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When it comes to women there have been a few important happenings in the recent past. For the Indian women there were the 73rd and 74th Amendments (1993) to the Constitution, providing for the reservation of seats in the local bodies of panchayats and municipalities and, of course, the post 1995 measures by the government that formed the icing. It is a different issue that the cake was missing. The government of India had floated zealously its grand ideas for the country by declaring the year 2001 as Women's Empowerment Year, with a focus on achieving the "vision in the new century of a nation where women are equal partners with men". What followed was a spate of programmes and schemes with fine names: Swashaktiand Stree Shakti for women's empowerment; Swayam Siddha to benefit nearly a lakh women through micro-credit programmes, Balika Samrudhi Yojana for the girl child and a horde of various other projects, doubtlessly with intentions of going about a greater common good. Since independence, India has developed several initiatives for guaranteeing education to its people. Although some progress has been achieved, the ever growing population has always come in the way. What is worrisome is the inconsistency that marks the efforts. Every once in a while, when a programme is to be launched or a report released, the activism comes to the fore. For rest of the time the problem exists but is too commonplace and ubiquitous to rouse strong motivation for efforts. In contrast to the tragedies of the communities affected by drought, flood or civil conflict, the poverty, powerlessness and ill-health, which accompany illiteracy are not easily captured on the camera and brought to the attention of the international public opinion. Today, 125 million primary school age children are not in school; most of them are girls. The current literacy rate for women in India stands at 54.16 per cent, vis-a-vis that of 75 per cent for males. Efforts are, however, on for raising the standard of the girl child. There are several programmes being undertaken. It is true that after years of inflicting damage results cannot be achieved in a day. Nonetheless, consistency in efforts will be better than complacency. It will take some time, but the end result will be rewarding. After all, it is not for nothing that it is said that when you educate a boy you educate an individual, but when you educate a girl you educate an entire family. Economic Status Women are the major contributors in terms of economic output, but their contribution still remains to be made visible. Men and women are not equally distributed across the types of work. Women are concentrated in the primary sector and in unskilled and marginal work. 95 per cent of women, as against 89 per cent men, are engaged in un-organised sector, and most of them are found in the rural areas. According to the 2001 census, 90 million women constitute the workforce. Industries that employ more women than men include, processing of edible nuts, domestic services, bidi manufacturing, spinning, weaving, finishing of coir textiles etc. Women also constitute majority of the workforce employed as nurses, ayahs, paramedics and technical workers. Their contribution goes unnoticed as most of the times they are involved as unpaid or home-based workers, who often get counted as nonworking housewives. In her paper on land laws and gender equity, Prof Bina Aggarwal points out the fact that women are much more dependent on land-based livelihoods. Over the years, while the male workers have been moving to nonagricultural arenas, women have remained where they were, owing to their lower mobility, less education and few assets. She notes, "firstly there is systematic bias against the women and female children's sharing of benefits from the male controlled resources²women without independent resources are highly vulnerable to poverty and destitution in case of divorce or widowhood. They often need titles to avail credit facilities."
Child marriages. there are women²especially . triggering off an early motherhood for most. only to fade away in a couple of days when the oddity has turned boring. especially in the North and West pockets of the country. worse still. women themselves prefer a male child despite the negative impact of this mindset on their lives. it is sad to see the blatant use of woman as a mere "tool" that can be used at will to achieve various ends. Girls in early teens are "traded off" in the name of marriage to men who are older by nothing less than twenty to twenty five years. Then. but has remained largely unseen. The Dowry Prohibition Act has been in force for five decades. Quite the reason for the reproductive health scenario not being so encouraging. but it is important for them to be realising this individually. The startling fact is that. which has results still worse in nature. The news stirs up people. The apathy towards the gender inequities is evident in the classes that are expected to deliver better. The women can also be benefited in a large measure through generating adequate amount of legal awareness and helping them in making efforts to farm collectively. Marriage and reproductive health Although the practice of child marriage is history for most. Every once in a while. continue to take place and yet there is no action against this practice. Women in India are not lacking in self-confidence. resort to psychologically pressurising the woman. Individual self-confidence can be bolstered by the parental confidence. countless atrocities are perpetrated as a result of this despicable practice that finds favour with scores of the households. This saves them the hassle of dowry as well as the search for a groom! The common practice in rural India is to marry the girls around the age of fourteen or fifteen. in turn. Domestic violence The phenomenon of domestic violence is widely prevalent. schemes and slogans. banned by law. but also is seen as redemption of money spent on the daughter's wedding. and through approval and appreciation of the community they are a part of. for a certain amount of money. by and large. men may not commit acts of violence. of all cases of crime committed against women every year. it still continues to be a reality of life in the rural India. Millions of Indian women have. This seems to be a culturally conditioned choice. there can be little meaningful done for achieving gender parity. Afraid of the law. and yet. almost 37 per cent are cases of domestic violence. The crux is that till socio-cultural attitudes are addressed. as is being done by the Deccan Development Society (DDS) in Andhra Pradesh. as a major chunk of the population below the poverty line remains the hapless women. being subjected to humiliation and indignity which cripple them mentally. there are shocking incidents (which make it to the covers of popular magazines and hit the front pages of newspapers because of the element of horrific unusualness). as well as collectively. This is also the reason why technologies like ultrasound and amniocentesis are being used to determine sex of the child in the womb. Another complexity that leaves the women at cross roads is fear of the apparent persecution if she bears a daughter. Marrying off a boy not only marks an easy road to prosperity. and to see it as a much exploited subject for speeches. No amount of legislation will be effective as long as the political will to promote gender equity is absent. grown to accept spousal violence and. but. According to the Crime Records Bureau of the Union Home Ministry. seminars.In last one decade the Union and State governments have envisaged the eradication of poverty through women-oriented programmes. After all these years. on the whole.
behaviour that can be considered sexual harassment has been explicitly legally defined. the State of Rajasthan (August 1997) initiated debate on the issue not just among women¶s groups. Our democracy will remain seriously flawed if it fails to yield adequate space to women. it is urgently required that we take special measures to enhance women's political participation. Today. Sexual harassment should be considered a separate legal offence not because . but also among women in the workplace. In fact. as was evident from the ugly scenes in the aftermath of tabling of the Women's Reservation Bill in the Parliament. the agenda of women's empowerment seems to have lost the kind of moral and political legitimacy it enjoyed during the freedom movement. such as Germany. Denmark and Finland. ²sexually coloured remarks. ³« sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour (whether directly or by implication) as: ²Physical contact and advances. In these societies. In the fields of business. the modern male feels under siege. Norway. For the first time. lawyers and activists. ²any other unwelcome physical. but attribute the increased reporting to the growing realisation among women that they have to fight back. a demand or request for sexual favours. law. SEXUAL HARASSMENT The Supreme Court judgement on Sexual Harassment of working women in the case of Vishakha vs. for the first time sexual harassment is identified as a separate category of legally prohibitive behaviour. and the frustration is taken out on the woman on whom he feels he can assert his will. and cannot be left to the forces that presently dominate our parties and government. Legislative Status Women in India have made major inroads in various male-dominated professions. Domestic violence among the lower class is accepted. whereas the societal systems have not. medicine. without availing of any special measures to facilitate their entry. engineering. women who were given opportunities to acquire the necessary skills and education have proven themselves capable of holding their own. Most women in electoral and party politics are an ineffective minority within their own respective political groupings. than in the Parliament." There's more to domestic violence than physical abuse. What we get to see is only the emerging middle class. All trends indicate that women's representation in politics requires special consideration. art and culture.those belonging to the middle and upper middle classes²who keep quiet for the sake of the family's image. Most social workers and counsellors agree that the number of domestic violence cases has increased. women have begun to seriously alter the very nature of politics. Sweden. ²showing pornography. including the governmental bureaucracy. have shown little willingness to include women in party decision-making. and among the upper class it is swept under the carpet. Infact. verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature. or even to help create a conducive atmosphere for women's participation in their own organisations. Sociologist Mohua Bandyopadhyaya also corroborates the facts: "with more and more women in the work place. Therefore. because here the value systems have changed tremendously. and substantial gains in every field. Moreover.´ The guidelines are significant in that. But they have failed to gain ground in the field of politics. women are moving in the direction of near equal political participation in only a handful of countries. women's marginalisation is even more pronounced in the day-to-day functioning of almost all political parties. making enduring. The very same male party leaders who compete with each other in announcing their support of special reservations for women. even the best of female parliamentarians feel sidelined and powerless within their respective parties. Emotional trauma can be far more crippling.
It is the duty of the employer or other responsible persons in work places or other institutions to prevent sexual harassment and to provide procedures for resolution of complaints. the guidelines also proclaim it to be a violation of women¶s right to equal opportunity in the workplace. 2005 The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 was brought into force from October 26. Sexual harassment should be affirmatively discussed at worker¶s meetings. Prohibition of sexual harassment should be included in the rules and regulations of government and public sector bodies. employer-employees meetings and other appropriate forums. Central and State governments are required to adopt measures including legislation to ensure that private employers also observe guidelines. verbal. Further. or (b) forces the aggrieved person to lead an immoral life. Nothing contained in clause (c) of sub-section (1) shall amount to domestic violence if the pursuit of course of conduct by the respondent was reasonable for his own protection or for the protection of his or another¶s property. Women who either draw a regular salary. Domestic violence under the act includes actual abuse or the threat of abuse whether physical. leisure. in addition to sexual harassment being a violation of the right to safe working conditions. Primarily meant to provide protection to the wife or female live-in partner from domestic violence at the hands of the husband or male live-in partner or his relatives. Private employers should include prohibition of sexual harassment in the standing orders under the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act. Appropriate work conditions should be provided for work. it often becomes the complainant¶s word against the harasser¶s. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT. The employer should assist persons affected in cases of sexual harassment by outsiders or third parties. widows or mothers. private sector or unorganized sectors²come under the purview of these guidelines. the law also extends its protection to women who are sisters. health. sexual. Particularly in the absence of witnesses or other concrete proof. For the purposes of this Act. 1946. or work in a voluntary capacity²in the government. Harassment by way of unlawful dowry demands to the woman or her relatives would also be covered under this definition. any conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence if he (a) habitually assaults or makes the life of the aggrieved person miserable by cruelty of conduct even if such conduct does not amount to physical ill-treatment. receive an honorarium. Guidelines should be prominently notified to create awareness of the rights of female employers. and hygiene to further ensure that there is no hostile environment towards women at workplaces and no woman employee should have reasonable grounds to believe that she is disadvantaged in connection with her employment. but because it is taken less seriously.it is less serious (as some have argued). 2006. Main guidelines are: y y y y y y y y Express prohibition of sexual harassment should be notified and circulated. emotional or economic. . or (c) otherwise injures or harms the aggrieved person. The Act was passed by the Parliament in August 2005 and assented to by the President in September 2005.
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