What is empowerment? It is a form of legal authorization given to sustain an individual. Women empowerment is giving women powers so as to maintain a gender balance in all general contexts.From the very beginning women have been dominated and suppressed in Indian society. In Ancient India, women enjoyed equal status with man but during medieval age the condition of women started deteriorating. While purdha (pardha) system, sati, child marriage, dowry started taking place, the jauhar was practised in Rajasthan. Devdasis ( temple women) were sexually exploited, polygamy practice etc were prevalent.
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). Since the Fifth Five Year Plan (1974-79), there has been a marked shift in the approach to women’s issues from welfare to development. In recent years, the empowerment of women has been recognized as the central issue in determining the status of women. The National Commission for Women was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1990 to safeguard the rights and legal entitlements of women. The 73rd and 74th Amendments (1993) in the Constitution of India have provided for reservation of seats in the local bodies of Panchayats and Municipalities for women, laying a strong foundation for their participation in decision making at the local levels.
But is she able to enjoy all these rights? Even today there are many malpractices in our Indian society were women are treated harshly. Female infanticides, cases where baby girls are thrown or left in miserable conditions, are still prevalent in many parts of the country. The mentality of such people still goes with the perception of accepting a boy just because he will be an earning member for lifetime. As per the latest Census in the year 2011, the total female sex ratio in India is 940 per 1000 males.
Women are treated brutally when they give birth to a girl; she is even forced to desert from home. Dowry is another misfortune for our Indian .When people are unable to pay the demanded money their daughters are treated tyrannically, they are tortured physically and mentally, many a times they are burnt alive. Many women are still not allowed to work outside home. Girls are dominated by their husbands and in-laws. Girls in many parts of the country are still not sent to the school as discrimination still prevails in society. At times we can still hear reports on child marriages. If at all women are working they are not fairly treated and discriminated in one or the other form. Even sometimes they are sexually assaulted. At the 2001 census, India had a female population of 496million. India accounts 15% of World’s women characterized by vast regional differences and a variety of cultures. But, social discrimination and economic deprivation on the basis of gender is common to all, irrespective of religion, cast, community, and State. According to National Crimes Records Bureau, Government of India, there were over 32,000 murders, 19,000 rapes, 7,500 dowry deaths and 36,500 molestation cases against women during 2006. Rape is a rapidly growing crime in the country today and as many as 18 women are assaulted in some form or the other every hour across India. The psychological pressure of all this can easily lead to a woman quitting her job. The Shramshakti report on self-employed women and women in the informal sector published in 1988, was a crucial report on women in the informal sectors of urban and rural India. The report shows that women are extremely vulnerable to working conditions across diverse occupations, suffering high levels of discrimination, as well as a variety of health hazards. To be young and in love has proved fatal for many young girls and boys in parts of north India as an intolerant and bigoted society refuses to accept any violation of its rigid code of decorum, especially when it comes to women. Many such killings, which go by the name of honour killings, happen with regularity in Punjab, Haryana. Trafficking in its widest sense include the exploitation of girls by pushing them into prostitution, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery and the trade in human organs.
The Government of India has taken all efforts to abolish the discrimination against women. According to the Constitution of India, men and women are equal before law. The government is laying special emphasis on the education of girls. The Hindu Widow Remarriage Act, 1856,the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 the Hindu Women’s Right to Property Act 1937 and the Hindu Women’s Right to Separate Residence and Maintenance Act 1946 were some of the measures that sought to improve social and economic status of women to a very limited extent. Besides the provisions in the Constitution, the following legislations were passed since 1950:
– The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
– The Hindu Succession Act, 1956
– The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act
– The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
– Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
– The maternity benefit act 1961.
Benefits Act. Today women have started securing respectable position in all sectors of work. The employment opportunities for women are increasing day by day. The government of India has appointed the National Commission for Women to protect the interests of the women at large. The Commission is vested with powers of a Civil Court. It is entrusted inter alia with the task of looking into complaints, take suo moto notice of non-implementation of laws relating to women and noncompliance with policy decisions, guidelines and instructions aimed at mitigating the hardships and ensuring the welfare and providing relief to women Today women have attained a remarkable position in probably all fields and they are in no way inferior to men. India has a remarkable history with women from being the Prime Minister to the Governor and then to the President. There are many able doctors, lawyers, and top bureaucrats. Even in business they are occupying high positions. Women are in police force, air force and even scaling the Mount Everest is not beyond their capacity. Thus as we have seen, various laws have been made by the legislature in the interests of women. The need of the hour is for the women to realise their rights and be vigilant. Women are the present and the future of INDIA. At the international level, the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) sought to guarantee better legal status to women.
Different NGO’s are working for the upliftment of the women and girls child.
1-Foundation to Educate Girls Globally (Education), Rajasthan, ,
2-Prajwala (Economic Security & Livelihoods), Andhra Pradesh, ,
3-The Hunger Project (Governance),New Delhi,
4-STEPS Women Development Organisation (Socio-Cultural Rights) Pudukottai, Tamil Nadu,
5-Adarsh Samaj Sahyog Samit, SHIS,
6-National Council of Women In India, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, National Commission of Women.
A woman is part of society, part of family .She is a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother and she is present in different forms in our life. Our society and Nation can only progress when we give them the right to live freely, allow them do make their independent decision; give them equal opportunity in every aspect. Let us give them wings to fly high. Let her be happy, so that she can give her best to family, society and nation. As Women’s empowerment doesn’t happen in a vacuum … From adolescence, boys also need to be sensitized to gender equality and teamwork among the sexes so as they grow older and become husbands and fathers an that they understand and respect women as equally capable in the family and society.
“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.” ~Diane Mariechilss