Women empowerment enables women to make decisions regarding their well being. It arms them to get equal rights in the society, and overall live better lives at home and in the world around them.
Women Empowerment is about increasing and improving the social, economic, political and legal strength of women so as to ensure that they have equal rights. Moreover it encourages them to be more confident to claim their rights including:
There has been discrimination between men and women for centuries, which is why the right for equality is a genuine demand.
Even the Supreme Court has observed in a judgment that real development is only possible with economic empowerment for women. Women are gaining in confidence with education and realize that they can get income, status and identity without marriage. They are looking for equally accomplished partners and are not afraid to wait for the right time till they find one.
But these things have always existed for men. Women are only demanding equality in matters like power, respect, freedom, education, employment, inheritance, marriage, politics and now even religion to serve as clerics. They are asking for equal pay for equal work and other freedoms that have already existed for men all over the world.
Their quest for equality has given birth to many women’s associations and movements. Women are entering various work forces that were once considered a man’s domain. They believe that raising a child and looking after their homes is an episode in their lives, not their entire life. However while you see both the husband and wife going out to work today, are home chores shared equally as they are in Western countries?
It’s true that young fathers are being more hands on and responsible. There is a division of labour at home but has the patriarchal mindset really been done away with? Women are expressing themselves and dressing the way they want, speaking their minds. They try to assert themselves both at home and work, which would suggest that though the traditional setup of husband going to work and wife looking after the child still exists, things are changing today.
In spite of drawbacks, women in the country are not apologetic about claiming their share and visibility within the family, at work, in public places, and in the public discourse. The apex court said that the focus was slowly shifting from mere “better treatment” or “well-being” of women to empowering them to be economically independent and self-reliant, with a positive esteem, to enable them to face any situation and participate in development activities.
As India promotes Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Education for girls) scheme, “empowerment of women is the need of the hour,” the Supreme Court said. It’s heartening because women in the country have faced discrimination for a long time. That was despite the fact that the Indian Constitution gives equal rights to men and women. “In reality, however, they have a long way to go to achieve this constitutional status,” Justice Sikri, who wrote the verdict for the Bench, observed in a judgment dated February 8 released on Tuesday.
Quoting Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen, the Supreme Court observed that economic development and women’s empowerment had a symbiotic relationship. One cannot do without the other. The court said the term “women’s empowerment” meant women’s ability to access the constituents of development, in particular health, education, earning opportunities, rights, and political participation.
“Policy action is still necessary to achieve equality between genders. Such policy action would be unambiguously justified if empowerment of women also stimulates further development, starting a virtual cycle,” the court said.
In recent years the Government of India has implemented various constitutional and legal rights to eliminate ill practices and gender discrimination against women. However to change things on a broader level there has to be a larger participation, from women and men. As there is growing focus on women’s rights, there has been a rise in the numbers of NGOs, self help groups that have come up. Women are breaking social barriers to achieve their goals in all directions.
In order to empower women with legal rights, the Parliament has passed several acts including Equal Remuneration Act-1976, Dowry Prohibition Act-1961, Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act-1956, Medical termination of Pregnancy Act-1971, Maternity Benefit Act-1961, Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act-1987, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act-2006, Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act-1994, Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Protection and) Act-2013.
In order to provide safety and reduce crime against women in India, the Government has passed another act – Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015 (especially after Nirbhaya case when an accused juvenile was released). This act is the replacement of the earlier Indian juvenile delinquency law of 2000 (Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000) in order to reduce the juvenile age from 18 to 16 years in cases of heinous offenses.
Prof. Ankita Srivastava is an Assistant Professor at Faculty of Management Science, SRMS College of Engineering & Technology, Bareilly.