for taking up income generating activities, benefiting 90,000 families. The Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (SGRY) endeavours to create 30 per cent of the employment opportunities for women. Between 1st April 2001 and 31st   March 2005, 2873.4 million mandays have been generated, benefiting 761.1 million women (26.49 per cent). 

The Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) stipulates that houses under the scheme be allotted in the name of the woman or in the joint names of the spouses.

The National Maternity Benefit Scheme aims at assisting the expectant mother by providing Rs. 500 each for the first two live births. This has recently been revamped as the Janani Suraksha Yojana.

The Rural Sanitation Programme ensures construction of village sanitary complexes exclusively for women, where individual latrines are not feasible. 

Under the Urban Self-employment Programme (USEP) of Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY) assistance is provided to the urban poor, especially women, living below the urban poverty line. Efforts taken by the Government have yielded results in reducing poverty to 26 per cent in 2000 as against 50 per cent in the year 1973. The absolute number of people living below poverty line has come down to 260 million in 2000.

The Government acknowledges that the ever increasing violence against women is yet another manifestation of low and unequal status of women. The Central Government, in its 10th plan has committed to address the problem of violence against women on top priority basis through a well-planned Programme of Action with short and long-term measures  at the National and State levels. Besides, it also aims at bringing about necessary amendments in the Indian Penal Code and other related legislations.  Initiating efforts in close collaboration with the committed NGOs to bring forth societal orientation is yet another intervention proposed during the 10th plan.


Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, (Come into Force on 26/10/2006)

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
The salient features of the Protection from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 are as follows:
·         The Act seeks to cover those women who are or have been in a relationship with the abuser where both parties have lived together in a shared household and are related by consanguinity, marriage or a relationship in the nature of marriage, or adoption; in addition relationship with family members living together as a joint family are also included. Even those women who are sisters, widows, mothers, single women, or living with the abuser are entitled to get legal protection under the proposed Act.
·         "Domestic violence" includes actual abuse or the threat of abuse that is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic. Harassment by way of unlawful dowry demands to the woman or her relatives would also be covered under this definition.
·         One of the most important features of the Act is the woman’s right to secure housing. The Act provides for the woman’s right to reside in the matrimonial or shared household, whether or not she has any title or rights in the household. This right is secured by a residence order, which is passed by a court. These residence orders cannot be passed against anyone who is a woman.
·         The other relief envisaged under the Act is that of the power of the court to pass protection orders that prevent the abuser from aiding or committing an act of domestic violence or any other specified act, entering a workplace or any other place frequented by the abused, attempting to communicate with the abused, isolating any assets used by both the parties and causing violence to the abused, her relatives and others who provide her assistance from the domestic violence.
·         The draft Act provides for appointment of Protection Officers and NGOs to provide assistance to the woman w.r.t medical examination, legal aid, safe shelter, etc.
·         The Act provides for breach of protection order or interim protection order by the respondent as a cognizable and non-bailable offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to twenty thousand rupees or with both. Similarly, non-compliance or discharge of duties by the Protection Officer is also sought to be made an offence under the Act with similar punishment.

The Act not only covers physical harassment but also mental harassment.

Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961                                

The payment of a dowry was prohibited in 1961 under Indian civil law and subsequently by Sections 304B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code.

Indecent Representation of Women
The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act was passed by Indian parliament in 1986. This prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisement or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner.

The Commision of Sati (Preventation) Act and rules

National Commission for Women Act

The Medical Termination Of Pregnancy Act, 1971:

During the last thirty years many countries have liberalized their abortion laws. The worldwide process of liberalization continued after 1980. Today only 8% of the world's population lives in countries where the law prevents abortion. Although the majority of countries have very restricted abortion laws, 41% of women live in countries where abortion is available on request of women. In India, Shantilal Shah Committee (1964) recommended liberalization of abortion law in 1966 to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality associated with illegal abortion. On these bases, in 1969 Medical termination of pregnancy bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha and passed by Indian Parliament in Aug. 1971. Medical Termination Of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTP Act) was implemented from Apr.1972. Implemented rules and regulations were again revised in 1975 to eliminate time consuming procedures for the approval of the place and to make services more readily available. The MTP Act, 1971 preamble states" an Act to provide for the termination of certain pregnancies by registered medical practitioners and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto".

The preamble is very clear in stating that termination of pregnancy would be permitted in certain cases. The cases in which the termination is permitted are elaborated in the Act itself. Moreover, only a registered medical practitioner who is defined in Sec.2(d) of the Act as "a medical practitioner who possess any recognize medical qualification as defined in Cl.(h) of sec.2 of the Indian Medical Register and who has such experience or training in gynecology and Obstetrics as may be prescribed by rules made under this Act" is permitted to conduct the termination of pregnancy. Also other matters connected there with the incidental thereto are incorporated, for example, the question of consent of termination of pregnancy, the place where the pregnancy could be terminated, the power to make rules and regulations in this behalf.

UN Convention:

Convention on the Elimination of all forms of  Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is often described as an international bill of rights for women.  Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, it defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.

The Convention defines discrimination against women as "...any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field."
By accepting the Convention, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including:
  • to incorporate the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women;
  • to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and
  • to ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises.
 The Convention provides the basis for realizing equality between women and men through ensuring women's equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life -- including the right to vote and to stand for election -- as well as education, health and employment.  States parties agree to take all appropriate measures, including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Convention is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations.  It affirms women's rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality and the nationality of their children.  States parties also agree to take appropriate measures against all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of women. 

Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice.  They are also committed to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations.
India Report to CEDAW:

The Constitution guarantees equality and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex. In consonance with this policy the Government has enacted various laws. The discriminatory provisions of law are being progressively reviewed. The National Commission for Women, the Department of Women and Child Development and the Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women have reviewed various laws and recommended amendments to many of the laws with the objective of promoting equality and to amend discriminatory provisions. (Article 1 Para 36).  Legislative reforms have been identified as one of the thrust areas by the Prime Minister.  An Inter-Ministerial Committee including NCW and NGOs working in this field has been constituted in May 2005 to review existing laws to address discrimination and ensure equality to women.

India is a secular country, having diverse cultures and religions and it respects the views of all the different communities based on religion, language and geographical locations. The Constitution of India (Article 44) imposes an obligation on the State to secure for its citizens  a uniform civil code. The Supreme Court, in more than one judgement has observed the need for adopting a uniform civil code so that the discriminatory provisions both for inter-religious and intra-religious groups could be eliminated. The Central Government is of the opinion that the country is not ready to adopt a uniform civil code on the heterogeneous groups. However, the Government is currently attempting to consider each of the personal laws independently to make these gender (sensitive) just by repealing the discriminatory provisions. This is a step forward towards achieving gender equality and a move towards achieving a uniform civil code. The Government in its National Empowerment Policy for Women, 2001, has committed to encourage changes in personal laws such as those related to marriage, divorce, maintenance and guardianship so as to eliminate discrimination against women, with the initiative of and with the full participation of all stake holders, including the community and religious leaders.

Budget allocations of the Dept of Women and Child Development Annual plan (Rs. in millions)
1997-98                               9,000.00
1998-99                              12,250.95
1999-00                              13,200.00
2000-01                              14,600.00
2001-02                              16,500.00
2002-03                              22,000.00
2003-04                              26,000.00
2004-05                              24,000.00
2005-06                              39,000.00

Registration of births and marriages and reservation and declarations

As stated in the Initial Report, India has ratified the Convention with two declaratory statements on Articles 5(a), 16(1) and 16(2) of the Convention. However these reservations / declarations are being reviewed. The National Population Policy, 2000 adopted by the Government of India has set the target of achieving 100 per cent registration of births and deaths by 2010. Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 provides a comprehensive system of registration across the country and makes it obligatory on the part of medical institutions, maternity homes, etc. to report events of births and deaths occurring therein directly to the concerned Registrar for registration. In case of events occurring in houses, the head of the household has been made responsible to report the event. The Act has also made certain persons responsible for notifying the Registrar with regard to the occurrence of these events.  The process of revamping the registration system in the country by modifying the forms and procedures of registration with a view to making the registration process simple, initiated in the year 1999 has been completed. This has resulted in simplified procedures and speeding up of receipts of monthly reports from the State Headquarters. Different State Governments have framed rules under the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, providing procedures for the registration of births and deaths and many States have simplified the same.

Though there is no Central legislation for compulsory registration of marriages, some States are enforcing compulsory registration either through State laws or executive orders. As stated in its Initial Report, India has different personal laws dealing with civil and matrimonial rights and as such does not have a uniform law regarding registration of marriages. However, some of the personal laws do provide for registration of marriage. The Special Marriage Act, 1956 provides for compulsory registration of marriages where irrespective of religion, marriages have to be registered. The Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1936 requires registration of marriage that is done in the Church. The Parsees Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 also provides for registration of marriages. As far as Mohammedans are concerned the marriage is a contract and is usually reduced into a 'nikhanaama’ (Marriage Contract Deed). The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 also provides for registration of marriage but the same is not compulsory. In Goa, the family laws provide for compulsory registration of marriage. It has a provision of penalising the Civil Registrar if any marriage is registered in contravention of the provisions of the civil code, thus making the concerned officers more responsible. In addition, some of the State Governments have enacted laws for registration of marriages, such as, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh.  Uttar Pradesh, in its Population Policy,
2002 has adopted the policy of compulsory registration of marriages and has involved the Panchayats to enforce the same.The issue of registration of marriages has drawn the attention of the Supreme Court in Seema vs Ashwini Kumar (2005 AIR SCW 2939), where the Supreme Court has suggested that the Government can issue executive instructions to various States and Union Territories to authorize officials specifically to keep record of marriages till a suitable legislation is passed.  The Government is in the process of gathering views from various State Governments on the above suggestion.

The Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women in its  5th Report submitted to the Parliament on
3rd  December 2001 recommended that the Government make registration of marriages compulsory in order to prevent bigamy. The Government has also accepted this recommendation to amend the Hindu Marriage Act and make marriage registration compulsory. The Government in its National Policy on Empowerment of Women, 2001 commits to making the registration of marriages compulsory with a view to eliminating child marriages by 2010. The National Commission for Women is in the process of drafting an Act on compulsory registration of marriages.

However, as regards Article 16 (1), the Government for the present, states that it is committed to its National Empowerment Policy adopted in 2001. This policy aims at encouraging changes in personal laws such as whose related to marriage, divorce, maintenance and guardianship so as to eliminate discrimination against women. This will be done with the initiative of and full participation of all stakeholders, including the community and religious leaders. Therefore, the question of withdrawing the declaration will be considered in future.

Government to make primary and secondary education compulsory by introducing and enforcing relevant regulations (Para 64, 65 of concluding comments)

The recent 86th Constitutional Amendment makes free and compulsory education a fundamental right for all children in the age group of 6 to 14 years. By the year 2010, Sarva Shiksha Abhyan, a scheme formulated to achieve Universal Primary Education, will provide elementary education to all children in the  6-14 years age group. To encourage girl children to go beyond primary schooling, many States have made education completely free for girls up to higher secondary stage. Due to sustained endeavours, financial allocation for education in the Tenth Plan (2002-2007) has increased to Rs.43825 million as against Rs.24908.4 million in the Ninth Plan period.

This amounts to an increase of 72 per cent. The expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP has risen to 4.27 per cent in 2000-2001. The Government, in its annual budget for the year 2004-2005 has introduced 2 per cent education cess to fulfill the commitment of the Government to universalize quality basic education. The Government is committed to providing 6 per cent of the GDP from the Government and private sources for education. If the private investments in this sector are taken into consideration, the total expenditure on education will, however, be close to the target of 6 per cent of the GDP. Sex Discrimination Act and application of the standards of the Constitution and the Convention to the non-state actors. (Para 66, 67 of the concluding comments)

 The Government has so far not enacted a separate Act, i.e., the Anti Discrimination Act. However, many of the existing laws do ensure prohibition of discrimination. The private sector too is implementing these laws.  The Minimum Wages Act, 1926, ensures minimum rates of wages to the unskilled and semi skilled workers and
other categories of employees employed in scheduled employment including the construction workers, workers engaged in laying of electricity lines, cables and water supply and sewerage pipelines, etc. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, ensures equal wages for equal work including women. Besides, the various labour laws, like the Factories Act, 1948, the Plantation Labour Act, 1951, the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, Maternity Benefit Act, 1964, Beedi and Cigar Workers (Condition of Employment) Act, 1966 providing special measures for women workers are also applicable to the private sector. The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946, which is applicable to the private sector provides that sexual harassment at work place constitutes a misconduct for which the worker is liable for disciplinary action.
The Employees State Insurance Act, 1948 providing for health and welfare of employees drawing wages less than certain fixed ceiling limits and Employees Provident Funds Act, 1952 extends to the private sector also.
13. Unorganized sector workers, constituting 93 per cent of the country’s total work force, do not get welfare benefits like their counterparts in the organized sector. It is estimated that out of the female labour force in India, more than 90 per cent are in the unorganized sector. In order to address this issue, the Government has recently introduced the “Unorganized Sector Workers’ Social Security Scheme” which covers workers in the unorganized sector drawing less than Rs.6500 per month. The Employees Provident Fund Organization manages this fully Government funded scheme that provides triple benefit of pension, personal accident insurance and medical insurance.

 The implementation of many welfare labour laws in home based/non-formal sector becomes difficult, as it is difficult to recognize the employer-employee relationship. The Central Government is proposing to introduce the “Unorganized Sector Workers’ Bill”, which proposes to regulate the employment and conditions of services and provide for their safety, social security, health and welfare. It also has many special measures like maternity leave, crèche and equal remuneration for women. Implementation of the standard of the CEDAW Convention at the domestic/private sphere is still a challenge to be addressed. Violence against women (Para 68, 69, 70 of the concluding comments)

Statistics on the incidence of total crimes committed against women to the total crimes in India has shown that the incidence of crimes against women has increased from 135,771 in 1999 to 140601 in 2003.  However the proportion to the total crimes has marginally declined from 2.76 per cent in 1999 to 2.56 per cent in 2003.  The increase in the number of cases of crime reported is due to the fact that increasing legal awareness has enabled people to access the redressal system. Four pronged strategies have been adopted to address violence, i.e., (a) legislative action, (b) training and awareness, (c) support service, through crisis intervention and rehabilitation center, crimes against women cells, strict enforcement of poverty alleviation programmes, enhanced opportunities for education of girls, proactive measures by enforcement machinery with participation of NGOs and (d) action at social level such as encouraging NGOs to generate public opinion on law enforcement agencies, self help groups of women, organizing gender awareness week, etc. All women police stations have been set up in 14 States to facilitate in the reporting of crimes against women. Help line cells in police stations have been set up to address calls regarding incidence of violence against women.
Voluntary Action Bureaus and Family Counseling Centers have been set up in police stations to provide counseling and rehabilitative services to women and children who are victims of family maladjustment. Special Courts, viz., Family Courts and Fast Track Courts have been set up and some courts are exclusively meant to address crimes against women. Gender sensitization of enforcement agencies especially the police and the judiciary is being imparted periodically.

The National Policy for the Empowerment of Women, 2001 commits to address all forms of violence against women, physical and mental, at domestic and societal levels, including those arising from customs, traditions or accepted practices, with a view to eliminating its incidence. It further commits to create and strengthen the existing institutions and mechanisms for prevention of such violence including sexual harassment at the work place, customs like dowry, rehabilitation of the victims of violence and for effective action against the perpetrators of such violence and special measures to tackle trafficking in women and girls. 

Armed Forces (Special Provisions) Act (Para 71, 72 of the concluding comments)

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 was enacted when India was faced with an acute law and order situation on account of activities of insurgents in the border areas in the eastern frontiers of India. The territorial application of this legislation is limited to certain border States and territories on the eastern frontier. The Act provides that its provisions will only come into effect in such areas, which are declared as
"disturbed areas" by the Governor who is the highest civil authority and the constitutional head of the concerned Indian State. This provides a significant safeguard against any possible misuse of authority in invoking the powers under the Act by vesting the competence to declare an area as a "disturbed area" in the highest authority of the State. The propriety of and the bona fides of the exercise of power in this regard is always subject to judicial review.  The special powers under this legislation can be exercised only in situations, namely, dispersal of unlawful assembly, preventing persons from carrying weapons, destruction of arms dumps, search and seizure, and effecting of arrest of persons suspected of commission of a cognizable offence. The Act, moreover, specifically provides that once a member of the armed forces has arrested any person and taken him into custody, the person must be handed over to the nearest police station, to ensure that the normal rights of an arrested person are made available to him in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Code. 

Thus the special powers conferred on the Army officers are limited to the stage of making the arrest. Certain immunities have been accorded in order to avoid the possibility of harassment and vexatious civil or criminal proceedings which could hamper due discharge of the duties of these officers. All civil offences committed by the Army personnel while operating in counter insurgency areas are promptly dealt with under the Army Act and culprits are brought to justice. The Army has issued exhaustive ‘do’s and ‘don’ts’ for Army personnel operating in such areas, and these have been approved by the Supreme Court in the case of Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights –vs- Union of India (1998 SCC 109). In fact, the Central Government accords sanction for prosecution in all cases where it is satisfied that the grievance is justified.  In cases of violence and harassment, if any, reported to the Army, appropriate disciplinary actions
are taken against such persons within the department.

Gender sensitization and human rights programmes for police, security forces and medical professionals.

Gender sensitization training of personnel of executive, legislative and judicial wings of the State, with a special focus on policy and programme framers, implementation and development agencies, law enforcement machinery and the judiciary are in progress. Gender sensitization forms part of the training given to judges by the National Judicial Academy. Most of the State level training institutions have included a
gender sensitization module for the orientation of officials. National Research Training Center at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration for the training of administrators imparts training in gender concerns, and gender budget analysis is a part of the syllabus.

Medical officers who are responsible for implementing the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques  (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 (PNDT) Act are sensitized through regional seminars with collaboration of UNFPA, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and State Governments. Gender sensitization is also included in the training module of health functionaries under phase II of the Reproductive Child Health (RCH) Programme. The Department of Women and Child Development has undertaken several training and orientation programmes in this regard.  The Department has enlisted significant support of various civil society organisations. The civil society itself is very active in gender sensitisation and is playing a very effective role in promoting gender awareness.

Caste based discrimination, including violence, suffered by women of dalit community (Para 74, 75 of the concluding comments)

The Government recognizing the historical disadvantage and vulnerability of the dalit women has adopted several measures to address their concerns and the same has been highlighted in Article 4 in paragraphs 97 to 100. The Government has passed two legislations namely the Protection of Civil Rights Act (PCRA), 1955 and the Prevention  of Atrocities against Scheduled Caste/Tribe Act, 1989 to enable the dalits to enjoy human
rights on par with other sections of Indian society and empower them in their struggle for their rights, but crimes against dalits continue to exist.  The number of cases registered with the police nationwide as crimes and atrocities against Scheduled Castes is 26,252 cases in 2003. Percentage share of crimes committed against SC and ST to total crimes is about 0.73 per cent and 0.58 per cent respectively in 2003.

Trafficking (Para 76, 77 of the concluding comments)  

The Government has adopted several strategies to address the problem of trafficking. It consists of law enforcement measures, income generation schemes, educational opportunities, rescue and rehabilitation, special schemes such as Swadhar,  etc. A National Plan of Action has been  drawn up to combat trafficking in girl children. (More details given in Article 6.)

Holistic health policy for women, maternal mortality rates, infant mortality rates, sex ratio, sex selective abortion and family planning targeted at women (Para 78, 79)
National Population Policy, 2000 has brought in an inter-sectoral agenda for holistic, integrated reproductive health care to address the concerns of maternal mortality and infant mortality. The Government has adopted a life cycle approach to women’s health in its RCH programme. The Government aims to provide health services that address women’s health across their life cycle from birth through child hood and adolescence to adulthood. The programme aims to engender the reproductive process so as to make men visible in the process of reproductive decision-making and contraceptive use. Efforts are being made for establishing male reproductive health centers in the Tenth Five-Year Plan to motivate men to come forward and to accept family planning. No Scalpel Vasectomy Project was launched in January 1998 to promote male participation
in the family welfare programmes; the male sterilization gradually increased from 1.8 per cent in 1997 to 2.46 per cent in 2002. The project has been implemented in 20 States so far. The Pre-conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Technique (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act 1994 was amended in 2003 to make it more stringent. Some projects have been approved for raising awareness about the provisions of PNDT Act. Adding more teeth to the PNDT Act, the Government has roped in former police chiefs to form a Special Cell to fight female foeticide.  The Cell will act as a watchdog in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.  The members will not only go on undercover operations but have prosecution powers too.  The Health Ministry will form the cell, which will be headed by a retired Director General of Police, and the State
branch will be led by a former officer of the rank of Deputy Inspector General or Inspector General.  National and State level Monitoring Committees have been set up to keep constant vigil on States and Union Territories for implementation of the PNDT Act.

Low participation of women in administration and judiciary (Para 80, 81 of the concluding comments)

Although the number of women in administration has been low, their numbers are improving.  There are 645 women in IAS/IPS service as on 2000, which is about 7.65 per cent as compared to 5.4 per cent in the year 1987. The number of women in Foreign Service is also low at 78 in the year 2002.  There is a woman judge in the Supreme Court out of 25 judges, and 25 women judges in the High Courts across the country out of a
total of 514 judges as on 31st May 2005.

Sex disaggregated data (Para 81 of the concluding comments)

 The Government has initiated measures to generate gender specific information on various socio-economic indicators. The first step was to engender the National Census of 2001. Some of the data available has been stated in the relevant Articles. Indicators like population in the age group 0-6 years, literacy and work participation rates, etc. have been identified and sex-disaggregated data is being collected at the National, State and District levels on these indicators. The office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner has been actively supporting gender sensitisation and human rights issues by bringing out relevant data.  The Census Division has come up with data and maps on declining sex ratios which enables identification of the areas that require intervention. Data on sex ratio at birth is recommended to be collected and monitored
through Civil Registration System on a monthly basis by States for suitable and timely interventions.  The Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) brings out regularly a publication “Women and Men in India” which gives improved data base on gender issues and has also prepared a National Plan of Action, that bridges the gaps in statistics on gender issues, following which statistics are now available on a number of new indicators
of concern. The Central Government, with a view to analysing the contribution of the women and men in the national economy through unpaid household work and to study the gender dimensions in the personal activities, has conducted a pilot time use survey, during 1998-1999, in about 18600 households spread over 6 States, namely, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Meghalaya and has published the report in 2000. It has also under taken some exercises for ‘Valuation of Unpaid Household Work and Community Services” and ‘Estimation of Work Force’.

Recognising the need for engendering statistical activities through a paradigm shift, the CSO is creating awareness about the same through workshops. Concerted efforts will be carried out through Gender Resource Center (GRC) for collection/collation of gender disaggregated data and creation of a comprehensive database on women related policies/issues in agriculture.  Gender Resource Center will also assess the gender impact of various ongoing programmes of Government of India on agriculture to ensure that 30 per cent of benefits of all programmes flow to women farmers.

Disparity in economic activity rate and inheritance rights (Para 82 of concluding comments)

Work participation rates of women have been increasing over a period of time. According to the 2001 census, 25.6 per cent of women in the labour force were working as compared to 22.3 per cent in the year 1991 and 19.7 per cent in 1981.  However, the disparity between men and women continues to exist and women are found concentrated in the informal and marginalised sectors.

The Government has taken note that denial of inheritance of rights in land in the patriarchal system has contributed to the subordinate status of women. It has committed to making special efforts to consider/encourage necessary amendments in legislations relating to ownership of property and inheritance by evolving consensus on the subject and making them gender just.   Some of the States like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have amended the provisions in the Hindu Succession Act, regarding coparcenary property (ancestral immovable joint family properties) to enable the daughter also to inherit ancestral properties. The Central Government has proposed to amend the Hindu Succession Act conferring co-parcenary rights for women.

Bonded labour (Para 83 of the concluding comments)

The Bonded Labour System has been abolished by law under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) At, 1976, which penalizes engaging bonded labourers. A separate Development Planning Cell under the Ministry of Labour, has been set up since 1981 to co-ordinate the policy, planning and monitoring of implementation of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act. Under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labourers , assistance of Rs. 20,000/- is provided to each bonded labourer. As on  March 2005, as many as 266,283 have been rehabilitated. The issue of bonded labour had engaged the attention of Supreme Court in PUCL  -vs- State of Tamil Naidu  (AIR 2004 SCW 3771).  The Supreme Court has given directions to identify, release and provide appropriate rehabilitation for the bonded labourers.  In accordance with the Court directions  the NHRC has taken over the monitoring of the implementation of the directions of the Supreme Court as well as the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act. The NHRC is holding sensitization workshop in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Employment  in order to sensitize the functionaries dealing with the issue of bonded labour in the States. A special group under the Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment has been constituted to monitor the implementation of the Bonded Labour Act and focused attention is paid on the effective implementation of the Act and efforts taken to eradicate the bonded labour system wherever it exists.

Rural women's access to land and credit (Para 83 of the concluding comments) 

The Government has adopted land reforms and ceiling laws on agricultural lands. The surplus lands that vest with the Government has been redistributed to the landless. While granting lands to the landless, the Government has been issuing Joint Pattas (title deeds) in the names  of both the husband and wife, thereby making women joint-owners of the land. Efforts are being made on a pilot basis to improve women’s access to land by providing community wasteland, fallow land, surplus land for ‘collective action’ to women’s Self Help Groups on long-term lease basis and to promote joint pattas.  These efforts have been initiated under GOI-UNDP Food Security Programme which is being implemented in Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.  Under these, 4200 acres of surplus/fallow land have been provided to 2206 women groups.  In Orissa, 355 acres of land allotted to 903 women members have been registered under joint patta. Similarly, approximately 1000 acres of land mortgaged to money-lenders by women members have been released through  project interventions.  Some States like Tamil Nadu are implementing schemes such as the Comprehensive Wasteland Programme, wherein waste lands are leased to self help groups with priority being given to women self help groups. This scheme linked with the Agriculture Department gives them loans for tube wells and provides other help. DWCD has drawn attention to other State Governments to initiate
similar schemes that ensure self-sustenance and empowerment of women. Various schemes have been undertaken by the Government to provide alternative systems of credit to women through micro credit, self-help schemes and Rashtriya Mahila Kosh.(RMK)

National Commission for Women (Para 84, 85 of the concluding comments)

The National Commission for Women (NCW), a statutory body, established in 1992, has the mandate to safeguard the rights and interests of women by ensuring Constitutional guarantees of equal status to women, review the existing legislations and monitor their effects on women, recommend suitable amendments and provide a forum for women for redressal of their grievances. Similarly, many States have enacted the State Commission for Women Act.  State Commissions for Women have been constituted in 20 out of 28 States and 7 Union territories. The Government has been persuading the other States and Union Territories to constitute their respective State Commissions.  Although the NCW is not an apex body for the State Commissions for Women and they function independently, they work in collaboration in their endeavours
to maintain networking with the State Commissions. The Parliamentary Committee on the Empowerment of Women, reviewing the powers of NCW in February 2003, has recommended amendments to the National Commission of Women Act, to confer more powers while investigating cases of violations of constitutional right on par with the powers enjoyed by the National Human Rights Commission, including powers for penal
action and appointment of a Commissioner of Women’s Rights for conducting investigations and tackling specific complaints of atrocities against women. The recommendations made by the Parliamentary Committee on the Empowerment of Women on the powers of the NCW and also the CEDAW Committee in the Concluding  Comments are receiving active consideration of the Government.

Violence against human rights defenders (Para 86, 87 of the concluding comments)

Government has been actively involving the NGOs and women’s groups in a number of its activities, i.e., law reforms; planning, implementing and monitoring many of its schemes and programmes.  Thereby it has developed a strong partnership with these groups. Unfortunately, few incidents of violence against human rights and women activists have occurred and Government proposes to check and prevent them in  its endeavour to prevent violence and crimes against women in accordance with the commitment in the National Empowerment Policy, 2001 Challenges Ahead

Despite the constitutional mandate of equal legal status for men and women, the same is yet to be realized. The dejure laws have not been translated into defacto situation for various reasons such as illiteracy, social practices, prejudices, cultural norms based on patriarchal values, poor representation of women in policy-making, poverty, regional disparity in development, lack of access and opportunity to information and resources, etc. The Government in many of its initiatives through the National Empowerment Policy of Women, 2001, gender budget, Women Component Plan and various schemes has attempted to bridge the gap between the promise in the Constitution and the Convention and the defacto situation.

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