The reality of gender inequality in India is very complex and diversified, because it is present in many ways, many fields and many classes. Over the past decade, gender equality and women‘s empowerment have been explicitly recognized as a key to social and economic development of nation. Additionally, the promotion of gender equality and empowering of women was one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to which India was a signatory. This article briefly provides details on status of women from ancient times to present century, the article in the constitution empowering women in the domain of governance and strategies for advancement of women.
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Status of Women – From Ancient India to Present Time Period
- In the ancient India, women were held in high esteem and the position of a woman in the Vedas and the Upanishads was that of a mother (maata) or goddess (Devi). In the early Vedic age, girls were looked after with care.
- Then practice of polygamy deteriorated the status of woman and in the medieval period, the practices of purda system, dowry and sati came into being.
- With the passage of time, the status of woman was lowered. After the advancements made in relevant science and technology, it led to the misuse by practicing female foeticide on a large scale. This has led to a drop in the female ratio. According to the census 2001, the sex ratio in India is 927 females to 1,000 males. And then dowry has become common and started Female infanticide practices in few areas.
- In many parts of India, women are viewed as an economic liability despite contribution in several ways to our society and economy. 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.
- Domestic Violence, Rape, Sexual Exploitation, molestation, eve-teasing, forced prostitution, sexual harassment at workplaces etc are a common affair today and in some cases, it’s too tragic that it gets the global attention.
- The major reasons for this inequality are identified as the need of a male heir for the family, huge dowry, continued financial support to a girl child, poverty, domestic violence, farming as a major job for poor and the caste system.
- At work, the disparity is visible through a different working environment for women, unequal wages, undignified treatment, sexual harassment, higher working hours, engagement in harmful industries, occupational hazards, working roughly twice as many hours as men and a nearly 27 percentage of women are accounted by unpaid activities.
- Violence against women is also prominent in India. As per some reports every 42 minutes sexual harassment occurs, every 43 minutes a woman is kidnapped and every 93 minutes a woman is burnt for dowry. And by the pre-quarter of reported, rapes involve girls under the age of 16 years. Every 26 minutes a woman is molested and every 34 minutes a rape take place.
- Poor health care is another attitude towards women which makes them a vulnerable section of the society.
- Lack of education in women has to lead to poor levels of literacy.
- The discriminative socialization process is another aspect of inequality towards women which leads to customary practices, more involvement in household activities only (boys not allowed), restricted to play, isolation, separation in schools and public places and restrictions to move freely.
- Detrimental cultural practices like after marriage husbands dominating the family, dominance from In-laws family, members, never or rarely considered for any decision making, limitations in continuing relationships with brothers, sisters, relatives, child or early marriage, patriarchal attitudes and not able to continue girl or boy friendship after marriage are also contributing factor to the inequality.
Article 243 D – Women Empowerment in the Domain of Governance
In Governance this inequality was visible, after decades of independence. Hence, Article 243 D of the Constitution provides provision of 33 percent reservation for women in the Panchayati Raj Institutions and 33 percent of the office of chairpersons will be reserved for women.
Advancement of Women – Strategies
Strategies for the advancement of women should be
- Higher literacy,
- More formal education
- Greater employment opportunity.
In education, it needs to be reducing primary and secondary dropout of a female child. Women learners should educate their children which further enhances social advancement. For better job opportunities reservations could be provided or special provisions. In governance, all rights and all legal measures should be available for women’s protection and support.
The above details would help candidates prepare for UPSC 2020.
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