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ACHIEVED A LOT - STILL TO GO

National Gender Equality Commission

National Gender Equality CommissionWomen’s empowerment active journey in India in Twentieth Century began with the call by Mahatma Gandhi during the independence Struggle. Post Independence University movement to establish study cells in 60’s resulted in creation of 74 Women Studies & Research Cells. National commission of Women the apex national level organization of India with the mandate of protecting and promoting the interests women was set up in 1990 and State Commissions of Women were set up in several States. Yet the women’s status is far from equal.



INTERNATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT

European Human Rights Convention 28th November, 1974
First World Women’s Conference 19th June-2nd July, 1975
International Day of Women 8th March, 1977
Committee for European Council for Equality between men and women 1979
International Day against violence towards women 25th November, 1981
UNO - Anti Terror Convention 4th February, 1985
3rd International Women’s Conference 15th – 26th July, 1985
Added minutes for the 7th European Human Right’s Convention 24th February, 1988
European Agreement about Compensation for the Victims of Violence 7th September, 1992
UNO Human Rights Pact I & II for Switzerland come into force 18th September, 1992
World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna 14th – 25th June, 1993
Violence against Women on International Agenda 4th March, 1994
4th International Women Conference in Beijing 4th – 25th September, 1995
UNO Children’s Right’s Convention 24th February, 1997
UNO Women’s Right’s Convention 27th March, 1997
UNO Resolution 1325 on the Topic “Women Peace And Security” 31st October, 2000
A Permanent Criminal Court Created (ICC) 1st July, 2002
UNO Women’s Rights Commission Beijing +10 28th February-11th March, 2005
Optional record CEDAW 2006


WOMEN’S REPRESENTATIONS IN PARLIAMENT

Rank Country No. of Women % of Seats
1. Sweden 149 42.7
2. Denmark 68 38.0
3. Finland 73 36.5
4.  Norway 60 36.4
5. Netherlands 54 36.0
6. Iceland 22 34.9
7. Germany 211 31.7
8. New Zealand 37 30.8
9. Argentina 79 30.7
10. Mazanbique 75 30.0
40. United Kingdom 118 17.9
77. India 48 8.8

Source: Inter-Parliamentary Union Source: www.ipu.org, as on 10 April 2002

Voting rights for women:
Country Year
France 1944
New Zealand 1893
Finland 1906
UK 1928
USA 1920
India 1947
Switzerland 1973


Land Mark Individual Achievements - India

1905: Suzanne RD Tata becomes the first Indian woman to drive a car.
1916: The first women's university, SNDT Women's University, was founded on June 2, 1916 by the social reformer Dhondo Keshav Karve with just five students.
1927: The All India Women's Conference was founded.
1994: Harita Kaur Deol becomes the first Indian woman pilot in the Indian Air Force (IAF), on a solo flight.
1951: Prem Mathur becomes the first Indian women commercial pilot of the Deccan Airways
1959: Anna Chandy becomes the first Indian woman Judge of High Court
1966: Captain Durga Banerjee becomes the first Indian woman pilot of the state airline, Indian Airlines.
1966: Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay wins Ramon Magsaysay award for community leadership.
1966: Indira Gandhi becomes the first woman Prime Minister of India
1970: Kamaljit Sandhu becomes the first Indian woman to win a Gold in the Asian Games
1972: Kiran Bedi becomes the first female recruit to join the Indian Police Service.
1989: Justice M. Fathima Beevi becomes the first woman judge of the Supreme Court of India.
November 1997: Kalpana Chawla becomes the first Indian woman to go into Space.
September 21, 1992: Priya Jhingan becomes the first lady cadet to join the Indian Army (later commissioned on March 6, 1993)
2004: Punita Arora becomes the first woman in the Indian Army to don the highest rank of Lt General.
2005: Manndhir Rajput, a 34-year-old woman from Ludhiana, Punjab becomes the first Indian woman to become an engine driver of trains with the New South Wales Rail Corporation, Australia.
2007: Pratibha Patil becomes the first woman President of India.


“A major milestone in women's empowerment in India has been the Self-Help Group (SHG) movement. We have over 2.2 million Self Help Groups at the grass roots level throughout the country, which translates into more than 33 million households. We extend collateral free loans to these SHGs and many government programs are also run through these SHGs. Such groups need our continued support and encouragement.“ President of India - Pratibha Devisingh Patil 2008

Important Legislations Passed

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 – The act gives protection to women from domestic violence is a step in right direction. Then landmark legislation that gives married and unmarried women far reaching legal protection against abuse or “threats of abuse” from their spouses, partners or other males in the family came into effect from 26 October 2006.

Hindu Succession Amendment Act 2005 - The amendment is an important step towards gender equality and abolition of the patrilineal system of inheritance prevailing among Hindus. It gives daughters equal property rights as the son and therefore removes gender discriminatory approach.

1993 The 73rd and the 74th Constitutional Amendments - have provided for 33% quotas for women’s representation in all local self-government institutions. Prior to these Constitutional Amendments the state of Karnataka had reserved25% women’s quota in Panchayati Raj Institutions and the state of Maharashtra has also passed 30% reservation for women in urban - local and rural self-government institutions and more recently Bihar has in its new Bihar Panchayati Raj Act 2006 stipulated a 50% reservation in its Panchayats for women.

18 September 1982, the Supreme Court gave the right to all laborers (in particular, women) to approach the Supreme Court directly for redressing violations of the Equal Remuneration Act (Data India, 1982).

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 - The MTP Act, 1971 was amended by the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2002.. 1971 act made legal the termination of pregnancies, if the pregnancy involves (a) a risk to the life of the child and/or mother, (b) if the child is likely to be deformed, and (c) if the pregnancy is the result of rape, contraceptive failure etc.

Scheme for relief and rehabilitation of rape victims - The scheme would look in the formulation of a criminal injuries compensation board which will provide monetary compensation to rape victims. The scheme shall cover all cases where an application has been filed either by the rape victim herself or by any person claiming on her behalf.

Proposed Amendments / Bills

Offences of Acid Act 2008 - The proposed law seeks to focus on the classification of acid attacks as a separate and heinous form of offence and to provide legal support to the survivors.
Amendment in the Maternity Benefit Act 2007 - The Union Cabinet in 2007 gave its approval for introduction of a bill in parliament for amending the Maternity implementation.
Amendments to the provision of rape under the Indian penal code - The proposed amendment looks into widening the scope of the provision by replacing the term ‘rape’ with ‘sexual assault’.
Benefit Act, 1961 - The bill proposes to revise the medical bonus after every three years payable under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, subject to the maximum limit not being over Rs. 20,000 by issuing notification. The existing ceiling of Rs. 250 as maternity bonus under the Maternity Benefit Act is inadequate in the current economic scenario.
The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2006 - This Act was amended twice, once in 1978 and second time in 1986. Representations have been received that the of the Act is hampered by the existence of certain provisions of the Act, such as sections 8 and 20, which are the most commonly invoked provisions for any enforcement being done under the Act. These provisions are directed towards prosecution of the trafficked persons and result in further victimizing the victim. It is represented that instead of prosecuting the trafficker under Sections 3,4, 5 and 6 of the Act, most prosecutions take place under Section 8 of the Act. Thus, with a view to removing these lacunae and to provide for stringent punishment, the Bill seeks to amend various provisions of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956.
Women Reservation Bill, 1996 - This is known as the 81st Constitutional Amendment or Women’s Reservation Bill which was tabled in 1996.It has been met with a great deal of resistance and has not been passed since then even though it has been tabled many times. It is to be mentioned here that on May 2004 General Elections out of the total 539 Legislators only 49 women legislators were elected.
Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 - The proposal recommends the amendment of Section 1 of the Act to make the definition of derogatory representation of women more wider. Further provides for increasing of punishment of the violators.
Bill on the protection against sexual harassment of women - The bill throws light on the code of conduct at work place in pursuance of the Supreme Court guidelines in the case of Vishakha Vs State, circulated the same to all the ministries, educational institutions, public and private sector undertakings and various NGOs for information and implementation.

Status of women in India :-

India is home to one sixth of the world’s population. It is also one of the poorest countries in the world, with 47% of the population living below the international poverty line (WRI 2000). Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is mostly available in urban areas, and even then, only to the affluent. Roughly 20% of the population in the region does not have access to safe water, while 70%, live without adequate sanitation. Of those who do have sanitation services, 73% are located in urban areas (WRI 2000). (3) The country’s per capita income remains low and 26 per cent of the populations live below the income poverty line.
If we look at India, gender stats of the World Bank in 2002, reflect that Indian female life expectancy, female labour force, primary school enrolment, female population is lower than world and developing countries levels. Female enrolment in primary school in India was 75.7% which is much lower than world’s 85.2% and developing countries (83.7%). Female labour force in India was 32.5%, world’s 40.8 and developing countries 40.3. Percentage of female population in India was 48.4, world’s 49.7% and developing countries 49.5%. Indian female life expectancy at birth was 64.2% much lower than world’s 68.8%, and developing countries 66.4%.
The rise in literacy rates over the last decade indicates India's progress in education. From 1991- 99, the overall literacy rate increased from 52 percent to 64 percent. Yet more than half of Indian women are still illiterate; about 40 million primary school-age children are not in school (mostly girls and those from the poorest and socially-excluded households); and only about one-third of an age group completes the constitutionally prescribed eight years of education.

Statistics – Health & Education :-

60 per cent of the rural women are anemic. More women than men die before the age of 35
Maternal deaths in India account for almost 25 percent of the world's childbirth-related deaths.
Maternal mortality rate in India is 100 times more than in the developed world. FN
Malnutrition poses a continuing constraint to India's development. Despite improvements in health and well-being, malnutrition remains a silent emergency in India. The World Bank estimates that malnutrition costs India at least US$10 billion annually in terms of lost productivity, illness, and death and is seriously retarding improvements in human development.


Some Striking facts:-

In 2001, sex ratio of India was 933 women per 1000 men.
Of the 27 million children born in India every year, close to 2 million infants do not survive to celebrate their first birthday.
Female feticide and female infanticide signal the grossest form of discrimination against women in India.
According to the National Family Health Survey – 2, 1998/99, only 52% of women in Indian had a decision-making role in their health care.
Suicide is the second largest cause of death in Indian women after tuberculosis.
12207136(63.06) homes in India still do not have toilets.
National police record shows that in every 26 minutes there is molestation, every 34 min there is a rape and every 93 min a woman is killed.
The declining Sex ratio and millions of “missing girls” is a national problem.
In the 1999 election, out of a total of 4,000 candidates, only 280 (6.5%) were women.
Every 26 minutes, a rape occurs every 43 minutes. Every 42 minutes, an incident of sexual harassment takes place. Every 43 minutes, a woman is kidnapped. Every 93 minutes, a woman is killed.
In India less than 1% of total expenditure is earmarked for women.


Bias against women and girls is reflected in the demographic ratio of 933 females for every 1,000 males. The Indian Medical Association estimates that five million female foetuses are aborted each year. ‘As a result, the sex ratio in the 0 to 6 age group in some northern areas (where the craze for boys is at its worst) is amazingly skewed: 793 females for every 1,000 boys. In some areas it is 754, and in parts of Punjab and Haryana, the figure is about 600.’
To fight the above inequalities, we have to think very sincerely and innovatively. Political power is perhaps the strongest tool to eradicate inequality. The proposed constitution amendment Bill deferred several times that would ensure 33 % reservation for women in all the legislative bodies including the Lok Sabha, has resulted in a unique situation. While the reservation at Panchayat level is not implemented in all states, a controversy has engulfed the nation regarding what should be the mode of reservation at higher bodies.
What does really ail the reservation for women movement in India? After a decade of hue and cry on this line, it is time for stocktaking. Have our strategies failed in due course of time? If so, which are the pitfalls in these strategies? Do we need to plan new strategies ?

Gender Inequality - India’s status

Women’s empowerment active journey in India in Twentieth Century began with the call by Mahatma Gandhi during the independence Struggle. Post Independence University movement to establish study cells in 60’s resulted in creation of 74 Women Studies & Research Cells. National commission of Women the apex national level organization of India with the mandate of protecting and promoting the interests women was set up in 1990 and State Commissions of Women were set up in several States. Yet the women’s status is far from equal.

Women in Decision Making

  Women Men Women as % of Men
Exe. Bodies of Political Parties     9
Cabinet Ministers 8 76 11
High Court Judges 15 488 3
Civil Services     7
Exe. Bodies of Trade Unions 6 108 6

Source: Women in India – How Free? How Equal?

Ms. Kamla Bhasin stressed, ‘Violation of girls and women happens also because the world upholds patriarchy, creating inequality in society. However, gender relations can always change according to the times.’ She continued. ‘Violation of women because of the inequality in society happen on different levels: in the heart, in feelings, and in the economy.’
A World Economic Forum study measuring gender equality around the world places India 113th among 130 countries. In its overall ranking, the country ranks lowest among the four BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, and, shockingly, behind such countries as Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates).
India’s worst performance is in the health and survival category - managing to be ahead only of Azerbaijan and Armenia - attributed to its dismal maternal mortality rate (calculated per 100,000 live births). This rate is 450 - amongst the highest in the world.
India ranks 125th in terms of economic participation and opportunity, 116th in educational attainment, 25th in terms of political empowerment, and 128th in health and survival. The rankings, especially in the health and survival category, prove that economic growth alone does not translate to better lives for Indian women.

Parameters to assess Gender equality are as follows :-

1. Economic participation and opportunity – outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment;
2. Educational attainment – outcomes on access to basic and higher level education;
3. Political empowerment – outcomes on representation in decision-making structures; and
4. Health and survival – outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio


International important Equality Initiatives :-

1. Council of Europe – Equality between Women and Men
2. quality Authority, Irish Republic
3. Equality Commission, Northern Ireland
4. Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission
5. Equal Opportunities Commission, U.K.
6. Equal Opportunities Commission, Hong Kong
7. Equality Now


Equality Now :

Equality Now was founded in 1992 to work for the protection and promotion of the human rights of women around the world. Working with national human rights organizations and individual activists, Equality Now documents violence and discrimination against women and mobilizes international action to support their efforts to stop these human rights abuses. Through its Women’s Action Network of concerned groups and individuals around the world, Equality Now:
The Women’s Action Network is committed to voicing a worldwide call for justice and equality for women. Issues of urgent concern to Equality Now include rape, domestic violence, reproductive rights, trafficking of women, female genital mutilation, and the denial of equal access to economic opportunity and political participation.

Recommendation of Sachar Committee to set up An Equal Opportunity Commission for Minorities

The recent Sachar Committee report is a set back to demand for EOC for women.
“Committee recommends that an Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) should be constituted by the government to look into the grievances of the deprived groups. An example of such a policy tool is the UK Race Relations Act, 1976. While providing a redressal mechanism for different types of discrimination, this will give a further re-assurance to the minorities that any unfair action against them will invite the vigilance of the law.”
The recent Sacchar Report unfortunately it addresses to the “policies to deal with the deprivations of MINORITY and which would sharply focus on inclusive development and mainstreaming of the community. “ The panel is recommending an Equal opportunity Commission for the Minority community only, which ignores the demand of other Indian women.
How ever if National Gender Equality Commission is created as an autonomous representative institution than situation can be redressed.

National Gender Equality Commission :

It has now become a national agenda to seek new ideas for the empowerment of women in order to achieve sustainable development and a balanced India. We, at Stree Shakti The Parallel Force recognizes the urgent need for organized action to explore new avenues. We have been demanding since 2001 that India needs an autonomous body, an Equal Opportunity Commission. A study of women’s political empowerment in U.K. reveals that the Equal Opportunity Commission in U.K. played an important role in achieving women’s political empowerment.
There are several merits to the above. The autonomous and statutory nature of the body would invest in it powers to define and enhance the profile of political representation, facilitate formation of women friendly laws, evaluate and innovate Govt policies, change the mindset of society and also of women towards themselves and their families. It would network internationally with the other Equal Opportunity Commissions.
India’s First woman President Smt Pratibha Devisingh Patil has supported this important gender initiative. She has stressed the need to change the way the Government treats gender issues. She has recommended with an objective to empower the country’s half a billion women National Gender Equality Commission to be constituted. This initiative will encourage the government and society to take hard look at the fragmented manner in which issues relating to women are handled. It is also proposed to amend the National Commission of women’s mandate to include equality concerns.

The Promise :

While the Indian constitution is one of the most progressive in the world and guarantees equal rights for men and women, Indian women are still waiting anxiously for their equal dreams to be translated into reality. The fundamental rights incorporated in the Indian Constitution embody several favourable provisions. The Constitution of India guarantees to all Indian women equality (Article 14), no discrimination by the State (Article 15(1)), equality of opportunity (Article 16), equal pay for equal work (Article 39(d)). In addition, it allows special provisions to be made by the State in favour of women and children (Article 15(3)), renounces practices derogatory to the dignity of women (Article 51(A) (e)), and also allows for provisions to be made by the State for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief. (Article 42).
India has signed in 1993 Convention for Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) - the Convention to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. Equal rights for women in all fields include equality in political and public life and in the formulation of government policy The law may say a woman should get the same pay as a man or a girl and have the same right to go to school, but does that mean women are paid the same wages as men or equal numbers of boys and girls go to school?
In 1995 at United Nations global conference in Beijing where Women from 180 countries participated and set targets to improve the lot of women around the world, Asian women still face lower social and economic status, with abuses such as human trafficking, sex slavery, female infanticide, and gender-motivated abortions on the rise in parts of the region.

The Challenge Ahead :

Right of Women to Equal Representation - To enact the Women’s Reservation Bill and to ensure that every party should field at least 33% women candidates to contest the election.. Women representatives at Panchayat level should also get more autonomy by providing them financial resources and power to make decisions in the panchayat.

A comprehensive lifecycle approach towards women’s health—from cradle to the grave. Adopt Women-centric health initiatives to improve the maternal mortality rate also. Ensure a minimum allocation of 3% of GDP on health, as was promised in the NCMP.

Gender budgeting should be implemented across all ministries and all machineries, including at the state and panchayat level. Ensure that all the ministries and departments effectively implement a gender budgeting policy with one third allocation of resources for women. Also there should be one scheme in all the ministries which allocates 100% resources for women.

Improve women’s participation in work force as well as their productivity- Ensure equal pay for equal work to women in all sectors. Strengthening women’s skills and capacities and access to technology.

Remove the glass ceiling : Felicitate women to have important positions in different organizations.

Future Action Plan :

As a further course of action, regional meetings were planned in order to forward the idea of the equality.

Create a 100 women Forum to fight inequalities
Initiate discussions with intellectuals & academics
Interact with the Women’s Studies Centers in different Universities and Indian Association for Women’s Studies
Network with Affirmative Action & Equal Opportunity cells
Create an awareness amongst non-government organisations and women’s groups
Convince the decision-makers, political leaders from grass-root panchayat level to the Parliament
Identify women leaders who will mobilise people’s participation to further the cause
Initiate industrial support by interacting with chambers of commerce
Get the support of legal bodies, science institutes and medical associations

Future Projections:
World wide efforts will for gender equality will yield in next decade a reversal in Gender equalities as Projected below. In other words, almost eight out of ten of all graduates will be women in Sweden within eleven years.”

Percentage of Women Graduates Across the World

Trends and Projections:
Country 2005 2015 2020
Australia 56 62 62
Czech Republic 57 55 61
Denmark 59 66 68
France 56 65 66
Germany 53 65 61
Hungary 64 66 73
Italy 59 68 70
Japan 49 49 54
Korea 49 54 56
Poland 66 63 62
Switzerland 43 49 48
Turkey 44 35 37
United Kingdom 58 72 72
United States 58 61 57
Seden 63 74 76

Source: Vincent-Lancrin, Stéphan, “The Reversal of Gender Equalities in Higher Education: An Ongoing Trend

Need for United Action:

Women make a major contribution to the economy. They have access to and control an enormous store of indigenous knowledge and wisdom. Therefore, despite their predominant role in the primary sectors of the economic development, women in India today, continue to be marginalized with limited access to public and private services. To counter these trends, the experiences and perspectives of women need to be heard, and their capacity for political, economic and social contributions to the community should be recognized and strengthened.
To embark on fresh impetus for equality, joint action is essential. Dr Ambedkar a staunch fighter for women’s cause had stated, ‘If women themselves did not come forward to fight for the eradication of social evils, their position in society would not improve.’ Stree Shakti –The Parallel Force proposes formation of a networking forum which can be called ‘100 Women’s Forum’. The proposed forum will have representatives from various sectors like, government departments, business icons, political leaders, renowned social activists, academicians, women from science, media, sports, art and culture. All these women will be achievers in their own fields and would work together as a think tank to influence the policy makers for providing more space to women in India. This forum will provide a platform for women from different sectors to interact and arrive at a consensus on key issues like leadership, equality, insights into best management practices and become role models for young generation of women in the country.

‘Women of India deserve opportunities if not reservation’.
 
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