Dr. Ashok K. Gupta IPS (IGP Retd)
Women in ancient India enjoyed equal status with men. There were low points as far as status of women in India during Medieval period was concerned since there existed a religio-cultural sanction of the society for the same. In this long eventful struggle many reformers played a positive role. Fact of the matter is that even in modem India today women continue to face outright discrimination and other social challenges. They are still victims of abuse and violent crimes as is evident by recent case of rape and murder of ”Nirbhaya” in a bus in Delhi.
According to a global survey conducted by Thomson Reuters, India is the fourth most dangerous country in the world and worst country for women to live in amongst G20 countries. Global scenario for status of women is also not very encouraging despite concerted efforts by UN since 1975 and isolated efforts here and there.
UN Theme for International women’s day-2012 was:
EMPOWER WOMEN-END HUNGER & POVERTY.
UN Theme for women’s day-2013 is:
A PROMISE IS A P ROMISE- Time for action to end violence against women.
Violence & crimes against women manifest as rape, molestation, kidnapping/abduction , acid attack; torture, abetment to suicide and outright murder for demand of dowry; wife battering & domestic violence. There is stalking, harassment in educational institutes and at work place & outright trafficking and forced prostitution. Robbery/dacoity against women especially chain snatching is very common in north india. Child marriage is still prevalent which is very detrimental to health, security and status of bride & child and vicious cycle continues.
There is systematic discrimination against women economically, socially, politically and culturally more so, in India. These discriminations & disabilities are practised at all levels day in & day out.
“In fact, it is a miracle that a women survives in India, She is at risk before (due to male child preference hence prenatal foetal sex determination & abortion) & after birth.”
Some statistics may bring home the enormity of the problem obtaining in India.
45% of Indian girls are married off before 18years of age. –International centre for research 2010.
52% adolescent girls in India themselves think it is justifiable for a man to beat his wife- UNICEF 2012.
There were 56,000 maternal deaths in 2010-UN Population Fund 12 million girl-children were aborted in India in the last 3 decades-an estimate. There was 7.1% increase in crime against India in 2010-11 -N. C. R. B.
Hence there is a need for upliftment of women socially, economically, politically simultaneously in a comprehensive manner to undo this vicious cycle & vice like grip in which women in India have been entrapped badly.
Some talk of gender equality and others stand for empowerment of women in India. Numerous well- meaning efforts have been made from time to time. Statue books are full of laws to end discriminations & disabilities operating against women. There are umpteen policies, projects and schemes to achieve the desired objective. There is nothing in Indian Constitution which sanctions such blatant discrimination and disabilities at every step, in every field and at all levels. In fact, Indian Constitution enables and provides for positive discrimination in favour of women. Still we find half of our population in deplorable condition. We must understand dynamics of Indian society & democracy, identify the reasons, the critical factors which have limited the success of earlier policies, legislations and schemes.
Women throughout the world more so in India face 7 types of Inequalities:
1. Mortality Inequality. Due to gender bias in health & nutrition there is unusually high mortality rate in women reducing their population further especially in Asia, Africa & China.
2. Natal Inequality. Given the preference for boys over girls this gender bias leads to prenatal sex determination & selective abortion of girl child. This practice is rampant in china, east & south asia including India.
3. Basic facility Inequality. There is discrimination in education, basic facilities and girl child is not supported in persuit of her natural talents & development rather they are openly discouraged to follow certain fields & activities. This is prevalent in many Arab countries, Africa & Asia including India.
4. Special opportunity Inequality. This gender bias is in higher education, specialized professional trainings which hit women very hard in employment & attaining top leadership in any field. This type of discrimination is found in all countries even in affluent countries like US & Europe. This is erroneously based on traditional respective “provinces” delineated for males & females.
5. Professional Inequality. This inequality is practised in employment & promotions. Women face countless handicaps in male customised & dominated environs in Govt. Offices and private enterprises . It may sound funny but it is true that first organized struggle for women’s rights started as a protest against small little handicaps in the working of women working in a textile factory in U.S.A on 8th of March 1857. It is on this day that International day for Women is celebrated every year throughout the world. Still women in Govt offices, private offices, public places are facing countless difficulties due to absence of Toilets for ladies. Strange it may seem but the women of metros are actually struggling for their “Right to Pee”.
6. Ownership Inequality. In most of the countries of the world, there is gender bias against women in ownership or possession of property mainly house, land and other resources. This curtails her economic independence & all commercial activities thus effectively robbing her of any voice in vital matters & issues. Same is the position of women in India due to many practical difficulties in implementation of progressive laws on property ownership, due to various customs & various prejudices.
7. Household Inequality. Household relations show gender bias in infinitesimally small but significant manners all across the globe, more so, in India e.g. sharing burden of housework, childcare &menial works by so called “division of work” which absolves men of all work in the house. Working women, if they have to accept the job, have to do double-shift for home chores & childcare also. This they resent & call it not “division of work” but is “accumulation of work” for women.
It is clear that there is no equality of sexes & hardly any reason for satisfaction on the progress, if any, to meet this gigantic challenge.
Cultural and social factors are interlinked with the development & propagation of violent behaviour. Society links daughter with honour of the family and their attitude is very defensive & they want to somehow protect this “Liability” till they pass her off to his husband . They are too apologetic about anything & everything pertaining to their daughters. An average Indian family never ventures to invest in health, education, employability, economic independence & overall development of her personality to make her a family asset.
With different processes of socialization which both men & women undergo, men take up ‘stereotyped gender role of domination & control. A female child grows up with a feeling of being weak, helplessness (physically & economically),needing protection which paves the way for her exploitation later at every step.
Equality between women & men presupposes promoting equal participation of women & men in decision making, supporting girls/women so that they can exercise their rights & reducing the gap between access to/control of resources and reaping benefits of development & democracy.
As of today, benefits of democracy, progressive legislations and schemes for empowerment of women have hardly reached them. All these steps are de jure and well deserved but it will take extra ordinary efforts to make them de Jacto-visible on ground. “Catch” is in the implementation of these intentions, schemes, policies & laws.
Presently women in India are condemned to illiteracy, disease, poverty-a hapless thing vulnerable to all sorts of exploitation.
Political empowerment is equally important for progress of women in India .We all know the fate of Legislation for 33% reservation for women . We all know the fate of so many international conventions for amelioration of conditions for fair sex. There are strong attitudes, hurdles & vested interests of society which need to be recognized & dealt with to achieve our objective. We all know fate of implementation of progressive pro-women laws. For example: despite stringent PNDT law 1994 we were able to half-detect only 1000 cases of female foeticide/infanticide which amounts to about 0.01% of 8 million cases. Out of these hardly any case ends in conviction due to long drawn out legal process, lack of public faith and costly justice. Like proverbial hen or egg first question it is debatable whether the sad state of affairs is due to total failure of system or/and hence lack of public faith in police/judiciary, public apathy & non involvement of public in providing information of crime & their palpable hesitancy to stand as a witness in front of police & courts. Be it as it may, but the fact is 8 million girl-children have lost their lives due to malfeasance, misfeasance somewhere or everywhere in the system. There is an urgent need for police reforms, judicial reforms and political will to meet this gigantic challenge squarely,earlier the better. Public will have to share a fair part of blame for being diffident & irresponsible-they have to own up the system, follow up their rights & force the regime to make improvements, wherever necessary. After all, all parents, radio-diagnosis doctors & aborting doctors and few relatives & few citizens knew this & all colluded in cold blooded murder of 8 million babies despite promulgation of a stringent PNDT Act since 1994 till date.
To conclude, there is an urgent need for a sustained, comprehensive effort at all levels to attack this problem of gender bias from all sides in a focussed manner. For now, let us celebrate women year 2013 with the fond hope that all the stake holders will join hands to bring about positive changes in near future & the women rights movement (which started with a slogan of Bread & Roses) leads to fulfilment of all the promises made to women from time to time for their empowerment.
UN Theme for International women’s day 2013 is:
“A Promise is a prornise-time for action to end violence against women”
Dr. Ashok K. Gupta IPS (IGP Retd)