Mains Marks Booster     1st August 2023        
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  • Throughout the history of women in India, there has been a continuous decline in their progress. In earlier times, women were not encouraged to pursue intellectual activities. 
  • Later, due to modern education, social reformers campaigned for laws to improve the status of women has brought some significant empowerment to women. 
  • Problems being faced by Women: Domestic violence, dowry, selective abortion and infanticide, unequal access to education, gender discrimination, marital rape, surrogacy and sexual harassment. 
  • It is crucial to empower women not only from a moral standpoint but also because it is economically beneficial for the country.

Key facts

  • India has 121.1 billion people as of the 2011 Census, with 48.5% of those being female. By 2036, the population is projected to increase to 152.2 billion, with a slightly higher percentage of females (48.8%).
  • The sex ratio (number of females per 1000 men) in 2011 was 943 at the national level, while it was 949 and 929, respectively, in rural and urban regions.  The nation's Sex Ratio at Birth increased by 3 points from 904 in 2017–19 to 907 in 2018–20.
  • According to the 2011 Census, the overall literacy rate in India was 72.98%, with the rates for males and females being 64.63% and 80.9%, respectively. The greatest increase in literacy rates over the past ten years was seen among rural females (24%).
  • The gross enrollment ratio at the primary level was 103.4 in 2021–2022, which shows that India can theoretically absorb all of its people of primary school age, but does not necessarily imply universal primary education.

Constitutional safeguards for women

  • The state may enact unique provisions to safeguard the interests of women and children under Article 15(3).
  • According to Article 39(a) and (d), the State shall direct its policies towards providing for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of subsistence and equal compensation for equal effort.
  • The State is required under Article 42 to provide for maternity leave, reasonable working conditions, and justice.
  • Every citizen is obligated under Article 51A (e) to abstain from actions that are disrespectful to women's dignity.
  • According to Articles 243 D (3) and 243 T (3), women must be given at least one-third of the seats in Panchayats and Municipalities, with those seats being distributed by rotation to various Constituencies.
  • According to Article 243 D(4) T(4), there must be a minimum of one third of women serving as chairpersons in Panchayats and Municipalities at each level.

Issues encountered by women

  • Patriarchy: A patriarchal social structure in which men have complete authority over women in all spheres of society and where women are only permitted to hold home responsibilities.
  • Violence: Physical and psychological abuse of women, including domestic abuse and dowry-related fatalities.
  • Education: Women's lack of access to school, particularly in rural regions, causes a considerable gender gap in literacy rates.
  • Dowry system: When the groom's family makes excessive demands on the bride's family, the result might be violence and even death.
  • Pink colorization of the workforce: Women's chances in other sectors are restricted by their confinement to stereotypical "pink-collar jobs" like teaching and nursing.
  • Glass ceilings: Man-made impediments that keep women from rising in their jobs and securing managerial positions.
  • Workplace sexual harassment: The #MeToo movement raised awareness of the pervasive problem of workplace sexual harassment.
  • Absence of political engagement: Women are underrepresented in politics, with only 11.8% of women serving in the Indian Parliament and 9% in state legislatures.

Legislative safeguards for women

  • The prohibition of child marriage act (2006): The Act's main goal is to forbid underage marriages from taking place. 
      • This Act is equipped with enabling measures that will make child marriage illegal, offer victims' rights protection, and strengthen penalties for those who aid, abet, promote, or solemnize such weddings. 
      • According to the law, guys must be 21 years old to get married, and girls must be 18 years old. Any marriage between two persons who are less than these ages is termed a child marriage, which is against the law and is penalized by law.
  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013: The PoSH Act, also known as the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, was approved in 2013. 
      • It provided a definition of sexual harassment, outlined the complaint and investigation processes, and specified the appropriate course of action.
  • Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005: The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005 aims to accomplish the following goals:
      • To recognize domestic abuse as a crime that must be punished by law, and to establish this.
      • To offer defence to victims of domestic abuse when such crimes are committed. 
      • To swiftly, affordably, and conveniently deliver justice to the wronged party.
      • To stop domestic abuse from happening and to respond appropriately if it does.
  • Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961: The act was passed into law in India in 1961 to forbid paying or receiving dowries of any kind.
  • Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017: The length of paid maternity leave for female employees has been raised by the legislation from the previous 12 weeks to 26 weeks, providing new mothers more time to adjust to parenthood while still maintaining their financial security.

Institutional safeguard for women

The National Commission for Women

    • The National Commission for Women Act, 1990 (Govt. of India Act No. 20 of 1990) established the National Commission for Women as a statutory entity in January 1992.
  • Functions:
  • Review the constitutional and legal protections for women 
  • Suggest corrective legislative actions
  • Make it easier for grievances to be resolved; and 
  • Provide the government with advice on all policy issues affecting women.

Schemes for Women:

    • PRADHAN MANTRI MATRU VANDANA YOJANA: It is a Maternity Benefit Program which is implemented in all districts in India, to support women before and after the birth of their first child.
    • Udyam Sakhi Portal for Women Entrepreneurs: To empower and support women entrepreneurs by providing them with information, resources, and assistance through a dedicated online platform.
    • One Stop Centre Scheme: To provide integrated support and assistance to women affected by violence, including access to medical, legal, psychological, and counselling services.
    • Ujjwala Scheme: To provide free LPG connections to women from economically disadvantaged households, promoting clean cooking fuel and reducing health hazards associated with traditional cooking methods.
    • SWADHAR: To provide temporary shelter, support, and rehabilitation services for women in difficult circumstances, including destitute women, victims of trafficking, and homeless women.
    • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao: To address the declining child sex ratio and promote the education and welfare of girls.
    • Mahila Samman Savings Certificate for women: It is a new small savings scheme specifically designed for women and girls. This initiative is offered by the Indian Post Office
    • Women IN STEM: To encourage and support women's participation and success in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

Way forward

  • Education: To guarantee females' rights to an education and to be free from discrimination in educational institutions, the education policy must be more inclusive. 
      • An imperative to provide significantly larger financial incentives for girls' education up to Class XII in order to reduce the higher dropout rate among girls.
  • Skill development: Women need to acquire their skills in non-traditional jobs like electricians, plumbers, etc. in order to become self-sufficient.
      • Women can be organized into a variety of professional organizations to strengthen their negotiating position.
      • Platforms like Digital India should be utilized for branding, marketing, and forming connections with businesses, markets, and customers.
      • In addition to government initiatives, NGOs and other organizations should teach and equip women with marketable skills so they may find alternative, respectable jobs where they can make a living.
  • Micro-Finance: NGOs aiming to empower women must make interventions about opportunities for developing a livelihood connected to the market and value chain.
      • It is important to create laws and regulations that make it simple for female business owners to obtain loans.
      • Government should encourage women to start Self Help groups.
      • Industry-specific goals for women's employment are required, and firms must be encouraged to work towards achieving them.
  • Companies that employ 30 percent women workers should receive tax perks.
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