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Women and Empowerment

By Ravi Kishore | PUBLISHED: 18, Nov 2010, 13:45 pm IST | UPDATED: 15, Apr 2011, 13:45 pm IST

Women and Empowerment

Today everybody is talking about equality of woman in Indian society but the truth is far from what is being talked or advocate about. Position occupied by the Indian woman in the society and also in the political process due to socio-economic constraints is totally marginalized  in a male dominated Indian society. The gender equality in Indian context exists only on paper.

One of the most daunting task and challenges before those concerned with the issue of gender equality and strengthening women’s rights in India is how to bridge the  alarming gap that exist between the legal position that exist and the actual practice prevalent in society. The gap not only exists in the society but the same state of affairs exists in the governance and the judiciary as well.

Though today we have a lady President and speaker of the Lok sabha but that has not helped much to alleviate the plight of the women in general. Even the UPA today is lead by a lady.

There is no doubt that the representation of women in administration is rising but it still remains a minimal one. Take the case of the Supreme Court, there is no lady judge for last several years and in fact till date the Apex Court had only two female lordships. Even in High Courts the representation of the women is quite less. Though everyone speaks of equal right to representation but the effect doesn’t percolate to the implementation stage and the representation of the women in higher decision making bodies including the judiciary has remained like an oasis which doesn’t expand.

When coming to the law, there has been very significant legislative measures in the direction of improving the plight of the women has remained more or less the same, Even though the Dowry Prohibition Act was enacted in 1961 and there has been stringent conditional amendments to it thereafter, but the evil practice has flourished unhindered and when we look to the statistics of dowry death, it ha hardly come down.

The Sex determination Tests has been banned but the same has continued unabated and the female foeticide has continued unabated and the illegal clinical tests are being conducted equally in the urban and the rural areas. Sex selective abortions have grown and this is elucidated from the adverse sex ration in our population.

The Dowry Abolition Act had been followed with the recent enactment of the Domestic Violence Prohibition Act, but it had hardly any effect on the domestic violence on women. The reason that less cases remains to be reported is mainly on account on the social dependence of women on men and they can’t leave their matrimonial home for want of security and livelihood. The females today are largely dependent on their husbands and they don’t have the avenue for livelihood in case they leave their husband. The legal process of getting alimony is cumbersome and time consuming. Moreover, a woman is financially dependent.

The whole issue is embedded in our social fabric. The woman today is still considered as second to male and even in so called higher society it has remained same. The only difference that has been noticed in recent years is that more and more women have started rubbing shoulders with males in social functions. The lavish and ugly show of money power at marriages is an area of concern. Though many amendments have been made to the dowry prohibition act  and the Indian Penal Code, like the one in 1980’s whereby giving and taking of dowry has become a cognizable offence. But that has not had any dampening effect on the practice and in fact over the last few decades the practice has spread to all religion, caste and communities.

The only instance the dowry gets reported is where the marriage is under strain and  only as a last resort.

Take the case of rape, the actual conviction rate today remains very low and that two after a long and lengthy judicial process. The truth remains that in majority of the cases the instance of rape doesn’t get reported as the whole process of reporting and subsequent investigation is too stigmatic for the women and the women is subjected to harassment at the investigation stage itself. The legal process is also not conducive to the women, though the higher judiciary including the Supreme Court has laid down clear guidelines in this regard.

The issue of sexual harassment has seen some positive developments after the  Supreme Court has laid down clear guidelines in this regard in the Visaka case. But even after so many years the Government has failed to bring out a legislation on this issue and the Supreme Court judgment has remained as the guidelines though the Supreme Court had clearly ruled that the Government will bring a comprehensive legislation on the issue. But the government has failed.

These are only few instances where though the law exists which safeguards the interest and dignity of woman but the same is not being followed by the law enforcing agencies. The latest instance of Ruchika- Rathode case is only one of the instances where the deficiency in law enforcing mechanism has come to the fore. The case has again established that the women are always and can be subjected to all kinds of harassment and the offender goes scot free. Not only this, innocent girls are rather forced to commit suicide and the offender go on to become the highest officer of the state law enforcing agency and is decorated with President Medal. This is frightful and shameful.

We all need to ponder and ask why such a situation exists. We all are responsible for the same. The law enacting agencies and the law enforcing agencies are equally responsible. The gap between the social legislation and the social practice is increasing. The laws are being enacted but same are not being followed in practice. The legislature is only worried about enacting laws on paper and is least concerned whether they are being implemented in the spirit in which the law was enacted. They always tend to blame it on law enforcing agencies for the lax implementation of same. The politicians are more concerned about their vote bank.

On the legislature front though the implementation of reservation for women at the panchayat and zila parishad has been a right step in women empowerment but the Women reservation bill has remained to see the light of the day because of vested political interest as many of them want reservation in reservation. The constitution guarantees equal right to both the sexes, but it is hardly a reality. We sincerely hope that sense will prevail and the Women reservation bill will be passed soon.