It is said that women brings stability in the society. But the credit should be given to those males who respect and support women and also celebrate their leadership. But in our patriarchal society it has become an intolerant fact that women have equal caliber and mental strength as that of men to outset men in all fields. To prove their worth they have to put double efforts and the most upsetting fact is that she has to fight with her own community to accomplish her dreams, as the orthodox society cannot see her grow. Sexual exploitation ,rape, molestation, voyeurism, stalking are the terms which have become a part of every girls life in today’s scenario all she is advised to do even from her family is to ignore it and get over it.
Yes, people do get outraged on learning about such heinous crimes, they protest as well, and in result of these protests some legislations are being enacted like after the Delhi Gang Rape Case, a new legislation i.e., Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 has been enacted and provisions for offences like Acid Attack, Sexual Harassment, Voyeurism and Stalking have been included. But, the question is about its implementation. Has the rape rate in India slowed down? Are women safe on streets now?
In this new modern era, a sense of equality has developed in the minds of people and so more and more people are educating their daughters to contribute in the development of their society. But some of these evils are hampering their growth. Why does they always treat women as a supporting pillar and men as the functioning unit and why can’t both genders can walk hand in hand? As ever man and woman is equal in the eyes of God Women, who give birth to humankind, should be assured and equality in the society. How can we do so then?
Once, it has been marked by Malaya Yousafzai (A Pakistani activist for female education and youngest-ever Nobel Price laureate:
“We cannot all succeed if half of this is held back”
With the help of this paper I am putting forward these questions:
1. What are the important roles played by women for the development of Indian society? What difference do they create in Indian Society?
2. Are they getting proper support from the society? Are they safe? And if not, what are the proper measures taken by the three organs of the Government i.e., Legislature, Executive and Judiciary?
3. Are these steps sufficient? If not, what else could be done for the betterment of their position of their society and so that their contribution for the society can be appraised and being part of this society what are the steps which can be taken by an individual on its own for this cause?
Also, with the means of this paper I will be giving some my life events as examples and analyze the reality of the situation of women in this society.
ROLE PLAYED BY WOMEN IN SOCIETY: A ‘LEAD’ OR a ‘SUPPORT’
Nowadays, a term is very commonly used i.e.,’ Women Empowerment’ and everyday in newspapers or television we hear various debates and discussions over this matter. Now the question comes in our mind, what is this term ‘Empowerment’?
The answer lies in the term itself, that is, it is all about Social, political, economic and judicial equality to women. It is about providing equal rights and status to each and every woman of this country. But also it is noteworthy that, whenever we hear the term ‘Empowerment’ the very first thing comes to our mind is the’ promotion’ and the only things which need to be promoted are the things which are weak or inferior.
Similar is the case with women, till now in this patriarchal society they are truly treated as an inferior or underprivileged entity. But the reality is that women are doing well or precisely to say, equally well, in each and every field. They are no way inferior to males but still they are given a second status in Indian Society. They are not properly given the Right to Education, Widow Remarriage, Inheritance and Ownership of the Property. Many social evils like dowry, bride burning, child remarriage, female feticides are growing day by day. Earlier there were more of the similar practices. For Example, Sati Pratha. But people like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidhyasagar and Jyotirao Phule have always been there to preserve the interests of the better halves of the society. Not only this, various lawyers like Lily Thomas have also made attempts to always protect the women against violence.
But, apparently the situation is still weird. The position of women in India is still critical and following datas shows it well:
The sex ratio of India is 944 i.e., women are 42 million less in population than men.
Also, the Male literacy rate in India is 82.14% while the Female Literacy rate is just 65.46.
Only, 1 to 3% of executive positions are occupied by women.
Only 9 % of women are present in execute bodies of political parties
Only 3 % of women are appointed as Supreme Court Judges
Only 7 % of women are there in civil services
There are only 6 % women in trade unions
Then Infant mortality rate in India is 42 for boys and 45 for girls
About 40 % of Indian women are assaulted by their intimate partners and only 65% of them reported it.
Talking about the pay scale the women in rural areas are paid only 60% of what men are paid and the once in urban areas are paid only 80%.
Besides this, only half of the women in this country are independent to take decision regarding their own health.
Also, in India, every 26th minute a woman is molested, every 34th minute a girl is raped, and every 42nd minute an incident of sexual harassment occurs, every 43rd minute a woman is kidnapped, every 93rd minute a women is killed and also every 102nd minute a woman is murdered because of dowry. Not only this, every 3rd women in India has experienced violence at least once in her marital life and their physical abuse varies from 22-60% in the whole nation.
Torture cases and dowry deaths rates have increased by 71.5% from 1991-1995
50% of women are beaten by their spouse during pregnancy.
Women who have reported the crime, 74.8% of them have tried to commit suicide.
32% women in this country are still living with no education, 42% with no primary school education and 57% are without high school and college education.
61% of the violence is done by highest economic groups while only 35% by the low economic groups.
Crime rate against women between years 1980-1990 was increased by 74% while between the years 1993-2000 there was 150% increase in the same.
Higher female mortality rate(between age 1-5) and higher maternal mortality rates results in decrease in female population also it has been estimated by Chaterjee (1990) the girl’s death in the population is 300,000 more than boy’s and also the reason of the death of every 6th infant is gender discrimination. Every year 15 million female child are born and 25% of which never see their 15th birth anniversary.
The Child Marriage Restraint Act has raised the minimum legal age for marriage of both boys and girls but still in rural areas illegal marriages are very common practice and half of the girls by 10-14 years of age get married because they are pressurized to prove their fertility as soon as they become adolescent and they give birth to babies in their teen age.
By indirect demographic techniques a rough estimate of sex-specific abortions has brought up which say that about 1.2 million girls were missing during the decade of 1981-1991.
Apparently, these facts are mouth-opening as well as outraging. But after knowing all these facts the very first question which comes to our mind is that why no strict actions are taken against these evils? What is government doing and what are the laws against such evil practices?
It is not that government is simply witnessing crimes and doing nothing against these crimes and is acting indifferently over the rights and protection of women in this society. But, the reality is that the government has enacted some specific laws for Women protection and convenience which is vital seeing the degrading position of women in the society.
Given below are the various laws in favor of women:
? Under Article 14 of the Constitution of India Right to equality is expressly provided and it guarantees to all women in India equality before the law.
But the reality is that,only half of the women in this country are independent to take decision regarding their own health.
? Article 39(d) protects the economic rights of women by guaranteeing equal pay for equal work. But the reality is that the pay scale the women in rural areas are paid only 60% of what men are paid and the once in urban areas are paid only 80%.
?Article 42 of the Maternity Relief Act allows provisions to be made by the state for
Securing just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief for women. But reality lies in the fact that, 50% of women are beaten by their spouse during pregnancy. Higher female mortality rate(between age 1-5) and higher maternal mortality rates results in decrease in female population also it has been estimated by Chaterjee (1990) the girl’s death in the population is 300,000 more than boy’s and also the reason of the death of every 6th infant is gender discrimination.
? Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, provides for a more effective protection of the rights of women who are victims of domestic violence. Breach of this Act is punishable with both fine and imprisonment.
But, the reality is that about 40 % of Indian women are assaulted by their intimate partners and only 65% of them reported it and also the women who have reported the crime, 74.8% of them have tried to commit suicide.
? The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, prohibits the asking, payment or acceptance of a dowry and if not complied with then punishes by imprisonment as well as fine. Torture cases and dowry deaths rates have increased by 71.5% from 1991-1995.Also, the dowry laws are full of flaws. As in my society a woman was burned by her whole family consisting of 9 members but eventually one of the co-accused come forward and took all allegations on his own and rest of the accused are set free. According to me, each and person should have been punished. The justice was denied.
Also, there is no denying the fact that every 102nd minute a girl is dies because of dowry.
? Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redresses) Act, 2013, helps to create a conducive environment at the workplace for women where they are free from all sorts of sexual harassment practices.
? All the local elected bodies reserve one-third of their seats for women according Panchayati Raj Institutions. Such a provision was made as per the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Act to increase the effective participation of women in politics but the reality is that the Female Literacy rate is just 65.46.Also, only 1 to 3% of executive positions are occupied by women.Only 9 % of women are present in execute bodies of political parties. Only 3 % of women are appointed as Supreme Court Judges.
Only 7 % of women are there in civil services and also there are only 6 % women in trade unions.
?The Women’s Reservation Bill is also pending which proposes to reserve 33% of all seats in the Lok Sabha and in all State Legislative Assemblies for women. If passed, this Bill will give a significant boost to the position of women in politics.
The Government of India is also running various welfare schemes and policies, both at State and Central levels for the empowerment of women. These Policies and programmes focus on social, economical and educational empowerment of women across various age groups. Some of the major programmes and measures include- Swadhar (1995), Swayam Siddha (2001), Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP-2003), Sabla Scheme (2010), National Mission for Empowerment of Women (2010). Besides this, Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 have been enacted after the Delhi Gang rape case and provisions for offences like Acid Attack, Sexual Harassment, Voyeurism and Stalking has been included.
Therefore, the government has ensured all possible steps to encourage women protection and in promoting women to take active participation in the various fields so as they are not left behind and walks hand in hand with men. But even after all these efforts and presence of enacted provisions, the condition of women have not improved the reason may be that these laws have so many loopholes.
Like in the case of a law which was passed in 2006, Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal ) Bill.
In this act, the term ‘Sexual Harassment’ has been defines which says that it is an ‘unwelcome’ act, gesture, remark or any behavior to outrage the modesty of a woman at workplace. But, it is difficult to ascertain the difference between what act is ‘welcomed’ and what is ‘unwelcome ’. According to this, if the act or utterance not ‘unwelcome’ then the ‘accused’ is at no fault. And the contrary can be established against the victim by telling giving reasoning and justification for the act of the accused as he was provoked by the expressions or gestures or by clothing of the victim, which might not be true.
Also the definition contains another term i.e.,’ Physical Contact’ which is again unclear.
The provisions of India Penal Code are embedded with flaws as they contain various ambiguous terms like Section 294 which says that the act and utterance must be made in ‘public places’ which signifies that if the sexual harassment took place inside the four walls in absence of any other person or to witness, it will not be considered as sexual harassment. Not only this, the ‘act’ or ‘utterance’ must cause annoyance but there is no criteria has been set by this provision to determine the extent or degree of annoyance required to bring this section into purview or such act or utterance.
Similar is the case of section 509 of IPC, which is applicable when a person intends to outrage the modesty of a woman. This thing is again impossible to prove, as proving one’s intention is a hard nut to crack.
Also it is true that even after the enactment of Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 the rape rates has not been decreased but only increased by 26.7% in 2013.Hence, this enactment also proved to be a futile.
Hence, apparently these provisions contain several flaws which can be misused by the wrongdoer. Hence, it is the need of the hour that these provisions have to be more exhaustive to provide justice to victims and proper protection to those who could be potential victims.
Considering the facts discussed above it is a shame that not much has been transformed for good and the India is still an unsafe place for women. In fact, even after amendments in the legal sphere things have not improved yet. Though there is an increase in women complaints about the crimes done to them and are also eager to fight against the injustice done to them which initially was considered as to be a taboo. Maybe that is the reason that the number of reported cases has risen. But, this is not an end to this problem there are a lot many questions which have to be answered. Still women in India continue to face brutal atrocities such as rape, dowry killings, acid attacks. Female infanticide is a common practice in India. In a global poll conducted by Reuters India is
the ‘fourth-most dangerous’ country in the world for women. The Indian society is a patriarchal society which is unjust towards women and treats them as slaves or the inferior sex. They put the shackles of traditions and cultures on the feet of women and mar their growth. The various heinous incidences of honor killing reveal the face to the unjust male-dominated society. Though the government is putting in efforts in improving the condition of women in the society but even after all those policies schemes and programmes not much has changed and they are looking up for better provisions to be brought but what is lacking is the proper monitoring system and proper implementation and fulfillment of the already existing policies and programmes.
So, in order to improve the situation of women proper measures have to be adopted. Some of which are mentioned as follows:
The best method to cease violence against women is to prevent the incident from happening at the first place by looking into the root cause of the problem. Schools should try to inculcate respectful relationships and gender equality among young girls and boys through education as young minds are the easiest to mould in any shape as one wants to and gender norms can be forged through beginning only.
Awareness-raising in the community is yet another effective remedy in prevention and protection of women injustice through media, social media, nukkad natak, drama,etc and other communication platforms one could spread awareness about the gender-equality and about various laws and policies and make everyone aware of the consequences of not following the same. People should be able to understand the root cause of violence in their communities and should be taught to prevent themselves and others from supporting or increasing it.
The Government should try to diminish the violence against women and empower them through proper implementation of laws and policies especially designed to help women and also punish strictly those people who even after stringent laws try to violate the limit so as to set an example in front of the public as to what happens if one does not comply with the law and order in the society.
Girls and women education is yet another way of preventing women from being exploited by men and also helping them to get empowered and making a better living of their own and this would further help them in living a life on their own terms and conditions.
Women should be provided with proper resources and entitlements and also be given due position in governance. Thus, the Women Reservation Bill which is still pending in the parliament should be passed as soon to increase the effective participation of women in the politics of India.
To conclude, I would like to say that the women empowerment and protection is not as easy as it sounds due to the existence of the long term ongoing patriarchal practice in the Indian society but nothing is impossible as well, and through serious efforts the situation can be changed for better. Women empowerment is a must have for any developing society because if women will contribute as much as men to the society and if will be given fair chance to prove their worth then those times are not far away when India will become one of the developed nations of the world and a happier place to live in.
Laws should be made stringent for all the brutal and heinous crimes against women and justice should be provided to women and their families by punishing the offenders accordingly. A fear must remain in the hearts of all those men who think women are some sort of a property to be used, its time that men see that their actions will have serious causes.
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