On 8th March 2020, we are celebrating 25th International Women’s Day for the achievements of women in social, economic, political sectors but in reality, a large no. of women is still remaining in the darkness of illiteracy, underdevelopment, malnutrition, undernourishment, poverty, economic inequality, and overexploitation. Man and women are an integral part of society. Absence of one, the existence of the other cannot be conceived. Therefore, if we ignore the dignified position of women in society, the society will break like a house of cards with the passage of time.
CONCEPT OF WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
After the 3rd World War, women are portrayed as a vulnerable section of the society where their rights and freedoms are becoming suppressed by the patriarchal structure of the society and it gives a negative impact all over the world. Therefore, a revolution has been started to empower women, and aware them against gender inequality and inequity, socio-cultural, economic, political injustice, exploitation, and violence.
Thus, to empower women means to enhance their status in society, flourish their abilities, talents, capabilities, give her freedom of thoughts and equal opportunities, facilities in all spheres like men. Empowering women does not mean to suppress the power of men or deprived men of their rights. It means to empower women and not to overpower men.
The term ‘empowerment’ is derived from the word ‘empower’, and the word ‘empower’ comes from French prefix “en” meaning ‘in, into’ and the root ‘power’ comes from the early 1300s, meaning “strength, the ability”. Though the word empowers has been used in the past in literary works, its modern usage dates from around 1986, and the term ‘women empowerment’ has come to be associated with the women’s struggle with the social equality and justice.
In 1945 United Nations(UN) is formed in response to the destructive position of women throughout the world. In 1948, UN adopts the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights (UDHR) and started work against the gender-based discrimination, after the convention on the political rights of woman 1952, it gives right to vote without any discrimination and in 1979 convention for the elimination of discrimination was adopted, it mainly ensures the full development and advancement of woman. India ratified the convention in 1993. In 1995 the 4th world conference on women took place in Beijing, in this conference special attention was given to the girl child.
In India, the revolution was started by Savitribai Phule, 1848 AD and after 100 years later we accept the concept of women leadership with the hands of national leaders like Indira Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu, Vijay Laxmi Pandit, etc. and in 1950 the voting rights also given to the women.
POSITION OF WOMEN IN INDIAN SCENARIO
During this period women are enjoyed their rights and freedom of equality and they can participate in all spheres like men. They studied in gurukuls and enjoyed equality in learning the Vedas. This period the women like Gargi, Apala, Lopamudra, Visvara, Yami inter alia were accomplished in art, music, dance even warfare.
The position of women in Indian society drastically changed after the Vedic period. Various restrictions put on woman’s rights. Education, which had been an accepted norm for women, was neglected, and later on, girls were totally denied access to education and the class discrimination being started. Girls in the ruling classes only receive some training in military, administration, and fine arts, and the door for any formal education became closed for the Shudras.
In the medieval period, social evils like Sati, child marriage, girl infanticide, dowry, polygamy, and Devadasi system arose.
During this period the social reform movement of the 19th century and the nationalist movement 20th century affected the position of women. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Aurobindo, Lokhitwadi and others all raised their voice against the social evils like Sati, ill-treatment of widows, polygamy, child marriage, etc. and to eradicate such social evils a bunch of laws was enacted.
After the post-independence as society developed gradually, it feels that women’s empowerment is an essential part of a developing nation. Therefore, if we ignore the dignified position of women in society, the society will break like a house of cards with the passage of time. Therefore, the farmers of the Indian constitution enshrined the principle of equality, liberty, and social justice.
CONSTITUTIONAL EMPOWERMENTS OF WOMEN
Indian constitution is considered as supreme law of the land. Most importantly, it gives a special benefit to women in its preamble, fundamental rights, fundamental duties and DPSP under Article14, Article15, Article15(3), Article16, Article39(a), Article39(b), Article39(c), Article42, Article51(c), Article51(A)(e), Article243D(3), Article 243D(4), Article 243T(3), Article 243T(4), etc.
Right to Equality
Article 14,15,16 of the constitution, not only grant gender equality but also empower the state to adopt special provisions for women and children for safeguarding their interest, which is not a violation of the right to equality.
Human Trafficking and Forced Labour
Article 23 protects the right against exploitation and prohibit the trafficking of men, women, and children it also prohibits prostitution, devadasi, forced labour, etc., to eradicate such act in the year 1956 parliament has passed Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.
Equal pay for equal work
Article 39(d) ensures that remuneration should be given to all both men and women, there will be no gender-based discrimination. For what government passed the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
Right to Vote
Article 325 provides that all adults shall have the right to vote irrespective of sex and can participate in the politics and government officials.
Reservation in Panchayati Raj
Article 243D and 243T of the constitution provides that 1/3 seats shall be reserved for women in panchayats and municipalities.
EMPOWERMENT UNDER CRIMINAL LAW
Protection from arresting a woman
Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Cr.P.C) says that a police officer can’t arrest a woman without the presence of lady constable. Moreover, no woman shall be arrested after sunset and before sunrise.
Special protection in sexual crimes against woman
- Section154 of p.c.– In sexual crimes FIR should be recorded by a woman police officer.
- Section 309 of p.c.– in rape cases the inquiry should be completed within 2-months from the date of the charge sheet.
- Section 357 of p.c.- victims of sexual offences should be compensated and their treatment will be free of cost.
Pregnant women can’t be executed with a death sentence
According to section 416 of Cr.p.c. if a woman sentenced to death is found to be pregnant, the High Court shall order the execution of the sentence to be postponed if it thinks fit, may commute the sentence to imprisonment for life.
Special benefit in the police inquiry
A woman can’t be called to the police station for an inquiry she can only be interrogated at her residence. women can’t be imprisoned under a civil court decree.
INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860
Indian penal also played a vital role to safeguard the woman and to protect them from the crimes and made them punishable like Sections 52A(harbour), 304B, 306(abetment), 313(miscarriage), 326A, 326B(Acid Attack), 354B(assault), 354C(voyeurism), 354D(stalking), 366B(Importation of girl), etc.
- Section 304B deals with the dowry death of a woman.
Punishment – imprisonment not less than 7years.
- 354A deals with sexual harassment against women.
Punishment: Up to 3-years rigorous imprisonment or fine or both.
- SECTION 376 deals with the rape.
Punishment – rigorous imprisonment from 7years to imprisonment for life with fine.
- Section 498A deals with cruelty against women.
Punishment – up to 3years imprisonment and fine.
- Section 509 deals with uttering words or making gestures that outrage women’s modesty.
Punishment: Up to1-year imprisonment or fine, or both.
EMPOWERMENT UNDER PERSONAL LAWS
Property rights of women
To protect the property rights of married women govt passed the Married women’s Property Act, 1874. Moreover, the Hindu Succession Act, 2005 also ensures that daughter and son both are getting an equal share in the inherited property from the parents.
Given equal rights in adoption
After Githa Hariharan v. R.B.I., 1999 Sc says that a mother can act as a natural guardian of minors under the Hindu Minority Guardianship Act, 1956, even when the minor’s father is alive. Moreover, the Personal Amendment Act, 2011, ensures that an unmarried woman, widow or a divorcee of sound mind can also adopt a child.
Claim maintenance from husband
If a divorced woman unable to maintain herself she is entitled to claim for maintenance from her husband.
Safeguard of women married to NRI
To safeguard the interests of the women married to NRI’s in Smt. Neeraj V. Jayant, Saraph, Sc. issued a guideline. It says that if the marriage took place in India, the foreign court could not declare it null, she is entitled to claim adequate alimony in the property of husband both in India and abroad and the decree granted by the Indian court may be executable in foreign courts.
Following provisions grants every woman right to equality at par with man:
- Article 8 of the UN charter,1945.
- Articles1 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.
- Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966.
- Article 3 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, 1966.
IMPORTANCE OF WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
- Around 50% of the world population consists of the women population. Unemployment of women and unequal opportunities in the places of work cause great problems around the world because the true potential is left from being harnessed.
- To reduce the scope of domestic violence and sexual exploitation.
- To get rid of poverty women empowerment is also necessary.
- Women played a vital role to maintain peace and harmony at home so if we empower them then they can easily promote harmony in society.
- In certain jobs like Nursing, teaching, and other similar sorts of jobs female involvement is vital for the smooth functioning of the system. Even these sectors can’t reach up to their best capacities without the participation of women.
SPECIAL INITIATIVES FOR WOMEN UNDER SEVERAL ACTS
Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
The act mainly empowers the women to avail paid maternity leave at the time of delivery and it also applicable at the time of adoption of a child.
The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994
The act was drafted to eradicate Female infanticide and the abnormal female sex ratio in society.
The protection of women from domestic violence act,2005
To protect the married woman or female live-in partners, from the violence at the hands of the husband or in-laws, or male live-in partner, Parliament passed the act in September 2005.
Child Marriage Act, 2006
To eradicate child marriage government passed the Child Marriage Restraint Act, on 29th September 1929. They fixed the age of marriage for boys at 18 years and for girls 14 years (after 1978 legal age for marriage is fixed 18 for girls and 21 for boys). Furthermore, the government fixed the shortcomings of the Act Government passed the Child Marriage Act, 2006.
Criminal amendment act,2013
After Delhi gang-rape case Nirbhaya, parliament enacted The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act,2013(Nirbhaya Act), and included sexual harassment and related other offences against woman u/s.354(A), u/s.354(B), u/s.354(C), u/s.354(D), u/s.376(A) of the Indian Penal Code,1860 made it punishable i.e. recommended by Justice Verma Committee.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
After 1997 Vishaka and Others V. State of Rajasthan sc. passed a guideline for the benefit of working women. In addition, after a decade in the year, 2013 parliament passed the act to provide a safe and secure harass free working environment for all women.
GOVERNMENT SCHEME FOR WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
This scheme was launched in 2002 for the rehabilitation of women like women prisoners, women victims of violence, widows deserted by their families, women survivors of natural disasters, etc.
Pradhan Mantri Matritva Vandana Yojana
The scheme was launched in October 2010 after 2014 it was renamed as Matritva Sahog Yojana and in 2017 it was renamed as Pradhan Mantri Matri Vandana Yojana (PMMVY). It mainly ensures safe delivery and good nutrition for mothers before and after delivery of the first living child.
Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana
This scheme was launched in January 2015. It mainly provides a fund for a girl’s children and encourages them to fulfill their dreams like higher education, marriage, etc.
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao
This scheme was launched on 2nd January 2015 to prevent female infanticide and to ensure the education of the girl child so the main aim of the scheme was to create awareness on welfare services intended for young Indian girls.
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana
This scheme was launched in March 2016. It mainly protects the health of the woman, who generally belongs from the below poverty line and using fossil fuels and other fuels for cooking. Through this scheme, the government provides clean fuel (LPG) to women.
Apart from these, there are several schemes are adopted for the empowerment and development of women like ‘SABALA’, ‘SAKHI’, ‘STEP’, ‘Rajya Mahila Samman’, ‘Zila Mahila Samman’, ‘Nari Shakti Puruskars’, etc.
- Firstly, gender-based discrimination should be prohibited in a strict manner.
- Secondly, equal opportunity should be given to all men and women.
- Thirdly, awareness camp should be arranged for urban and semi-urban areas.
- And finally, they should be provided a safe and secure harass free work environment.
After several revolutions and social reforms, the status of women has started healing and women like Mary Kom(Boxer) Manushi Chhillar(Miss World,2017) Dipa Karmakar(gymnast) Sakshi Malik(wrestler) have all portrayed extraordinary potential. They rose to international recognition even, let aside national, but still women empowerment is an illusion. As such, the human rights of women are not adequately protected in the practical field. Hence, social change is required to change the thought process of the human mind, so that women are treated with respectful behaviour in every part of society.
Saswati Samanta | Bankura University, Bankura, West Bengal
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 1st female teacher of India.
 Clause (4) to section 46ensures exceptional circumstances. (inserted by 2005 amendment Act)
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 former Chief Justice of India, Justice JS Verma, with the former Solicitor General, Gopal Subramanium, and Justice (Retd.) Leila Seth.
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