16 December 2012


·       You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women.- Jawaharlal Nehru
The status of women in India has been subject to many great changes over the past few millennia. From equal status with men in ancient times through the low points of the medieval period, to the promotion of equal rights by many reformers, the history of women in India has been eventful.
In modern India, women have adorned high offices in India including that of the PresidentPrime ministerSpeaker of the Lok Sabha and Leader of the Opposition. As of 2011, the President of India, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha (Lower House of the parliament) are all women. However, women in India generally are still exposed to numerous social issues. According to a global study conducted by Thomson ReutersIndia is the "fourth most dangerous country" in the world for women.
Women in ancient India were held in high esteem. The position of a woman in the Vedas and the Upanishads was that of a mother (maata) or goddess (Devi). In the Manusmriti, woman was considered as a precious being to be protected first by her father, then by her brother and husband and finally by her son. In the early Vedic age, girls were looked after with care. They were given the facilities of education. Remarriage of windows was permitted.
But in the later Vedic period, daughters were regarded as a source of misery. The practice of polygamy deteriorated the status of woman. Women in the later civilizations were not allowed to go to schools.
 In the Gupta period, they were allowed to listen to the scriptures
With the passage of time, the status of woman was lowered. Muscle power and money power dominated the societies. Since men fought the wars and ran the enterprises of industrial production, they considered themselves superior to woman. Thus, the position of women in ancient India was inferior.
In the medieval period, the practices of purdha system, dowry and sati came into being.
The position became worse even during the Moghul rule. They could not overcome the nasty Purdah system of the time. Further, there was the custom of Sati. Many women were forcibly sent to the funeral pyre of their dead husbands.
There was no change in the fate of women even during the British rule in India.. Sati and Polygamy were glorified. The inhuman practice of sati where the wife burns herself alive in the funeral pyre of husband existed through the centuries. Raja Ram Mohan Roy fought against this evil practice and it was finally abolished by Lard William Bentinck in 1829.
 It is thought that the right place for woman is in the home. Her main duty is to cook to all and do other menial jobs. They are considered fit for producing and bringing up children. Thus, women have been deprived of their rightful place in society and exploitation has been going on for centuries.
The situation began to change during the struggle for Indian independence. Many nationalist leaders particularly Mahatma Gandhi openly invited the help from women. Many women came forward. Among them were Sarojini Naidu, Vijaya Laxmi Pandit, Mrs. Aruna Asaf Ali and others.
Under  independent India Mrs. Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister of India.  Indira Gandhi who served as Prime Minister of India for an aggregate period of fifteen years is the world's longest serving woman Prime Minister. She became a very famous woman in the world. With her, the status of women in India increased a lot. It was proved that women are not inferior to men. Many women thereafter occupied prestigious positions in India. They excelled in almost all fields such as sports, politics, administration, science and arts.
In spite of it, many women are suffering mental and physical tortures in their in-laws' houses. Their husbands demand more and more dowry. They consider their wives as good source of getting dowry. Bride-burning and bride- killing occur every day in India. This is how the status of Indian women is going down. The women can get back their rightful place in society if law is properly enforced to check male-superiority
 After the development of science and technology, female infanticide is being practiced on a large scale. This has led to a drop in the female ratio. According to the census 2011, the sex ratio in India is 940 females to 1,000 males. If women and men were treated equally in India, we could expect that there would be around 105 women for every 100 men.
 Dowry has become common. The more educated and well employed a groom, the higher is the dowry demand. The birth of a girl child is, therefore, considered inauspicious. In many parts of India, women are viewed as an economic liability despite contribution in several ways to our society and economy. Early marriages lead to teenage pregnancies which often prove risky to both the mother and the child.
Women represent 48.46% percent of the country's population. Rape, sexual harassment, molestation, eve-teasing, forced prostitution, etc are a common affair today. The crime graph against women is increasing at an alarming rate. The condition of an Indian widow is quite deplorable. At home, the woman's contribution towards home as a housewife is not recognized. Sexual harassment at work places is also a common affair. It is a shame that even after over sixty years of independence women are still exploited..
Through the Panchayat Raj institutions, over a million women have actively entered political life in India. As per the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts, all local elected bodies reserve one-third of their seats for women. Later it was raised to 50%. Although the percentage of women in various levels of political activity has risen considerably, women are still under-represented in governance and decision-making positions.
Women have now started demanding their rights. They want to work side by side with men and contribution towards the social, economic and political development of the society. Swami Vivekananda has rightly remarked, "It is impossible to think about the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is impossible for a bird to fly on only one wing."
Women themselves should come forward and unite in the march towards improving their status. They should  draw inspiration from empowered women like Indira Gandhi, the first woman Prime Minister of India; Vijayalakshmi Pandit, the firs woman President of the UN General Assembly; Kiran Bedi, India's first woman IPS officer; Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian-American woman astronaut, Pratibha Devisingh patil, the first woman President of India, and many others. Some of the great women of the pre-Independence periods are Rani Laxmi Bia of Jhansi, Chand Bibi, Ahilya Bai, Razia Sultan and others.
Today modern woman is so deft and self-sufficient that she can be easily called superwoman, as she juggles many fronts single handedly. Women are now fiercely ambitious and are providing their metal not only on the home front, but also in their respective careers, education in the society.
Several developmental programmes have been implemented by the Five Year Plans .In 1985, a separate Department of Women and Child Development was set up. The major programmes include Support to Tanning-cum- Employment Programme (STEP) for women, Mahila Kosh, Women's Development Corporation, etc. The Supreme Court has made a ruling that a woman has the right to act as the guardian of her minor child. It has made sexual harassment at workplace as an offence.
The Government of India declared 2001 as the Year of Women's Empowerment (Swashakti). The National Policy for the Empowerment of Women came was passed in 2001.In 2010 March 9, one day after International Women's day, Rajyasabha passed Women's Reservation Bill, ensuring 33% reservation to women in Parliament and state legislative bodies.
Women in Indian are coming up in all spheres of life. Women Literacy in India is 65%. They are joining the universities and colleges in large numbers. They are entering into all kinds of professions like engineering, medicine, politics, teaching, Defense etc
A nation's progress and prosperity can be judged by the way it treats its women folk. Men must recognize and accept the fact that women are equal partners in life.
The Government of India has taken all efforts to abolish the difference between men and women. The government is laying special emphasis on the education of girls. In the recent competitive examinations, women have done better performance than men.
·       You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose.- Indira Gandhi
·       Woman must not accept; she must challenge. She must not be awed by that which has been built up around her; she must reverence that woman in her which struggles for expression-Margaret Sanger
·    A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform. -Diane Mariechild.
·       "I was told Indian women don't think like that about equality. But I would like to argue that if they don't think like that they should be given a real opportunity to think like that." - Amartya Sen
·       However much a mother may love her children, it is all but impossible for her to provide high-quality child care if she herself is poor and oppressed, illiterate and uninformed, anemic and unhealthy, has five or six other children, lives in a slum or shanty, has neither clean water nor safe sanitation, and if she is without the necessary support either from health services, or from her society, or from the father of her children.-  Vulimiri Ramalingaswami, "The Asian Enigma"
1.Constitutional provisions regarding Women in India.
The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles of the Indian constitution.
·       Equality before law for women (Article 14)
·       Article 15 of the Indian constitution forbids discrimination on grounds of caste, religion, sex, race and place of birth,
·       State not to discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex , place of birth or any of them (Article 15 (I));
·       State to make special provision in favor of women and children (Article 15 (3));  
·       Article 16 ensures equal opportunities of employment.
·       State to direct its policy towards securing for men and women equally, the right to an adequate means of livelihood (Article 39(a));
·       Equal pay for equal work for both men and women (Article 39(d)
·       To promote justice, on a basis of equal opportunity and to provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or scheme or in any other way to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities (Article 39 A);
·       State to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief (Article 42);
·       State to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation (Article 46);
·       State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health (Article 47)
·       T o promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women (Article 51(A) (e)
·       Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Panchayat (Article 243 D(3)
·       and n ot less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality (Article 243 T 3) etc.
2.Legislative provisions in India regarding women :
The government of India has enacted several women-specific legislations to uphold the constitutional mandate and to protect women against social discrimination, violence and atrocities and also to prevent social evils like child marriages, dowry, rape, practice of sati etc.
The ‘crime against women' under various legislations of government of India could be broadly classified within two categories:
       First, the crimes identified under the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
·       Rape (Sec. 376 IPC);
·       Kidnapping & Abduction for different purposes (Sec. 363-373);
·       Homicide for dowry, dowry deaths or their attempts (Sec.302/304-B IPC);
·       Torture, both mental and physical (Sec. 498-A IPC);
·       Molestation (Sec. 354 IPC); Sexual harassment (Sec. 509 IPC) and importation of girls (up to 21 years of age).
Secondly, the crimes identified under the Special Laws (SLL) which are though not gender specific, but some do have special provisions to safeguard women and their interests.
·       The Employees State Insurance Act, 1948;
·       The Plantation Labor Act, 1951;
·       The Family Courts Act, 1954;
·       The Special Marriage Act, 1954;
·       The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955;
·       The Hindu Succession Act, 1956;
·       Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956;
·       The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (Amended in 1995);
·       Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961; The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971; The Contract Labor (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1976;
·       The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976;
·       The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act, 1979;
·       The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1983;
·       The Factories (Amendment) Act, 1986;
·       Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986;
·       Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987; and
·       The Marriage (Amendment) Act, 2001 etc.
The constitutional and legislative provisions in India not only grants equality and protection to women, but also empower the state to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favor of women.
3.Development policies, programs aimed at women's advancement in different spheres of life.
·       Ratification of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1993
·       The Mexico Plan of Action (1975)
·       The Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies (1985)
·       The Beijing Declaration as well as the Platform for Action (1995)
·       Document adopted by the UNGA session on Gender Equality and Development & Peace for the 21st  century  titled ‘Further actions and initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action ' have been endorsed by India for appropriate follow up.
4. Government Policy in India
The Government of India had ushered in the new millennium by declaring the year 2001 as 'Women's Empowerment Year' to focus on a vision 'where women are equal partners like men'. The objective of government policy in India has been to bring about development, advancement and empowerment of women in the country through active participation of all stakeholders. The government has attempted to create an environment through positive political, economic and social policies for complete development of women. Government policy has been to promote women's participation in political, social and economic life of the nation and identical access to health care, quality education, career and vocational guidance, employment, equal remuneration, occupational health and safety, social security and public office etc. The objective has been also to strengthen legal system aimed at elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and changing the societal attitudes and community practices by active participation and involvement of both men and women.
The Status of Women in India: A reality check
1.Women and Poverty
·      Only 9.2% of the households in India were female-headed.
  • However, 35% of the households below the poverty line were found to be female-headed
 2.Women and Education
·               The female literacy rate in India is lower than the male literacy rate.
·                Female literacy is 65.46% against male literacy rate of 82.14
·               Compared to boys, far fewer girls are enrolled in the schools, and many of them drop out.
·               According to the National Sample Survey Data, only the states of Kerala and Mizoram have approached universal female literacy rates.
·       According to majority of the scholars, the major factor behind the improved social and economic status of women in Kerala is literacy.
·       Under Non-Formal Education programme (NFE), about 40% of the centers in states and 10% of the centers in UTs are exclusively reserved for females. 
·       As of 2000, about 0.3 million NFE centers were catering to about 7.42 million children, out of which about 0.12 million were exclusively for girls
·       In urban India, girls are nearly at par with the boys in terms of education.
·       However, in rural India girls continue to be less educated than the boys.
3.Women and Health
·       Less than 50% of the women are involved in decisions related to their own health care
  • The average nutritional intake of women is 1400 calories daily. The necessary requirement is approximately 2200 calories
  • 38% of all HIV positive people in India are women yet only 25% of beds in AIDS care centers in India are occupied by them
  • 92% of women in India suffer from gynecological problems
·       300 women die every day due to childbirth and pregnancy related causes
·          The maternal mortality in India is the second highest in the world.
  • The maternal mortality ratio per 100,000 live births was 407
  • In many families especially rural ones, the girls and women anemic and malnourished.
·       According to UNDP Human Development Report (1997), 88% of pregnant women (age 15-49) were found to be suffering from anemia.
·       51.8 % married women suffer from anemia
·       Only 42% of births in the country are supervised by health professionals.
·       Most women deliver with help from women in the family
·       Infant mortality is 67 for boys and 78 for girls
·       Roughly 10-15 percent of all births take place to women in their teens
·       There seems to be a consensus that higher female mortality between ages one and five and high maternal mortality rates result in a deficit of females in the population.
·       Chatterjee (1990) estimates that deaths of young girls in India exceed those of young boys by over 300,000 each year, and every sixth infant death is specifically due to gender discrimination."
·       Of the 15 million baby girls born in India each year, nearly 25 percent will not live to see their 15th birthday.

Family planning

·       The average woman in rural areas of India has little or no control over her reproductivity.
·       Women, particularly women in rural areas, do not have access to safe and self-controlled methods of contraception
·       Sterilization accounts for more than 75% of total contraception, with female sterilization accounting for almost 95% of all sterilizations.
Child Sex Ratio (0-6 years)
  • The child sex ratio has dropped from 914 females per 1000 males 2011 Census
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund, estimated that up to 50 million girls and women are ‘missing’ from India’s population because of termination of the female fetus or high mortality of the girl child due to lack of proper care
  • That there have been about 1.2 million `missing girls' in India during the decade 1981-1991
4.Women as Workers
·       A large percent of women work in India.
·       There are far fewer women in the paid workforce than there are men.
·       In rural India, agriculture and allied industrial sectors employ as much as 89.5% of the total female labor.
·       In overall farm production, women's average contribution is estimated at 55% to 66% of the total labor.
  • Female share of non-agricultural wage employment is only 17%
  • Women’s work participation rate rose to 25.7 % in 2001.
  • Participation of women in the workforce is only 13.9% in the urban sector and 29.9% in the rural sector
  • Women’s wage rates are, on an average only 75 % of men’s wage rates and constitute only 25% of the family income
  • In no Indian State do women and men earn equal wages in agriculture
·       According to a 1991 World Bank report, women accounted for 94% of total employment in dairy production in India.
·      Women constitute 51% of the total employed in forest-based small-scale enterprises.
  • Women are paid 30-40% less than men for comparable work on an average
  • 60-80% of the food in most developing countries is produced by women
  • Women hold between 10-20% managerial and administrative jobs
  • Women make up less than 5% of the world’s heads of state
  • Women occupy only 9% of parliamentary seats 
  • Women represent 10% of the ministerial positions
  • Less than 4% seats in High Courts and Supreme Court
  • Less than 3% administrators and managers are women
·       At software industry 30% of the workforce is female. They are at par with their male counter parts in terms of wages, position at the work place.
·       India has the world’s largest number of professionally qualified women.
·       India has more working women than any other country in the world. This includes female workers at all levels of skill – from the surgeon and the airline pilot to bus conductors and menial laborers.
·       India has more female doctors, surgeons, scientists and professors than the United States, on an average however, women in India.
·       1 to 3% of executive positions only occupied by women
·       9 % of women in execute bodies of political parties
·       3 % of women as Supreme Court Judges
·       7 % of women in civil services
·       6 % women in trade unions
·       Only 22% of women in rural India were recorded as workers
·       Only 32% of the female labour force of the total labour force is accounted for
·       In rural India, agriculture and allied industrial sectors employ as much as 89.5% of the total female labour
·       Rural women are paid 60% of what men are paid
·       Urban women are paid 80% of what men are paid
·       Women received the right to vote and stand in election in 1950.
  • Indira Gandhi was elected first female prime minister of Independent India in 1966.
  • In 2007, Pratibha Patil became India’s first female president and in 2009,
  • Meira Kumar became the first woman speaker of the parliament.
  • Police records show high incidence of crimes against women in India
  • Every 3.5 minutes, 1 crime was committed against women in India in 2002
  • Nearly one-third said the perpetrator had been a father, grandfather or male friend of the family.
  • The National Crime Records Bureau reported in 1998 that the growth rate of crimes against women would be higher than the population growth rate by 2010
  • Official statistics show that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of reported crimes against women
Female Feticide
  • Female feticide in India increased by 49.2% between 1999-2000
·       India has a highly masculine sex ratio,
·       Many women die before reaching adulthood. 
·       Tribal societies in India have a less masculine sex ratio than all other caste groups.
·       Highly masculine sex ratio in India can be attributed to female infanticides and sex-selective abortions.
·       All medical tests that can be used to determine the sex of the child have been banned in India,
·       In India every 26 minutes, a woman is molested. 
·       01 woman was raped every 32 minutes
  • 45 women were raped every day
  • 16,373 women were raped every year
  • 2.25% of the total rape cases, were cases of incest
Sexual Harassment
  • 44,098 incidents of sexual harassment were reported every year.
  • 121 women were sexually harassed every day
  • 1 woman was sexually harassed every 12 minutes
  • An increase of 20.6% was seen in incidents of sexual harassment between 1997-2002
·       In India every 93 minutes, a woman is killed.
·       One out of every three women has experienced violence in marital life
·       Physical abuse of Indian women is high ranging from 22-60 percent
·       71.5 percent increase in cases of torture and dowry deaths from 1991-1995
·       45 percent of Indian women are slapped, kicked or beaten by their husbands
·       India also had highest rate of violence during pregnancy - 50 percent were kicked, beaten or hit when pregnant
·       74.8 percent of women who reported violence have attempted to commit suicide
·       Highest rate of sexual violence were among highly educated men
32% - with zero education, 42% - primary school education, 57%-high school and college education
·       35% sexual violence by low economic groups and 61 % among the highest income groups
·       Between 1980 and 1990 there was an increase of nearly 74% in crimes against women
·       Between 1993 and 2000 there was an increase of nearly 150% in crimes against women.
·       40 % women are assaulted by their intimate partners
·       65 % women reported some kind of abuse

Importation of girls/Trafficking
  • The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act was passed in 1956. 
  • 11,332 women and girls were trafficked
  • 31 women and girls were trafficked every day
  • 1 woman or girl was trafficked every 46 minutes

Kidnapping and abduction
  • 14,630 women and minor girls were kidnapped or abducted
  • 40 women and minor girls were kidnapped every day
  • In India every 43 minutes, a woman is kidnapped
  • 1 woman or minor girl was abducted every 36 minutes
Dowry Related Murders
·       In 1961, the Government of India passed the Dowry Prohibition Act,
  • 7,895 women were murdered due to dowry
  • 21 women were murdered every day
  • 1 woman was murdered due to dowry every 66 minutes
Domestic Violence
  • 49,237 women faced domestic violence in their marital homes.
  • 135 women were tortured by their husbands and in-laws every day
  • 1 woman faced torture in her marital relationship every 11 minutes
  • Domestic violence constitutes 33.3% of the total crimes against women
  • A steep rise of 34.5% in domestic violence cases was witnessed between 1997-2002
·       The incidents of domestic violence are higher among the lower Socio-Economic Classes
  • Over 40% of married Indian women face physical abuse by their husband
  • 1 in every 2 women faces domestic violence in any of its forms
  • The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 came into force on 26 October 2006
  • 12,134 women were driven to commit suicide due to dowry
  • 1, 10,424 housewives committed suicide between 1997-2001 and accounted for 52% of the total female suicide victims
Child marriage
·       Child marriage has been traditionally prevalent in India and continues to this day in society.
·       Although child marriage was outlawed in 1860, it is still a common practice.
·       According to UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children-2009” report, 47% of India's women aged 20–24 were married before the legal age of 18, with 56% in rural areas. 
·       The report also showed that 40% of the world's child marriages occur in India.
·       1976 amendment to the Child Marriage Restraint Act raised the minimum legal age for marriage from 15 to 18 for young women and from 18 to 21 for young men..
·       In some rural areas, nearly half the girls between 10 and 14 are married
Child Sexual Abuse
  • Out of 350 school girls 63% had experienced sexual abuse at the hands of family members
  • 25% had been raped, forced to masturbate the perpetrator or forced to perform oral sex
  • Nearly 33% said the perpetrator had been a father, grandfather or male friend of the family
Sexual Abuse
Out of 600 women respondents
  • 76% had been sexually abused in childhood or adolescence
  • Of the abusers 42% were ‘uncle’ or ‘cousin’ 4% was ‘father’ or ‘brother
 6.Land and property rights
In most Indian families, women do not own any property in their own names, and do not get a share of parental property. The Hindu personal laws of mid-1956s (applied to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains) gave women rights to inheritance. However, the sons had an independent share in the ancestral property, while the daughters' shares were based on the share received by their father. Hence, a father could effectively disinherit a daughter by renouncing his share of the ancestral property, but the son will continue to have a share in his own right. Additionally, married daughters, even those facing marital harassment, had no residential rights in the ancestral home.
After amendment of Hindu laws in 2005, now women in have been provided the same status as that of men.
·       A Quick Review of Facts on the Status of Women in India-Amita puri CAF India
·       The Status of Women: A reality check- SWAYAM Kolkata
·       Global Media Journal
·       Indian Women Facts and Figures
·       Facts on Women-: Ms.Gandhimathi
·       India Census 2001, 2011.

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