Article on Women Empowerment

About The Author 

Raju Balodi is an Associate member of The Institute of Company Secretaries of India and Commerce Graduate from University of Delhi and competed Master of Commerce in Business Policy and Corporate Governance from Indira Gandhi National Open University.

He has served Companies including SFSL Investments Limited, Rathi Graphic Technologies Limited (Rathi Steel Group), RGTL Industries Limited, Satin Creditcare Limited etc.

 

INTRODUCTION:

Men and women both are equal partners in uplifting the civilization of human beings. both have their own significance and both are complementary to each other. The nature has granted both of them equal potentials and capabilities but unfortunately both are not treated equally in society due to gender biased customs and influences which leaded gender discrimination and social inequalities.

This Article is about women’s empowerment in terms of Indian historical background as well as Indian legal system covering various aspects of women empowerment and few glimpse of international perspectives.

CONCEPT OF WOMEN EMPOWERMENT:

Empowerment is a multi-faced, multi-dimensional and multi-layered concept. It is the action and interaction of various factors such as physical, socio-economic, political, mental, psychological, and attitudinal thus it involves the process of increasing and improving the social, economic, political and legal strength of the women, to ensure equal-right to women, and to make them confident enough to claim their rights. It is a way through which women gain greater share of control over material, human and intellectual resources like knowledge, information, ideas, and financial resources and equal participation in decision making in home, community, society and nation. It is associated with women‘s struggle for social justice and equality.

“Yatra naryastu pujyante ramante tatra Devata, yatraitaastu na pujyante sarvaastatrafalaah kriyaah” is a famous sloka taken from Manusmruthi which means where women are honoured, divinity blossoms there, and where ever women are dishonoured, all action no matter how noble it may be, remains unfruitful.

 

HISTORIC BACKGROUND

Women empowerment in ancient IndiaIn ancient India, women were having equal status with men; in early Vedic period they were very educated and there are references of women sages such as Maitrayi and female rishi Visvara in our ancient texts. Women participated in the public sacrifices alongside men. Some Vedic hymns, are attributed to women such as Apala, the daughter of Atri, Ghosa, the daughter of Kaksivant or Indrani, the wife of Indra.

 

The ancient Epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata are evidentiary proof of women’s right to marry as per their own choices and there were provision of  “Swayamvara” that was a practice of choosing a husband, from among a list of suitors, by a girl of marriageable age.

 

Girls during the Vedic period were taught like boys. No distinction was made between the two. Lopamudra, Apala, Ghosh and Vishwavara were some of the great women-sages who were held in high esteem.

 

There were two types of scholarly women which were the Brahmavadinis and the Sadyodvahas. Panini mentioned of female students’ studying Vedas. Katyana called female teachers Upadhyaya or Upadhyayi.

 

Women of Buddistic and Jaina faiths had comparatively more freedom to pursue the path of knowledge because womanhood was no bar to salvation as per their respective precepts and they also used to visit outside India for teaching Buddhism.  Ashoka got his daughter, Sanghamitra, inducted into preaching Buddhism.

 

There existed an organized system of education which trained all women for various occupations. Ibn Battuta (14th century A.D.), who had noticed 13 schools for girls along with 23 for boys in Honavar.

 

Women often enjoyed prominent roles in politics. Megasthenes mentioned the Pandya women running the administration. The Satavahana queen, Nayanika ruled the kingdom on behalf of her minor son. So did Pravabati, daughter of Chandragupta -II, on behalf of the minor Vakataka prince. A little after the Gupta period, queens used to rule in Kashmir, Orissa and Andhra. Princess Vijaybhattarika acted as the provincial ruler under the Chalukya King; Vikramaditya-I. Women were provincial and village administrators in the Kannada region.

Role of Women in Medieval politics – Delhi Sultanate, Mughals and the DeccanThe medieval period in India was different from earlier times. The status of women saw a gradual decline with Islamic invasion. Such was the effect of their rule that women’s rights and freedom were curtailed. They started getting exploited. Practices like purdah, Polygamy, restriction with respect to  Zenana areas of the house, child marriage and Jauhar. The literacy amongst women in medieval period was greatly declined.

 

Inspite of all restrictions and limitations, many women had broken the social restrictions and participated in the political and educational system in India, some of them were Meerabai (Vaishnava bhakti movement), Akka Mahadeviwas, Raziya Sultan, Durgavati, Chand Bibi , Nur Jehan, ahanara and Zebunnissa, Jijabai (Mother of Sivaji Maharaj).

 

Domingo Paes who visited Vijayanagara in the 16th century attests the evidence of these sculptures by stating that there were women who could wrestle, blow trumpets and horns, and handle sword.

Women empowerment during English rule:During the British rule several changes were made in the socioeconomic structure of our society. Due to industrialization and urbanization some substantial progress was made in eliminating inequalities between men and women in matters of education, employment, social and political rights. Education which has been identified as the major instrument for raising the status of women was started during British period.

 

The issues which attracted the attention of the nineteenth century social reformers were the system of Sati, the ban on the widow remarriage, polygamy, child marriage, denial of property rights and education to women.

 

Some women’s organizations were established such as Bharat Mahila Parishad in 1904, Bharat Stri Mahamandal in 1910, Women’s Indian Association in 1917, National Council of Women in India in 1925 and All India Women’s Conference in 1927.

 

The following important legislations were passed during the English rule in order to uplift the conditions of women in India:

 

1.      Bengal Sati Regulation, 1829 with a view to ban Sati practice.

2.      The Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act, 1856 to legalize remarriage of Hindu widows.

3.      The Female Infanticide Prevention Act, 1870 to prevent murder of female infants.

4.      The Age of Consent Act, 1891 to raise the age of consent for sexual intercourse for all girls, married or unmarried, from ten to twelve years.

5.      Indian Penal code, 1860 with inclusion of punishment with respect to crimes against women.

6.      The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 with an objective to eliminate the practices of early marriages.

 

Empowerment of women after independence:

 

When our country got its independence, the participation of women nationalists was widely acknowledged. When the Indian Constitution was formulated, it granted equal rights to women, considering them legal citizens of the country and as an equal to men in terms of freedom and opportunity.

 

WOMEN EMPOWERMENT- FROM A CONSTITUTIONAL PERSPECTIVE:

 

Constitution of India safeguards the interest and dignity of women across the country. Several provisions have been made in Indian constitution to uplift and empower women in India.The Indian constitution contained the provisions for the protection of the rights of women out of which some of the important provisions are briefly  mentioned hereunder:

1.      Article 14: Equality before law and equal protection of Law.

2.      Article 15(1)-The state shall not discriminate against any citizen of India on the ground of sex.

3.      Article 15(3)-The state is empowered to make any special provision for women. In other words, this provision enables the state to make affirmative discrimination in favour of women.

4.      Article 16(2)-No citizen shall be discriminated against or be ineligible for any employment or office under the state on the ground of sex.

5.      Article 23(1)-Traffic in human beings and forced labour are prohibited.

6.      Article 39(a)-The state to secure for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood.

7.      Article 39(d)-The state to secure equal pay for equal work for both Indian men and women.

8.      Article 39(e)-The state is required to ensure that the health and strength of women workers are not abused and that they are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their strength.

9.      Article 42-The state shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.

10.  Article 51-A(e)-It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.

11.  Article 243-D(3)-One-third of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat shall be reserved for women.

12.  Article 243-D(4)-One-third of the total number of offices of chairpersons in the Panchayats at each level shall be reserved for women.

13.  Article 243-T(3)-One-third of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality shall be reserved for women.

14.  Article 243-T(4)-The offices of chairpersons in the Municipalities shall be reserved for women in such manner as the State Legislature may provide.

 

 

OTHER LEGAL ASPECTS OF WOMEN EMPOWERMENT IN INDIA

 

Apart from the Indian constitution, various legislations were enacted to protect and safeguard the rights of women in India.Some of the legal enactments made for protection of women in India are listed below in brief:

1.      Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005  is a comprehensive legislation to protect women in India from all forms of domestic violence. It also covers women who have been/are in a relationship with the abuser and are subjected to violence of any kind—physical, sexual, mental, verbal or emotional.

2.      Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 is the legislation for prevention of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation which prevents trafficking in women and girls for the purpose of prostitution as an organized means of living.

3.      Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner.

4.      Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 provides for the more effective prevention of the commission of sati and its glorification on women.

5.      Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 prohibits the giving or taking of dowry at or before or any time after the marriage from women.

6.      Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 regulates the employment of women in certain establishments for certain period before and after child-birth and provides for maternity benefit and certain other benefits.

7.      Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 provides for the termination of certain pregnancies by registered medical practitioners on humanitarian and medical grounds.

8.      Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 prohibits sex selection before or after conception and prevents the misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for sex determination leading to female feticide.

9.      Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 provides for payment of equal remuneration to both men and women workers for same work or work of a similar nature. It also prevents discrimination on the ground of sex, against women in recruitment and service conditions.

10.  Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 grants a Muslim wife the right to seek the dissolution of her marriage.

11.  Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 protects the rights of Muslim women who have been divorced by or have obtained divorce from their husbands.

12.  Indian Penal Code, 1860 contains provisions to protect Indian women from dowry death, rape, kidnapping, cruelty and other offences. Section 498A safeguards women from matrimonial cruelty and such offence is cognizable, non bailable and non-compoundable offence. Section 304B provides penal consequences of dowry death if such death have occurred within seven years of marriage. Further section 294, 509, 354, 354A, 354B, 354C and 354D of Indian Penal Code, 1860 protect the dignity of women’s life.

13.  Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 provides certain safeguards for women like obligation of a person to maintain his wife under section 125 and arrest of woman by only female police and It specifically provides that save in exceptional circumstances, no woman can be arrested after sunset and before sunrise, and where such exceptional circumstances exist, the woman police officer shall, by making a written report, obtain the prior permission of the Judicial Magistrate of the first class within whose local jurisdiction the offence is committed or the arrest is to be made.

14.  Legal Services Authorities Act , 1987 provides for free legal services to Indian women.

15.  Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 introduced monogamy and allowed divorce on certain specified grounds including cruelty, bigamy, polygamy and adultery etc.  It provided equal rights to Indian man and woman in respect of marriage and divorce.

16.  Hindu Succession Act, 1956 recognized the right of women to inherit parental property equally with men.

17.  Minimum Wages Act, 1948 does not allow discrimination between male and female workers or different minimum wages for them.

18.  Mines Act,1952 and Factories Act, 1948 prohibits the employment of women between 7 P.M. to 6 A.M. in mines and factories and provides for their safety and welfare.

19.  Legal Practitioners (Women) Act, 1923 expressly provide that no woman would by reason only of her sex be disqualified from being admitted or enrolled as a legal practitioner or from practicing as such.

20.  Indian Succession Act, 1925 provides equal right of inheritance and succession to a woman on inheriting the property on the death of a person.

21.  Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, provides the rights of women to claim maintenance from her husband in case of situations such as cruelty and desertion etc. The Act also provide right of adoption of child subject to the provisions of this Act.

22.  National Commission for Women Act, 1990 provided for the establishment of a National Commission for women to study and monitor all matters relating to the constitutional and legal rights and safeguards of women.

23.  Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 provides protection to women from sexual harassment at all workplaces both in public and private sector, whether organized or unorganized.

 

 

RIGHTS OF WOMEN UNDER EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR LAWS:

 

Various employment laws were enacted in order to protect of women’s dignity at workplace and to secure employment opportunities for them together with elimination of gender inequalities in India in the matter of employment. the list of few important legislations are mentioned hereunder:

 

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961The Maternity Benefit Act is an act to regulate the employment of women in every factory, plantation or mine, irrespective of the number of employees, and to all shops and establishments employing or having employed 10 persons or more. The objective of the Maternity Benefit Act was to bring a uniform code for maternity benefit to women workers across industries.
The Factories Act, 1948The Factories Act, 1948 provides that no woman worker shall be allowed to work in a factory except between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. The State Governments may by notification vary the limits as set out in this point, but in no circumstance will women employees be allowed to work between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. The shift timing of a woman worker cannot be changed except after a weekly holiday or any other holiday. Hence, women employees are entitled to get at least a 24-hour notice for their shift timing change. There are certain prohibitions for women workers to work in a hazardous occupation.

 

The Factories Act also stipulates the employers employing 30 or more women workers to provide for cheches for children of the women workers, aged 6 years and below. There are various other facilities which are required to be given to workers in a factory such as washing and bathing facilities for women, separate toilets, restrooms and canteens.

The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976Under the Equal Remuneration Act employers are obliged to pay equal remuneration to its male and female employees who are carrying out the same or similar work. Employers cannot discriminate between men and women while recruiting, unless there is a restriction under law to employ women in certain industries.
The Mines Act, 1952The Act prohibits employment of women during night hours. According to Section 46(1)(b) of this Act no women shall, notwithstanding anything contained in any other law be employed in any mine above ground except between the hours 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Every women employed in a mine above ground shall be allowed an interval of not less than eleven hours between the termination of employment on any one day and the commencement of the next period of employment.
Other employment laws:Other employment laws also protect interest of working women such as Employee State Insurance Act, 1948, The Workmen Compensation Act, 1923, Minimum Wages Act, 1948, The Contract Labour (Regulation&  Abolition) Act, 1970 and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005.

 

 

THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF WOMEN AT WORKPLACE (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION AND REDRESSAL) ACT, 2013:

 

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 was enacted to ensure safe working spaces for women and to build enabling work environments that respect women’s right to equality of status and opportunity. An effective implementation of the Act will contribute to the realization of their right to gender equality, life and liberty, equality in working conditions everywhere. The sense of security at the workplace will improve women’s participation in work, resulting in their economic empowerment and inclusive growth.

 

The law makes it illegal to sexually harass women in the workplace. It talks about the different ways in which someone can be sexually harassed and how they can complain against this kind of behaviour. It is specifically made for women only.

 

The glimpse of the Act is mentioned hereunder:

 

WorkplaceThe Definition of workplace is wide enough inclusive and includes Government organizations, Private sector organizations, venture, society, trust, NGO or service providers etc., Hospitals/Nursing Homes, Sports Institutes/Facilities, Places visited by the employee (including while on travel) including transportation provided by employer and even a dwelling place or house.
Sexual Harassment“Sexual Harassment” includes anyone or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication), namely:

a)      Physical contact or advances;

b)      A demand or request for sexual favours;

c)      Making sexually coloured remarks;

d)      Showing pornography;

e)      Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.

Complaints Mechanisms:The Act provides for two kinds of complaints mechanisms:

a)      Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)

b)      Local Complaints Committee (LCC)

 

All Complaints Committees must have 50 percent representation of women. ICC or LCC members can hold their position not exceeding three years from the date of their nomination or appointment.

Internal Complaints Committee (ICC):

 

Every employer is obliged to constitute an ICC through a written order. Where the offices or administrative units of the workplace are located at different places or divisional or sub-divisional level, the ICC shall be constituted at all administrative units or offices.

 

The ICC will be composed of the following members:

a)      Women Chairperson working at senior level as employee; if not available then nominated from other office/units/ department/ workplace of the same employer.

b)      Two minimum members from amongst employees committed to the cause of women/ having legal knowledge/experience in social work.

c)      One member From amongst NGO/associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issue of Sexual Harassment.

 

The function of the Internal Complaint Committee is to Prevent Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace, to develop a policy against sexual harassment of women and to evolve a permanent mechanism for the prevention and redressal of sexual harassment cases and other acts of gender based violence.

The Committee has power as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 when trying a suit in respect of Summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining them on oath and requiring the discovery and production of Documents.

Local Complaints Committee (LCC):The District Officer will constitute an LCC in every district so as to enable women in the unorganized sector or small establishments to work in an environment free of sexual harassment. The LCC will receive complaints from women working in an organization having less than 10 workers; when the complaint is against the employer himself and from domestic workers.

 

The composition  of Local complaints committee shall be:

 

a)      The Chairperson of the committee shall be nominated from amongst the eminent women in the field of social work and committed to the cause of women;

b)      One member shall be nominated from amongst the women working in the block, taluka or tehsil or ward or municipality in the district;

c)      Two members shall be nominated from amongst such NGO/associations/persons committed to the cause of women or familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment subject to condition that at least one must be a woman and atleast one must have a background of law or legal knowledge.

d)      The concerned officer dealing with the social welfare or women and child development in the district, shall be a member ex officio.

Complaint Process –

 

A complaint is to be made in writing by an aggrieved woman within 3 months of the date of the incident. The time limit may be extended for a further period of 3 months if, on account of certain circumstances, the woman was prevented from filing the complaint. If the aggrieved woman is unable to make a complaint on account of her physical or mental incapacity or death, her legal heirs may do so.

 

Upon receipt of the complaint, the ICC or LCC must proceed to make an inquiry in accordance with the service rules applicable to the respondent or in their absence, in accordance with rules framed under the Act.

 

The inquiry must be completed within a period of 90 days. In case of a complaint by a domestic worker, if in the opinion of the LCC a prima facie case exists, the LCC is required to forward the complaint to the police to register a case under the relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code.

 

Where the ICC finds that the allegations against the respondent are proven, it must submit a report to the employer to take action for sexual harassment as a misconduct in accordance with the provisions of the applicable service rules or where no service rules exist, in accordance with rules framed under the Act and to deduct from the salary or wages of the respondent such sum as it may consider appropriate to be paid to the aggrieved woman or to her legal heirs. The employer must act on these recommendations within 60 days.

 

Before initiating an inquiry, the ICC or LCC may, at the request of the aggrieved woman, take steps to arrive at a settlement between the parties. However, no monetary settlement can be made as the basis of such conciliation (Sec. 10(1)).

Duties of employersThe Act prescribes duties of employers with respect to provide a safe working environment at workplace, display at any conspicuous place in the workplace about the penal consequences of sexual harassment, organize workshop and awareness progamme, provide necessary facilities to internal compliant committee or local committee and to provide assistance to the woman if she chooses to file a complaint in relation to the offence under the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Disclosure in Board report of CompaniesThe Companies are required to disclose the fact that they have adopted an Anti Sexual Harassment Policy in line with the requirements of The Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Redressal) Act, 2013. Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) has been set up to redress complaints received regarding sexual harassment. All employees (permanent, contractual, temporary, trainees) are covered under this policy.

 

GENDER DIVERSITY ON THE BOARD OF INDIAN COMPANIES BY INTRODUCTION OF CONCEPT OF WOMAN DIRECTOR:

Gender representation on corporate boards of directors through introduction of provisions of Women Director under Companies Act, 2013 and  Regulation 17 of SEBI (Listing Obligation and  Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015The desire to achieve proportionate gender representation on corporate boards is derived from the principle of equality of treatment. Equality of treatment requires comparable situations to be treated in the same manner and prohibits direct and indirect discrimination.

 

In India the Companies Act, 2013 and SEBI (Listing Obligation and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015, introduced a great move towards the Gender Diversity on Board of Companies.

 

The Companies Act 2013 provides, by virtue of the second proviso to sub-section (1) of section 149, that specified companies shall have at least one woman director.

 

According to rule 3 of Companies (Appointment and Qualification of Directors) Rules, 2014, the following classes of Companies are compulsorily required to appoint atleast one women Director on their Board:

a)      Every listed company.

b)      Every other Public company having paid up capital of 100 crores or more or a turnover of 300 crores or more.

 

Any Intermittent Vacancy of a women director shall be filled by the Board at the earliest but not later than next Board Meeting or three months of such vacancy whichever is later.

 

Fine Imposed on contravention of the Section 149(1):

 

The company and every officer of the company who is in default shall be punishable with fine which shall not be less than Rupees 50,000/- but which may extend to Rupees 500,000/-.

 

Regulation 17 of SEBI (Listing Obligation and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015 contain provisions relating to mandatory appointment of woman director on the Board of the Company which states  that the composition of board of directors of the listed entity shall be as follows:

 

“Board of directors shall have an optimum combination of executive and non-executive directors with at least one woman director and not less than fifty percent of the board of directors shall comprise of non-executive directors.”

 

ELIMINATION OF GENDER PAY GAP IN INDIA:

Equal remuneration to women-Constitutional Aspects.As part of its Directive Principles of State Policy, the Constitution of India through Article 39 envisages that all states ideally direct their policy towards securing equal pay for equal work for both men and women, and also ensuring that men and women have the right to an adequate means of livelihood. While these Directive Principles are not enforceable by any court of law, they are crucial to the governance of the country and a state is duty bound to consider them while enacting laws.

 

While “equal pay for equal work” is not expressly a constitutional right, it has been read into the Constitution through the interpretation of Articles 14, 15 and 16, which guarantee equality before the law, protection against discrimination and equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.

The gender pay gap in Corporate India was eliminated through the introduction of the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.In 1976, the Equal Remuneration Act was passed with the aim of providing equal remuneration to men and women workers and to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender in all matters relating to employment and employment opportunities. This legislation not only provides women with a right to demand equal pay, but any inequality with respect to recruitment processes, job training, promotions, and transfers within the organization can also be challe[1]nged under this Act.
International obligations with respect to the equal pay to female workersIndia has been a permanent member of the ILO (International Labour Organization) Governing Body from 1922. In September 1958, India ratified the C100 Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100), which addressed the issue of equal pay between men and women for work of equal value. This convention requires all member states to direct their national laws and policies towards guaranteeing equal remuneration to all workers, regardless of gender. In an attempt to ensure compliance with this convention and in response to the Report by the Committee on status of women in India, the government enacted the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.

 

INTERNATIONAL OBLIGATIONS WITH RESPECT TO PROMOTION OF GENDER EQUALITY

International Labour Organization- Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951

 

India has been a permanent member of the ILO (International Labour Organization) Governing Body from 1922. In September 1958, India ratified the C100 Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100), which addressed the issue of equal pay between men and women for work of equal value. This convention requires all member states to direct their national laws and policies towards guaranteeing equal remuneration to all workers, regardless of gender. In an attempt to ensure compliance with this convention and in response to the Report by the Committee on status of women in India, the government enacted the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) &

UN Women

The United Nations has made significant progress in advancing gender equality, including through landmark agreements such as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, to address such challenges.

The creation of UN Women came about as part of the UN reform agenda, bringing together resources and mandates for greater impact.

UN Women’s main roles are:

a)      To support inter-governmental bodies, such as the Commission on the Status of Women, in their formulation of policies, global standards and norms.

b)      To help Member States implement these standards, standing ready to provide suitable technical and financial support to those countries that request it, and to forge effective partnerships with civil society.

c)      To lead and coordinate the UN system’s work on gender equality, as well as promote accountability, including through regular monitoring of system-wide progress.

Convention on the Political Rights of Women The Convention on the Political Rights of Women was approved by the United Nations General Assembly during the 409th plenary meeting, on 20 December 1952, and adopted on 31 March 1953 with an objective to codify a basic international standard for women’s political rights.

 

The preamble of the Convention reiterates the principles set out in article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares that all people have the right to participate in the government of their country, and to access public services.

Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages

 

The objectives of the convention is to recall the Article 16 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 with respect to the right to marry of own choice and to found a family. The purpose of the convention is to preserve the equal rights as to the marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free will and full consent of the intending parties. the purpose of the convention is also elimination of child marriages.
Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women

 

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women was adopted without vote[1] by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 48/104 of 20 December 1993 with a view of recognition of the urgent need for the universal application to women of the rights and principles with regard to equality, security, liberty, integrity and dignity of all human beings.

 

 

WOMEN EMPOWERMENT – CHALLENGES AND ISSUES

There are several challenges on the way of women empowerment in India such as social norms, family structure, social attitudes,  religious orthodoxy, education and health issues, employment inequalities and continuing preference for a son over the birth of a girl child. The society is more biased in favor of male child in respect of education, nutrition and other opportunities. Women often internalize the traditional concept of their role as natural thus inflicting an injustice upon them. Poverty is the reality of life for the vast majority women in India and It is the another factor that poses challenge in realizing women’s empowerment. The health and safety concerns of women are paramount for the well-being of a country but unfortunately, they are also major challenge in the way of women’s empowerment. Professional Inequality is practiced in employments and promotions. Women face countless handicaps in male customized and dominated environment in Corporations, Government Offices and Private enterprises. Household relations show gender biasness in almost all communities including lack of spirit of male partners to share burden of household work and childcare.

CONCLUSION

The Empowerment of Women has become one of the most important concerns of 21st century not only at national level but also at the international level. Government initiatives alone would not be sufficient to achieve this goal. Society must take initiative to create a climate in which there is no gender discrimination and women have full opportunities of self decision making and participation in social, political and economic life of the country with a sense of equality.

When women move forward the family moves, the village moves and the nation moves. The best way of empowerment is perhaps through inducting women in the mainstream of development. Women empowerment will be real and effective only when they are endowed income and property so that they may stand on their feet and build up their identity in the society.

Women represent half the world’s population and gender inequality exists in every nation on the planet. Until women are given the same opportunities that men have, the entire societies will be destined to perform below their true potentials.

 

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