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The status of women empowerment in india

  • 9th October, 2020

Syllabus : Prelims GS Paper I : Current Events of National and International Importance.

Mains GS Paper I : Role of Women and Women’s Organization, Population and Associated Issues, Poverty and Developmental issues, Urbanization, their problems and their remedies; Social Empowerment.

It has been repeatedly argued that how the issues of sexual violence fade into more intricacy by the victim blaming culture of a patriarchal society. The recent case of a 19-year-old Dalit woman from Hathras has stirred the nation. The brutality of the incident made the country feel uncomfortable to accept it as an occurrence in their very own rural space. This discomfort in the time of digital media soon turned into a social media sensation. The country started schooling its women on what to do and what not to once again. Victim blaming and moral policing continued, and women were blatantly advised to learn self-defense, to carry chili spray, completely forgetting the logical reason why rape happens.

The final postmortem report also refers to "old tears in private parts, but no rape."The victim was cremated on the night at about 2:00 am of 29 September 2020 by Uttar Pradesh Police without the consent of the victim's family. The forced cremation led the Allahabad High Court to take suo moto cognizance. The bench also asked the victim's family, the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police to appear before it. The bench added, "The incidents which took place after the death of the victim on 29.09.2020 leading up to her cremation, as alleged, have shocked our conscience".

How the Nirbhaya case changed Indian rape laws:

On March 21, 2013, the rape law in the country was amended. The new though rape law-Criminal law (Amendment) Act,2013-to punish sex crimes redefined rape and made punishments more stringent-including death for repeat rape offenders. But despite the stricter law, weak policing and investigation haven’t deterred rape, the fourth-most common crime against women in India, according to government statistics. In the absence of systemic and procedural reform, the law has failed to do attain its primary objective.


A Closer Look at Statistics on Sexual Violence in India:

Recent incidents of rape have stirred the conscience of the nation. Even as India reels from the shock of the cases in Kathua (Jammu and Kashmir) and Unnao (Uttar Pradesh), there are more such incidents being reported almost on an everyday basis, such as the ones in Surat (Gujarat) and Nadia (West Bengal).These barbaric incidents at various parts of the country have once again put the spotlight on India’s poor track record in protecting its women, almost five years after the brutal Nirbhaya case, in which a young medical intern was gang-raped and tortured in a moving bus in South Delhi.This case had led to changes in India’s legal system, including the passing of stricter sexual assault laws, and the creation of fast-track courts for prosecution of rapes. Recent cases have also led to legislative changes. At least four states – Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, and Arunachal Pradesh – have introduced the death penalty for rapes of minors, defined as below 12 years of age. According to news reports, the Centre is also contemplating amending the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to introduce the provision of the death penalty for raping minors aged below 12 years. Understanding the issues concerning violence and crimes against women are critical to generating sustainable solutions to the problem. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a government of India agency, collects statistics and information on crimes. These crime statistics, especially those on sexual violence, tend to suffer from under-reporting. In fact, some studies have found that reported crime rates and actual crime rate could have a negative correlation, due to other issues like education, legal infrastructure etc. India’s average rate of reported rape cases is about 6.3 per 100,000 of the population. However, this masks vast geographical differences with places like Sikkim and Delhi having rates of 30.3 and 22.5, respectively, while Tamil Nadu has a rate of less than one. Of course, one must be careful in interpreting these state-wise differences as these are ‘reported’ cases and could suffer from under-reporting. Even India’s average rate of 6.3, which is not very high when compared with the rest of the world, suffers from under-reporting. According to a recent report by the Livemint, about 99% of cases of sexual violence go unreported. If true, this would put India among the nations with highest levels of crimes against women. India’s cases of reported rape have seen a massive jump in the last few years, mainly owing to the outrage and awareness created out of the unfortunate Nirbhaya case. Reported cases jumped by a massive 26% in 2013, the highest in the last 15 years, mainly driven by an increase of reports in the states of Northern India, like Rajasthan, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh. The trend is also mirrored for all crimes against women, and not just rape, which also saw an increase of 26% in 2016.

What is Nirbhaya Fund ?

The Nirbhaya Fund, set up by the Government of India in the wake of the tragic gang rape-murder, was specifically designed to be used for schemes by different States to ensure Women’s safety and security at public places, a one-stop centre for their grievances, a helpline and other measures. However analysis of data shared by the government on the fund shows that of the Rs. 2.264 crore (63% of the corpus of Rs 3,600 crore) allocated top states and UTs around 89% of the sanctioned funds have not been used. Maharashtra, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Manipur, Delhi, West Bengal and Gujarat had the worst utilizations of funds. In fact, no state has reported utilization of over 50% of the funds.

Violence against women and girls : the shadow pandemic
With 90 countries in lockdown, four billion people are now sheltering at home from the global contagion of COVID-19. It’s a protective measure, but it brings another deadly danger. We see a shadow pandemic growing, of violence against women. As more countries report infection and lockdown, more domestic violence helplines and shelters across the world are reporting rising calls for help. In Argentina, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, government authorities, women’s rights activists and civil society partners have flagged increasing reports of domestic violence during the crisis, and heightened demand for emergency shelter. Helplines in Singapore and Cyprus have registered an increase in calls by more than 30 per cent. In Australia, 40 per cent of frontline workers in a New South Wales survey reported increased requests for help with violence that was escalating in intensity. Confinement is fostering the tension and strain created by security, health, and money worries and it is increasing isolation for women with violent partners, separating them from the people and resources that can best help them. It’s a perfect storm for controlling, violent behavior behind closed doors. And in parallel, as health systems are stretching to breaking point, domestic violence shelters are also reaching capacity, a service deficit made worse when centres are repurposed for additional COVID-response.

Even before COVID-19 existed, domestic violence was already one of the greatest human rights violations. In the previous 12 months, 243 million women and girls (aged 15-49) across the world have been subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, this number is likely to grow with multiple impacts on women’s wellbeing, their sexual and reproductive health, their mental health, and their ability to participate and lead in the recovery of our societies and economy.Wide under-reporting of domestic and other forms of violence has previously made response and data gathering a challenge, with less than 40 per cent of women who experience violence seeking help of any sort or reporting the crime. Less than 10 per cent of those women seeking help go to the police. The current circumstances make reporting even harder, including limitations on women’s and girls’ access to phones and helplines and disrupted public services like police, justice and social services. These disruptions may also be compromising the care and support that survivors need, like clinical management of rape, and mental health and psycho-social support. They also fuel impunity for the perpetrators. In many countries the law is not on women’s side; 1 in 4 countries have no laws specifically protecting women from domestic violence.If not dealt with, this shadow pandemic will also add to the economic impact of COVID-19. The global cost of violence against women had previously been estimated at approximately USD 1.5 trillion. That figure can only be rising as violence increases now, and continues in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The increase in violence against women must be dealt with urgently with measures embedded in economic support and stimulus packages that meet the gravity and scale of the challenge and reflect the needs of women who face multiple forms of discrimination. The Secretary-General has called for all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19. Shelters and helplines for women must be considered an essential service for every country with specific funding and broad efforts made to increase awareness about their availability. Grassroots and women’s organizations and communities have played a critical role in preventing and responding to previous crises and need to be supported strongly in their current frontline role including with funding that remains in the longer-term. Helplines, psychosocial support and online counseling should be boosted, using technology-based solutions such as SMS, online tools and networks to expand social support, and to reach women with no access to phones or internet. Police and justice services must mobilize to ensure that incidents of violence against women and girls are given high priority with no impunity for perpetrators. The private sector also has an important role to play, sharing information, alerting staff to the facts and the dangers of domestic violence and encouraging positive steps like sharing care responsibilities at home.COVID-19 is already testing us in ways most of us have never previously experienced, providing emotional and economic shocks that we are struggling to rise above. The violence that is emerging now as a dark feature of this pandemic is a mirror and a challenge to our values, our resilience and shared humanity. We must not only survive the coronavirus, but emerge renewed, with women as a powerful force at the centre of recovery.

Women Empowerment: One Stop Solution for Women:

Women's empowerment is the process of empowering women. Empowerment can be defined in many ways, however, when talking about women's empowerment, empowerment means accepting and allowing people (women) who are on the outside of the decision-making process into it. Women’s empowerment is the most crucial point to be noted for the overall development of a country. Many celebrities are all for girl power such as Liza Koshy and Lilly Singh (who has her own late night show and has won many awards and also raised money for #girl love and other charities) “This puts a strong emphasis on participation in political structures and formal decision-making and, in the economic sphere, on the ability to obtain an income that enables participation in economic decision-making.” Empowerment is the process that creates power in individuals over their own lives, society, and in their communities. People are empowered when they are able to access the opportunities available to them without limitations and restrictions such as in education, profession and lifestyle. Feeling entitled to make your own decisions creates a sense of empowerment. Empowerment includes the action of raising the status of women through education, raising awareness, literacy, and training. Women's empowerment is all about equipping and allowing women to make life-determining decisions through the different problems in society.

Women’s Empowerment Principles in Brief:

1. Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality.
2. Treat all women and men fairly at work – respect and support human rights and nondiscrimination.
3. Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers.
4. Promote education, training and professional development for women.
5. Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women.
6. Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy.

Alternatively, it is the process for women to redefine gender roles that allows them to acquire the ability to choose between known alternatives whom have otherwise been restricted from such an ability. There are several principles defining women's empowerment such as, for one to be empowered, they must come from a position of disempowerment. For example: A stripper no longer has to take off her clothes to get money and now is a receptionist for a respectable company. Empowerment stems from self-respect. Furthermore, one must acquire empowerment themselves rather than have it given to them by an external party. Other studies have found that empowerment definitions entail people having the capability to make important decisions in their lives while also being able to act on them. Lastly, empowerment and disempowerment is relative to other at a previous time; therefore, empowerment is a process, not a product.

Women empowerment has become a significant topic of discussion in development and economics. It can also point to the approaches regarding other trivialized genders in a particular political or social context. Women's economic empowerment refers to the ability for women to enjoy their right to control and benefit from the resources, assets, income and their own time, as well as the ability to manage risk and improve their economic status and well-being. While often interchangeably used, the more comprehensive concept of gender empowerment refers to people of any gender, stressing the distinction between biological and gender as a role. Entire nations, businesses, communities and groups can benefit from the implementation of programs and policies that adopt the notion of women empowerment. Empowerment of women is a necessity for the very development of a society, since it enhances both the quality and the quantity of human resources available for development. Empowerment is one of the main procedural concerns when addressing human rights and development.

Women's empowerment and achieving gender equality is essential for our society to ensure the sustainable development of the country. Many world leaders and scholars have argued that sustainable development is impossible without gender equality and women's empowerment. Sustainable development accepts environmental protection, social and economic development, including women's empowerment. It is widely believed that, the full participation of both men and women is critical for development. Only acknowledging men's participation will not be beneficial to sustainable development. In the context of women and development, empowerment must include more choices for women to make on their own. Without gender equality and empowerment, the country could not be just, and social change wouldn't occur. Therefore, scholars agree that women's empowerment plays a huge role in development and is one of the significant contributions of development.

Economic empowerment:

Economic empowerment increases women's agency, access to formal government programs, mobility outside the home, economic independence, and purchasing power. Policy makers are suggested to support job training to aid in entrance in the formal markets. One recommendation is to provide more formal education opportunities for women that would allow for higher bargaining power in the home. They would have more access to higher wages outside the home; and as a result, make it easier for women to get a job in the market.

Political empowerment:

Political empowerment supports creating policies that would best support gender equality and agency for women in both the public and private spheres. Popular methods that have been suggested are to create affirmative action policies that have a quota for the number of women in policy making and parliament positions. As of 2017, the global average of women who hold lower and single house parliament positions is 23.6 percent. Further recommendations have been to increase women's rights to vote, voice opinions, and the ability to run for office with a fair chance of being elected. Because women are typically associated with child care and domestic responsibilities in the home, they have less time dedicated to entering the labour market and running their business. Policies that increase their bargaining power in the household would include policies that account for cases of divorce, policies for better welfare for women, and policies that give women control over resources (such as property rights). However, participation is not limited to the realm of politics. It can include participation in the household, in schools, and the ability to make choices for oneself. Some theorists believe that bargaining power and agency in the household must be achieved before one can move onto broader political participation

Digital skills enhance political empowerment:

Digital skills can facilitate women’s engagement with local government and increase their decision-making power in their communities. The Women-gov project in Brazil and India, for instance, has helped women improve their understanding of and communication with local government via ICTs. Women with digital skills are better able to make their voices heard on local issues and influence the outcome of decisions that affect themselves and their communities. Digital skills can also empower women to participate in political movements.

Barriers:

Many of the barriers to women's empowerment and equity lie ingrained in cultural norms. Many women feel these pressures, while others have become accustomed to being treated inferior to men. Even if legislators, NGOs, etc. are aware of the benefits women's empowerment and participation can have, many are scared of disrupting the status of the women and continue to let societal norms get in the way of development. Research shows that the increasing access to the internet can also result in an increased exploitation of women. Releasing personal information on websites has put some women's personal safety at risk. In 2010, Working to Halt Online Abuse stated that 73% of women were victimized through such sites. Types of victimization include cyber stalking, harassment, online pornography, and flaming. Sexual harassment in particular is a large barrier for women in the workplace. It appears in almost all industries, but is most notable in the following: business, trade, banking and finance, sales and marketing, hospitality, civil service, and education, lecturing and teaching. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), sexual harassment is a clear form of gender discrimination based on sex, a manifestation of unequal power relations between men and women. Furthermore, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is urging for increased measures of protection for women against sexual harassment and violence in the workplace. 54% (272) had experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment. 79% of the victims are women; 21% were men. Recent studies also show that women face more barriers in the workplace than do men. Gender-related barriers involve sexual harassment; unfair hiring practices, career progression, and unequal pay where women are paid less than men are for performing the same job. When taking the median earnings of men and women who worked full-time, year-round, government data from 2014 showed that women made $0.79 for every dollar a man earned. The average earnings for working mothers came out to even less—$0.71 for every dollar a father made, according to a 2014 study conducted by the National Partnership for Women and Children. While much of the public discussion of the "wage gap" has focused around women getting equal pay for the same work as their male peers, many women struggle with what is called the "pregnancy penalty". The main problem is that it is difficult to measure, but some experts say that the possibility of having a baby can be enough for employers to push women back from their line. Therefore, women are put in a position where they need to make the decision of whether to maintain in the workforce or have children. This problem has sparked the debate over maternity leave in the United States and many other countries in the world. However, despite the struggle for equal pay in the Nepal, the tech industry has made progress in helping to encourage equal pay across gender. In March 2016, tech career website Dice released a study of more than 16,000 tech professionals that found that when you compare equivalent education, experience and position, there is no pay gap—and hasn't been for the last six years. This new industry is paving a way for other companies to do the same. However, this industry also struggles to employ women in executive positions. This is partially due to the barrier of sexual harassment and pregnancy that was aforementioned. Such barriers make it difficult for women to advance in their workplace or receive fair compensation for the work they provide.

Role of education:

It is said that education increases "people's self-confidence and also enables them to find better jobs and they can work shoulder to shoulder with men".They engage in public debate and make demands on government for health care, social security and other entitlements". In particular, education empowers women to make choices that improve their children's health, their well-being, and chances of survival.

The Internet use to Empower Women:

The growing access of the web in the late 20th century has allowed women to empower themselves by using various tools on the Internet. With the introduction of the World Wide Web, women have begun to use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter for online activism. Through online activism, women are able to empower themselves by organizing campaigns and voicing their opinions for equality rights without feeling oppressed by members of society. For example, on May 29, 2013, an online campaign started by 100 female advocates forced the leading social networking website, Facebook, to take down various pages that spread hatred about women.

Ongoing projects:

The UN came out with a set of goals called the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, to help make the world a better place. Of the 17, the fourth goal works to allow access to education for all people alike. A large effort has been made to include women in schools to better their education. Similarly, the fifth goal focuses on empowering women and girls to achieve gender equality through equal access to various types of opportunities (health care, education, work, etc.).There are also some prominent non-profits that help empower women:

  • She Should Run
  • Girls Not Brides
  • The Malala Fund
  • Women in Defense
  • Women for Women International
  • Every Mother Counts

Measuring the depth:

PreQ: Number of States which have utilized more than 50% of the Nirbhaya Fund is

(a) 2
(b) 0
(c) 1
(d) None of the above

MainsQ: How will the Women’s empowerment promote Sustainable Development Growth in totality ? What are the UN’s initiative in this regard ?

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