Women in Crisis: Ramifications and Remedies – An Inquiry
Dr. (Smt.) B.V.L.A. MANGA,
Retd., Reader Department of Political Science, Matharajah’s (Autonomous) College,
VIZIANAGARAM – 535002,
Phone: (R) 08922 – 273194,
Today India has to consider that gender equality and women’s empowerment are the key elements for the development and well being of the families, communities and nations. No nation, society, and family can flourish and be happy if fifty percent of its population i.e., women and girls are not respected, free and happy women are the key agents for development. They play a catalytic role towards achievement of transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development. Though women work for longer hours than men and contribute substantially to family income, they are not perceived as productive workers.
Women have been discriminated against, excluded from decision making at all levels, marginalized and disempowered. This is so because of the prevalence of patriarchy, a social system in which men are considered to be superior to women and in which, men have more control over resources, decision making and ideology. In patriarchy violence against women is part of the system. Women are controlled through violence or threat of violence, according to the UN, one out of three women experiences violence. This means over one billion women and girls experience violence. This is the biggest war going on in the world and what painful is that most of it takes place within the family.
It is indeed difficult to generalize about women in India because of their heterogeneity. Yet one can say that most women suffer from patriarchal structures and ideologies; they experience gender inequalities and subordination. Women lag behind their men in all indicators of social and human development. India has the most adverse sex-ratio for women in the world. Life expectancy for women is lower than that of men, women’s health, nutritional and educational levels are significantly lower than that of men. Women are concentrated in low skilled and low paid jobs; they get low paid jobs, they get lower wages and lower income than men and they hardly own or control property and means of production. The participation of women in political and social decision making is abysmally low. India was ranked at 108th position out of 144 countries in Global Gender. Gap Index 2017 released as a part of World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report 2017. India slipped by 21 places compared to 87th rank last year. It was mainly due to low scores in two indicators. They are (i) Health and survival: India ranked 141 at bottom four. It was mainly due to India’s poor sex ratio at birth which still points to a strong preference for sons (ii) Economic participation and opportunities for women: Indian ranked 139, down from 136 last year.
It was due to fact that on an average, a woman in India is estimated to earn less than quarter of annual income earned by a man. She gets paid only 60% of what her male counterpart gets for similar work. Moreover, women account for over third of labour force participation, but their share of daily unpaid work (household chores, child care etc.) is 65% while it is only 11% for men. Across the sectors only 13 % of senior officials, managers and legislators are women. Fall in India’s ranking can be attributed to widening of its gender gaps in political empowerment as well as in health life expectancy and basic literacy. Though India succeeded in fully closing its primary and secondary education enrollment gender gaps and very near to closing its tertiary education gender gap, but its overall literacy rate still shows disparity between men (80%) and women (59%). Moreover, in case women holding top political positions, India’s ranks higher at 15th position but the proportions of women in legislature is an abysmal 11 percent. India is ranked 125 of 159 countries in the Gender Inequality Index (GII). The ratio of maternal mortality is 174 against every 100,000 live births. Only 12.2 percent of parliament seats are held by women. 26.8 percent of women above the age of 15 years are part of India’s Labour force compared to 79.1 percent men.
Some of the faced problems by women are mentioned below:
Discrimination begins much before the birth and they are prone to sex-selective abortions, female infanticide etc.
Domestic violence is endemic and affecting 70% of women and wife battering is a pass time for most men.
According to the Crime Record Bureau for every 44 minutes, one women is kidnapped and for every 47 minutes one rape is taking place.
Every day 17 dowry deaths are occurring
Obscurity in the market
No work after the marriage
Sexual abuse by family members
Voice on mute
Eve teasing, alcoholism, drug abuse, early marriage; trafficking, adolescent pregnancy, Cyber crimes, peer pressures etc.
Conditioned to believe that they are inferior and subordinate to men.
36.8 percent of girls marry be before attaining the age of 18 years.
12 percent of girls become mothers before 16 years
Nutrition intake is relatively inferior both in quality and quantity, when compared to their counter parts.
Violence against women is starkingly high (14-18 years) 26.3%
Anemia is equally a challenging problem
In the age group of 11-13 years, the dropout in the school / or never attended to school is 15.2 percent.
Women themselves are neglecting their health (self-denial) i.e., one woman is taking medical help for every 3 men.
In order to move towards gender equality, we have to empower that gender which is disempowered i.e., women and girls. They must be given autonomy, freedom to make their choices and their voice must be heard. Not just women, but women’s perspectives need to be empowered because women are not just a separate sector. Women’s concerns, perspectives and vision are necessary on every issue – be it militarization, human rights are sustainable development. Hence every issue is a women’s issue.
Empowerment of women is not a one way process – in which some activists can go and empower others. It is a two way process in which we empower and get empowered. This is an ongoing journey which is multi-dimensional and integrative.
The process of empowerment includes some of the following:
Making women’s contribution to the society visible, i.e, showing that women in addition to being delivers of children and home makers they are the farmers, labourers, artisans, professionals etc and contributing major to GDP.
Creating a conducive social environment
Society recognizing the knowledge, capabilities and skills of women.
Effective networking is required
Helping women to gain access and control over resources.
The government has gone a long way in bringing out many initiatives to redress the grievances of women both at work and home, various acts were made like the sexual harassment of women at workplace Act, 2013; Dowry prohibition Act,1961; Domestic Violence Act 2005,etc, women still end up being at the receiving end.
Few suggestive / remedial measures to overcome the hurdles are mentioned below:
Conducting gender sensitization and awareness campaigns
Making gender a part of the curriculum
Sowing the seeds of gender equality in the family itself
Inculcation of self confidence, self esteem and self-reliance.
Compulsory education, skill development and vocational education.
Capacity building strategies
Effective convergence of all aspects impacting a women’s life is needed
Expertising in self-defence techniques
Making the women realize their potential, making them aware of their bright future and guiding and nurturing them in proper direction.
Self empowerment, building social networks
Education of women indeed the most important component to be the masters of their own lives and makers of their destinies.
Already empowered women must give a helping hand to the marginalized women.
Efforts should be made to restructure the legal process to deliver fair and in-time justice to the victims of heinous crimes like rapes, acid attacks, sexual harassment, trafficking and domestic violence. In the words of Ela Bhatt “women are the key to rebuilding community. Focus on women, and you will find allies, who want a stable community. The woman wants roots for her family. In woman, you get a worker, a provider, a care taker, an educator, a networker. She is a forger of bonds – in her essentially, you have a creator and a preserver”.
The government is also working in this direction with the theme “Women First, Prosperity for All”. For positive impact in the mind set of society towards girl child, government has initiated Beti Bachao – Beti Padhao campaign. To spread digital literacy Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharata Abhiyan and to train women and equip with new skills, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana was initiated. To encourage women to become entrepreneurs by providing loan facilities, Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana is launched. To unlock women’s full potential in economic field, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Anthyodaya Yojana was launched.
For better health care of women Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abiyan and Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandan Yojana was launched. For women in difficult circumstances facing physical, emotional and economic abuse, the government has created one stop centres and Swadhar Greh. The Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India launched a portal called NARI. NARI stands for “National Reposting of Information for Women”. It will be served as the nation repository composing of all kinds of information which will benefit women across the country. If women are facing sexual harassment at work place Sexual Harassment Electronic Box (SHE-Box) online complaint Management System is introduced.
It is a paradoxical situation. On one hand women are reaching scaling heights and there is no single field untouched by them. On the other hand, crimes against women are increasing and their potential is undermined. The world today needs more feminine leadership, because we face one of the most challenging tasks of transformation of our times. And the feminine is needed not just in the form of more women leaders, but also in the form of men honouring the feminine within them. All these steps will definitely takes us towards “a society in which women can attain their full potential in all spheres of life and influence the process of social change” – a vision enshrined in National Policy for women, 2016, moving towards ‘Women-led development’.
The need of the hour is to build an egalitarian society, where there is no place for superiority. The total development of a country depends on the equal participation of both male and female. It is not possible to develop a nation by excluding women, which is a major chunk of the society. Gender equality must be stated as a necessary component of empowerment. All we need is a concentrated effort focused in the right direction that would rest only with liberation of women from all forms of evils.
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