Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

State of World Population Report 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : State of World Population Report 2021

Mains level : Womens' right issues

The United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) flagship State of World Population Report 2021 titled ‘My Body is My Own’ was recently launched.

State of World Population Report 2021

  • The State of World Population report is UNFPA’s annual flagship publication.
  • It has been published yearly since 1978.
  • It highlights emerging issues in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights, bringing them into the mainstream and exploring the challenges and opportunities they present for international development.

Key findings of the 2021 report

This is the first time a UN report has focused on bodily autonomy, defined as the power and agency to make choices about your body without fear of violence or having someone else decide for you.

  • The report measures both women’s power to make their own decisions about their bodies and the extent to which countries’ laws support or interfere with a woman’s right to make these decisions.
  • The data show a strong link between decision-making power and higher levels of education.

The report shows that in countries where data are available:

  • Only 55 per cent of women are fully empowered to make choices over health care, contraception and the ability to say yes or no to sex.
  • Only 71 per cent of countries guarantee access to overall maternity care.
  • Only 75 per cent of countries legally ensure full, equal access to contraception.
  • Only about 80 per cent of countries have laws supporting sexual health and well-being.
  • Only about 56 per cent of countries have laws and policies supporting comprehensive sexuality education.

In essence, hundreds of millions of women and girls do not own their own bodies. Their lives are governed by others.

The report also documents many other ways that the bodily autonomy of women, men, girls and boys is violated, revealing that:

  • Twenty countries or territories have “marry-your-rapist” laws, where a man can escape criminal prosecution if he marries the woman or girl he has raped.
  • Forty-three countries have no legislation addressing the issue of marital rape (rape by a spouse).
  • More than 30 countries restrict women’s right to move around outside the home.
  • Girls and boys with disabilities are nearly three times more likely to be subjected to sexual violence, with girls at the greatest risk.

Solutions: the power to say yes, the right to say no

  • The report shows how efforts to address abuses can lead to further violations of bodily autonomy.
  • For example, to prosecute a case of rape, a criminal justice system might require a survivor to undergo an invasive so-called virginity test.
  • Real solutions, the report finds, must take into account the needs and experiences of those affected.

Indian scenario

  • In India, according to NFHS-4 (2015-2016), only about 12% of currently married women (15-49 years of age) independently make decisions about their own healthcare, while 63% decide in consultation with their spouse.
  • For a quarter of women (23%), it is the spouse that mainly takes decisions about healthcare.
  • Only 8% of currently married women (15-49 years) take decisions on the use of contraception independently, while 83% decide jointly with their spouse.
  • Information provided to women about the use of contraception is also limited — only 47% of women using a contraceptive were informed about the side effects of the method, and 54% of women were provided information about other contraceptives.

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Address the silent crisis of India’s gender deficit

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gender Gap Report

Mains level : Paper 2- Gender discrimination

The recently released Gener Gap Report paints a grim picture for India. The deal with this issue.

Where India Stands

  • The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report 2021 was released last week.
  • The report lays bare our silent crisis of gender inequality, aggravated by the covid pandemic.
  • India has slipped 28 places to 140th position among 156 countries on the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Index.
  • The country is now 37.5% short of an ideal situation of equality, by its index, last year it was a 33.2% deficit on the whole.
  • Back in 2006, we were almost 40% short, but even the slight progress made over the past 15 years has been highly uneven.
  • Gains were made on the education and political empowerment of women, we slid sharply on health and economic parameters.

Factors to consider

  • Though pandemic has been responsible for the decline to a significant extent, many of our deficiencies are pre-covid.
  • Some of the drop in India’s international rank over the past two years, for example, has to do with regression in the field of political power.
  • The proportion of women ministers more than halved to 9.1% of the total, though our count of female Parliamentarians did not budge from its long stagnancy.
  • Our performance over the past decade-and-a-half has been poor on women’s economic opportunities and participation.
  • Indian workforce has been turning more predominantly male.
  • Senior managerial positions in the corporate sector have not seen sufficient female appointees.
  • At the aggregate level, our income disparity is glaring.
  • Women earn only a fifth of men, which puts India among the world’s worst 10 on this indicator.
  • We fare worse on women’s health and survival, with India beaten to the last rank only by China.

Why proportionally fewer Indian women in jobs?

  • One explanation is that sociocultural attitudes go against women going out to work, unless the family lacks sustenance, and deprivation has been in decline for decades.
  • Another is that families prefer educated mothers to invest time in teaching their kids.
  • Both these motives are said to be influenced by upward income mobility and a quest for better lives.
  • Yet, the covid setback to both family incomes and gender progress would suggest the reasons are mostly attitudinal.

Way forward

  • If the reasons are attitudinal, tax incentives and other schemes are unlikely to get women taking up more jobs.
  • What we need are new forms of social persuasion, which must go with credible assurances of gender equity in every sphere.

Conclusion

A country’s economic progress is inextricably linked to empowered women. So, India needs to act on the silent crisis of India’s gender deficit to move up the economic ladder.

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Global Gender Gap Report, 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Gender Gap Index

Mains level : Gender disparities in India

India has slipped 28 places to rank 140th among 156 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia.

For the 12th time, Iceland is the most gender-equal country in the world. The top 10 most gender-equal countries include Finland, Norway, New Zealand, Rwanda, Sweden, Ireland and Switzerland.

Global Gender Gap Index

  • The report is annually published by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
  • It benchmarks countries on their progress towards gender parity in four dimensions: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment.
  • The report aims to serve “as a compass to track progress on relative gaps between women and men on health, education, economy and politics”.

Highlights of the 2021 report

Indian prospects

According to the report, India has closed 62.5% of its gender gap to date.

  • Economic participation: India’s gender gap on this dimension widened by 3% this year, leading to a 32.6% gap closed to date.
  • Political empowerment: India regressed 13.5 percentage points, with a significant decline in the number of women ministers.
  • Income: Further, the estimated earned income of women in India is only one-fifth of men’s, which puts the country among the bottom 10 globally on this indicator.
  • Health: Discrimination against women is also reflected in the health and survival subindex statistics. With 93.7% of this gap closed to date, India ranks among the bottom five countries in this subindex.
  • Violence: Wide gaps in sex ratio at birth are due to the high incidence of gender-based sex-selective practices. In addition, more than one in four women has faced intimate violence in her lifetime, the report said.

India’s neighbourhood

  • In South Asia, only Pakistan and Afghanistan ranked below India.
  • Among India’s neighbours, Bangladesh ranked 65, Nepal 106, Pakistan 153, Afghanistan 156, Bhutan 130 and Sri Lanka 116.
  • Among regions, South Asia is the second-lowest performer on the index, with 62.3% of its overall gender gap closed.
  • Within the region, a wide gulf separates the best-performing country, Bangladesh, which has closed 71.9% of its gender gap so far, from Afghanistan, which has only closed 44.4% of its gap.
  • Because of its large population, India’s performance has a substantial impact on the region’s overall performance.

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SC bats for women officers in Army

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Women in armed forces

The Supreme Court has held that the Army’s “selective” evaluation process discriminates against and disproportionately affects women short service commission officers seeking a permanent commission.

Must read

[Burning Issue] Women in Armed Forces

What did the Court say?

  • The Court held the view that the evaluation criteria set by the Army constituted systemic discrimination against the petitioners (women officers).
  • The evaluation pattern of women officers has caused them economic and psychological harm.
  • In a series of directions, the court ordered that the cases of women officers who have applied for the permanent commission should be reconsidered in a month and the decision on them should be given in two months.

Asks for permanent commission

  • They would be considered for permanent commission subject to disciplinary and vigilance clearance.
  • The court said physical standards should be kept at a premium during selection.
  • The court highlighted how one of the Army’s “administrative requirements” was to benchmark women officers, under consideration for permanent commission, with male officers who are lowest in merit.
  • This is arbitrary and irrational, said Justice Chandrachud.

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Why the MTP Bill is not progressive enough

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Provision of MTP Act

Mains level : Paper 2- Issues with the MTP bill

The article highlights key changes the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeks to make in the 1971 Act and also deals with the issues with some of these changes.

Key changes

  • The 1971 Act had moral biases against sexual relationships outside marriage, adopts an ableist approach and carries a strong eugenic emphasis.
  • In addition to preventing danger to the life or risk to physical or mental health of the woman, “eugenic grounds” were recognised as a specific category for legally permissible abortions.
  • To deal with these issues the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed by the parliament.
  • The bill is being hailed for two reasons:
  • First, the bill replaces “any married woman or her husband” with “any woman or her partner” while contemplating termination of pregnancies resulting from contraception failures, thus ostensibly destigmatising pregnancies outside marriage.
  • Second, the time limit within which pregnancies are legally terminable is increased.

Issues with the Bill

1) Scope for executive overreach

  • The bill raises the upper gestational limits for the two categories of permissible abortions envisioned in Section 3(2) of the 1971 Act.
  • Limit for the first category in which pregnancies are terminable subject to the opinion of one medical practitioner is raised from 12 weeks to 20 weeks.
  • The limit for the second category in which pregnancies are terminable subject to the opinion of two medical practitioners is raised to include those exceeding 20 but not exceeding 24 weeks, instead of the present category of cases exceeding 12 but not exceeding 20 weeks.
  • However, the second category is left ambiguous and open to potential executive overreach insofar as it may be further narrowed down by rules made by the executive.

2) Rejection of the bodily autonomy of women

  • Pregnancies are allowed to be terminated only where:
  • 1) Continuance of the pregnancy would “prejudice the life of the pregnant woman.
  • 2) Or cause grave injury to her mental or physical health
  • 3) Or “if the child were born it would suffer from any serious physical or mental abnormality.”
  • As such, the bill seeks to cater to women “who need to terminate pregnancy” as against “women who want to terminate pregnancy.”
  •  By not accounting for the right to abortion at will the Bill effectively cripples women’s bodily autonomy.

3) Ableist approach

  • A woman’s right to terminate the pregnancy of a child likely to suffer from physical or mental anomalies or one diagnosed with foetal abnormalities, on socio-economic grounds or otherwise, merits recognition.
  • However, in treating “physical or mental disability” or “foetal abnormalities” as separate categories amounting to heightened circumstances for termination of pregnancies, the bill reveals its ableist approach.
  • This evidences a presumption that certain people are by default societally unproductive, undesirable and somehow more justifiably eliminable than others.
  • This ableism becomes stark when the said 24-week limit, which is purportedly dictated by scientific and legislative wisdom, is completely lifted where the termination of a pregnancy involves “substantial foetal abnormalities”.

4) Dichotomy in allowing termination beyond 24 weeks

  • When read together with Section 3(2B) of the bill, a strange dichotomy emerges:
  • 1) It is either the case that medical advancement is such that a safe abortion is possible at any point in the term of pregnancy, and hence, the bill allows it in case of “substantial foetal abnormalities” .
  • Or that, a 24-week ceiling is scientifically essential and abortions beyond the said limit would pose risks to the health of the pregnant woman or the foetus.
  • If it is the former, then allowing termination only in cases of “substantial foetal abnormalities” is a fictitious and moralistic classification.
  • If it is the latter, then the secondary status of women’s safety and the dominant eugenic tenor of the bill once again becomes evident.

Need to sensitise healthcare provider

  • Access to abortion facilities is limited not just by legislative barriers but also the fear of judgment from medical practitioners.
  • It is imperative that healthcare providers be sensitised towards being scientific, objective and compassionate in their approach to abortions notwithstanding the woman’s marital status.

Consider the question “What are the changes the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeks to make in the 1971 Act. Discuss the issues with the changed provision in the Act.

Conclusion

In KS Puttaswamy v Union of India, the Supreme Court recognised women’s constitutional right to “abstain from procreating” was read into the right to privacy, dignity and bodily autonomy. The MTPA Bill falls short of meeting this constitutional standard and its own stated objectives.

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Orunudoi Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Orunudoi Scheme

Mains level : Women empowerment moves

Ahead of the Assam Assembly elections, the Orunudoi scheme, with women as its primary target group, is the most popular.

There can be confusion from the name of the scheme.

Orunudoi Scheme

  • Through Orunodoi — announced in the 2020-21 Budget — monthly assistance of Rs 830 is transferred to women members of marginalised families of Assam.
  • On account of being a DBT, or a Direct Benefit Transfer scheme, the money is credited directly to the bank account of the woman head of a family because they are primary caretakers of the household.
  • The scheme gives a choice to the poor and needy households on how they want to spend their money.

Eligibility criteria

  • The applicant, a woman, has to be a permanent resident of Assam, whose composite household income should be less than Rs 2 lakh per annum.
  • Families with specially-abled members and divorced/widowed/separated /unmarried women are prioritized.
  • Poorer families, those without the National Food Security Act (NFSA) or ration cards, are also given priority.

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LinkedIn Opportunity Index 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : LinkedIn Opportunity Index 2021

Mains level : Gender bias in India

The Opportunity Index 2021 highlights the difference in perception of available opportunities in the market for men and women in India.

LinkedIn Opportunity Index 2021

  • The report seeks to understand how people perceive opportunities and the barriers that stand in the way of achieving them.
  • This year’s report dives deep to understand how women perceive opportunities, and how the gender gap is further slowing down career progress for working women in India amid the pandemic.

LinkedIn is an American business and employment-oriented online service that operates via websites and mobile apps. Launched on May 5, 2003, the platform is mainly used for professional networking and allows job seekers to post their CVs and employers to post jobs

Highlights of the report

India’s working women still face the strongest gender bias across Asia Pacific countries.

  • Covid impact: Nine in 10 (89%) women state they were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • General Bias: 1 in 5 (22%) working women in India said their company’s exhibit a ‘favourable bias’ towards men at work when compared to the regional average of 16%.
  • Work opportunity: While 37% of India’s working women say they get fewer opportunities than men, only 25% of men agree with this.
  • Pay: This disparity in perception is also seen in conversations about equal pay, as more women (37%) say they get less pay than men, while only 21% of men share this sentiment.
  • Promotion: In India, more than 4 in 5 working women (85%) claim to have missed out on a raise, promotion, or work offer because of their gender, compared to the regional average of 60%.
  • Family burden: Lack of time and family care stop 7 in 10 Indian women from progressing in their careers.
  • Maternity: Consumer sentiment from the report shows that more than 7 in 10 working women (71%) and working mothers (77%) feel that managing familial responsibilities often come in their way of career development.

Scope for equality

  • The report shows that even though 66% of people in India feel that gender equality has improved compared to their parents’ age.
  • In India, the top three job opportunities sought by both men and women are job security, a job that they love, and a good work-life balance.
  • But despite having similar goals, more women (63%) think a person’s gender is important to get ahead in life when compared to men (54%).

Barriers faced by Indian women

  • Lack of required professional skills and a lack of guidance through networks and connections are also some of the other barriers that get in the way of career development for working women in India.

What next?

  • Organisations should step up to provide robust maternity policies and flexibility programs.
  • Reduced and flexible schedules, more sabbaticals, and new opportunities to upskill and learn are critical offerings that can help organizations attract, hire, and retain more female talent.

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Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Amendment Bill, 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MTP Bill

Mains level : Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) and associated issues

A panel of doctors to decide on the termination of pregnancy beyond 24 weeks as proposed in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Amendment Bill, 2020, is “unfeasible” as 82% of these posts are lying vacant in the country, finds a new study.

Q. What are the differing opinions with regards to the Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Amendment Bill, 2020? Discuss.

About the MTP Amendment Bill

The MTP Bill was passed in Lok Sabha in March 2020 and is likely to be brought before Rajya Sabha during the ongoing Budget Session. Its salient features included:

  • Proposing requirement for the opinion of one provider for termination of pregnancy, up to 20 weeks of gestation and introducing the requirement of the opinion of two providers for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation.
  • Enhancing the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women which will be defined in the amendments to the MTP Rules and would include ‘vulnerable women including survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women, Minors) etc.
  • Upper gestation limit not to apply in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by Medical Board. The composition, functions and other details of Medical Board to be prescribed subsequently in Rules under the Act.
  • Anonymity of the person: Name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed except to a person authorised in any law for the time being in force.

Benefits sought with the bill

  • It is seen as a step towards the safety and well-being of the women and many women will be benefitted by this.
  • Recently several petitions were received by the Courts seeking permission for aborting pregnancies at a gestational age beyond the present permissible limit on grounds of foetal abnormalities or pregnancies due to sexual violence faced by women.
  • The proposed increase in gestational age will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate the pregnancy.

Flaws in the bill

  • The Bill allows abortion after 24 weeks only in cases where a Medical Board diagnoses substantial foetal abnormalities.
  • This implies that for a case requiring abortion due to rape, that exceeds 24-weeks, the only recourse remains through a Writ Petition.
  • The Bill does not specify the categories of women who may terminate pregnancies between 20-24 weeks and leaves it to be prescribed through Rules.
  • The Act (and the Bill) require an abortion to be performed only by doctors with specialization in gynaecology or obstetrics.
  • As there is a 75% shortage of such doctors in community health centres in rural areas, pregnant women may continue to find it difficult to access facilities for safe abortions.

Key Issues and Analysis

  • There are differing opinions with regard to allowing abortions. One opinion is that terminating a pregnancy is the choice of the pregnant woman and a part of her reproductive rights.
  • The other is that the state has an obligation to protect life, and hence should provide for the protection of the foetus.
  • Across the world, countries set varying conditions and time limits for allowing abortions, based on foetal health, and risk to the pregnant woman.
  • Several Writ Petitions have been filed by women seeking permission to abort pregnancies beyond 20-weeks due to foetal abnormalities or rape.

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Task force on Age of Marriage for Women submits its report

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Age of marriage

The task force set up to take a re-look at the age of marriage for women has submitted its report to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

Try this question for mains:

Q.The different minimum age of marriage for women and men is a discriminatory provision. Analyse.

What is the issue?

  • PM in his I-Day speech last year spoke about a panel formed to decide on the “right age of marriage” for women.
  • The minimum age of marriage, especially for women, has been a contentious issue.
  • The law evolved in the face of much resistance from religious and social conservatives.
  • Currently, the law prescribes that the minimum age of marriage is 21 years and 18 years for men and women respectively.

Invoking ‘Majority’

  • The minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of majority which is gender-neutral.
  • An individual attains the age of majority at 18 as per the Indian Majority Act, 1875.
  • The law prescribes a minimum age of marriage to essentially outlaw child marriages and prevents the abuse of minors.

About the Committee

  • The Union Ministry for WCD had set up a task force to examine matters pertaining to the age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering Maternal Mortality Ratio and the improvement of nutritional levels among women.
  • The task force would examine the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood with health, medical well-being, and nutritional status of the mother and neonate, infant or child, during pregnancy, birth and thereafter.
  • It will also examine the possibility of increasing the age of marriage for women from the present 18 years to 21 years.

How common are child marriages in India?

  • UNICEF estimates suggest that each year, at least 1.5 million girls under the age of 18 are married in India.
  • It makes our country home to the largest number of child brides in the world — accounting for a third of the global total.
  • Nearly 16 per cent adolescent girls aged 15-19 are currently married.

Provisions for the minimum age for marriage

  • Personal laws of various religions that deal with marriage have their own standards, often reflecting custom.
  • For Hindus, Section 5(iii) of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom.
  • However, child marriages are not illegal — even though they can be declared void at the request of the minor in the marriage.
  • In Islam, the marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid.
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively.
  • Additionally, sexual intercourse with a minor is rape, and the ‘consent’ of a minor is regarded as invalid since she is deemed incapable of giving consent at that age.

Evolution of the law

  • The IPC enacted in 1860 criminalised sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 10.
  • The provision of rape was amended in 1927 through The Age of Consent Bill, 1927, which declared that marriage with a girl under 12 would be invalid.
  • The law faced opposition from conservative leaders of the Indian National Movement, who saw the British intervention as an attack on Hindu customs.
  • A legal framework for the age of consent for marriage in India only began in the 1880s.

Comes in: The Sarda Act

  • In 1929, The Child Marriage Restraint Act set 16 and 18 years as the minimum age of marriage for girls and boys respectively.
  • The law, popularly known as the Sarda Act after its sponsor Harbilas Sarda, a judge and a member of Arya Samaj, was eventually amended in 1978 to prescribe 18 and 21 years as the age of marriage for a woman and a man respectively.

Contention over different legal standards

  • There is no reasoning in the law for having different legal standards of age for men and women to marry. The laws are a codification of custom and religious practices.
  • The Law Commission consultation paper has argued that having different legal standards “contributes to the stereotype that wives must be younger than their husbands”.
  • Women’s rights activists have argued that the law also perpetuates the stereotype that women are more mature than men of the same age and, therefore, can be allowed to marry sooner.
  • The international treaty Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also calls for the abolition of laws that assume women have a different physical or intellectual rate of growth than men.

Why is the law being relooked at?

  • Despite laws mandating minimum age and criminalizing sexual intercourse with a minor, child marriages are very prevalent in the country.
  • From bringing in gender-neutrality to reduce the risks of early pregnancy among women, there are many arguments in favour of increasing the minimum age of marriage of women.
  • Early pregnancy is associated with increased child mortality rates and affects the health of the mother.

Upholding the Constitution

  • Petitioners, in this case, had challenged the law on the grounds of discrimination.
  • It is argued that Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, which guarantee the right to equality and the right to live with dignity, were violated by having different legal ages for men and women to marry.
  • Two significant Supreme Court rulings can act as precedents to support the petitioner’s claim.
  • In 2014, in the ‘NALSA v Union of India’ case, the Supreme Court, while recognising transgenders as the third gender, said that justice is delivered with the “assumption that humans have equal value and should, therefore, be treated as equal, as well as by equal laws”.
  • In 2019, in ‘Joseph Shine v Union of India’, the Supreme Court decriminalized adultery, and said that “a law that treats women differently based on gender stereotypes is an affront to women’s dignity”.

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Adultery Law and the Armed Forces

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sect 497 of IPC

Mains level : Adultery Laws and the associated gender bias

The Supreme Court has admitted a petition filed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) seeking to exempt armed forces personnel from the ambit of a Constitution Bench judgment of 2018 that decriminalized adultery.

Q.  Personnels of the Indian Armed Forces constitute a ‘Distinct Class’.

Discuss this statement in context to the extension of IPC section 497 to the Armed forces.

What was the 2018 historic Judgment?

  • The Supreme Court had struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalized adultery.
  • It also declared Section 198 of the Criminal Procedure Code as unconstitutional, which deals with the procedure for filing a complaint about the offence of adultery.

Important observations of the judgment

  • Section 497 was unconstitutional and is violative of Article 21 (Right to life and personal liberty) and Article 14 (Right to equality).
  • The court observed that two individuals may part if one cheats, but to attach criminality to infidelity is going too far. How married couples deal with adultery is absolutely a matter of privacy.
  • Besides, there is no data to back claims that abolition of adultery as a crime would result in “chaos in sexual morality” or an increase of divorce.
  • Any provision of law affecting individual dignity and equality of women invites the wrath of the Constitution.
  • It’s time to say that a husband is not the master of the wife. Legal sovereignty of one sex over other sex is wrong, ruled the court.
  • Marriage does not mean ceding autonomy of one to the other. Ability to make sexual choices is essential to human liberty. Even within private zones, an individual should be allowed her choice.

What about Armed forces?

  • The judgment of 2018 created “instability”. It allowed personnel charged with carrying on an adulterous or illicit relationship to take cover under the judgment.
  • The bench had then referred the case to the CJI to pass appropriate orders to form a five-judge Bench to clarify the impact of the 2018 judgment on the armed forces.
  • This case is now being under the observation of the apex court.

Govt. stance over this

  • The MoD has sought for an exemption to this decriminalization in the petition.
  • It said that there will always be a concern in the minds of the Army personnel who are operating far away from their families under challenging conditions about the family indulging in untoward activity.
  • The petition goes on to say that personnel of the Army, Navy and the Air Force were a “distinct class”. They were governed by special legislation, the Army Act, the Navy Act and the Air Force Act.
  • Adultery amounted to unbecoming conduct and a violation of discipline under these three Acts.
  • Unlike Section 497, the provisions of the three Acts did not differentiate between a man and a woman if they were guilty of an offence.

Constitutional backing for an exception

  • These special laws imposed restrictions on the fundamental rights of the personnel, who function in a peculiar situation requiring utmost discipline.
  • The three laws were protected by Article 33 of the Constitution, which allowed the government to modify the fundamental rights of the armed forces personnel.

The core idea behind govt. proposition

  • One has to remember that the armed forces exist in an environment wholly different and distinct from civilians. Honour is a sine qua non of the service.
  • The provisions of the Acts should be allowed to continue to govern the personnel as a “distinct class”, irrespective of the 2018 judgment.
  • This is because, the discipline necessary for the performance of duty, crucial for national safety, would break down.
  • It said the court would not, at the time, have been appraised of the different circumstances under which the armed forces operated.

Back2Basics: Article 33 of the Indian Constitution

  • It deals with the power of Parliament to modify the rights conferred by this Part III in their application etc.
  • Parliament may, by law, determine to what extent any of the rights conferred by this Part shall, in their application to-

(a) the members of the Armed Forces; or

(b) the members of the Forces charged with the maintenance of public order; or

(c) persons employed in any bureau or other organisation established by the State for purposes of intelligence or counterintelligence; or

(d) persons employed in, or in connection with, the telecommunication systems set up for the purposes of any Force, bureau or organisation referred to in clauses (a) to (c), be restricted or abrogated so as to ensure the proper discharge of their duties and the maintenance of discipline among them

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Salary to women for domestic work

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Idea of universal basic income

Mains level : Paper 2- Remuneration to women for domestic work and issues with it

Recently, a political party promised salaries to housewives as a part of its electoral campaign in Tamil Nadu. This led to the debate on the issue. The article deals with the issue.

Salary for housework: Historical background

  • Demand for wages against housework was first raised at the third National Women’s Liberation conference in Manchester, England.
  •  In 2012, the then minister for Women and Child development announced that the government was considering mandating a salary for housework to wives, from husbands.
  •  The purpose, once again, was to empower women financially and help them live with dignity.

Recognising the value of unpaid domestic work

  • Time-use data from 2019 gathered by the National Sample Survey Organisation revealed that only about a quarter of men and boys above six years engaged in unpaid household chores, compared to over four-fifths of women.
  • Every day, an average Indian male spends 1.5 hours per day in unpaid domestic work, compared to about five hours by a female.
  • Housework demands effort and sacrifice, 365 days a year, 24/7.

Issues with paying for domestic work

  •  Asking men to pay for wives’ domestic work could further enhance their sense of entitlement.
  • It may also put the additional onus on women to perform.
  • There is a risk of formalising the patriarchal Indian family where the position of men stems from their being “providers” in the relationship.

Way forward

  • Despite a legal provision, equal inheritance rights continue to be elusive for a majority of women.
  • More than creating a new provision of salary for housework, we need to strengthen awareness, implementation and utilisation of other existing provisions.
  • Starting from the right to reside in the marital home, to streedhan and haq meher, to coparcenary and inheritance rights as daughters and to basic services, free legal aid and maintenance in instances of violence and divorce.
  • Women should be helped to reach their full potential through quality education, access and opportunities of work, gender-sensitive and harassment-free workplaces and attitudinal and behaviour change within families to make household chores more participative.

Conclusion

Just like we do not want women to commodify their reproductive services because of their inherently exploitative nature — we have, therefore, banned commercial surrogacy in the country — let us not allow commodification of housework and personal care.

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Argentina’s legalizes Abortion

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act

Mains level : Not Much

Argentina has legalized abortions up to the 14th week of pregnancy, in what was a ground-breaking decision in a country that has some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws.

In 2009 the Supreme Court of India gave a landmark judgement in Suchita Srivastava vs Chandigarh Administration case where it was held that right to reproductive autonomy is an integral part of Right to Life under Article 21 of Constitution of India.

The Apex Court stressed that a medical procedure of abortion cannot be carried out on a woman if she has not consented to it.

Hence, the right to reproductive autonomy was held as a Fundamental Right.

About the ban

  • Prior, abortions were only permitted in cases of rape or when the woman’s health was at serious risk.
  • Activists have been campaigning for years, calling for an overturning of this law that has been in existence since 1921.
  • The bill calls for greater autonomy for women over their own bodies and control of their reproductive rights, and also provides better healthcare for pregnant women and young mothers.

Why is it a landmark move?

  • Prior to this, girls and women were forced to turn to illegal and unsafe procedures because abortion was against the law in Argentina.
  • For girls and women from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the scope of access to safe medical procedures for abortion was even narrower.
  • According to Human Rights Watch, unsafe abortion was the leading cause of maternal mortality in the country.
  • The Catholic Church and the evangelical community wield immense power and influence in Argentina and had strongly opposed the passing of this bill.
  • In fact, for several decades, following the beliefs of the Catholic Church, even the sale of contraceptives was prohibited in the country.

Debate over abortions

  • There are differing opinions with regard to allowing abortions.
  • One opinion is that terminating a pregnancy is the choice of the pregnant woman and a part of her reproductive rights.
  • The other is that the state has an obligation to protect life, and hence should provide for the protection of the foetus.
  • Religiosity of the issue (as in case of Catholics) is another aspect.

What impact will this have in Latin America?

  • Activists are hopeful that the passage of this law will have an impact in other countries in Latin America.
  • At present, abortions are illegal in Nicaragua, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.
  • In Uruguay, Cuba, Guyana, and in some parts of Mexico, women can request for an abortion, but only in specific cases, and each country has its own laws on the number of weeks.
  • The countries also have varying degrees of punishment and penalties meted out to girls and women, including jail.

Welcome move

  • Women’s rights activists have acknowledged that despite the new law in Argentina, the fight is far from over in the region.
  • Anti-abortion groups and their religious and political backers have attempted to stall any progress in the process.

Back2Basics: Abortion in India

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 has governed women’s right to access abortion and their reproductive autonomy.

  • The 2020 amendment bill provides for legal abortion procedure.
  • The Act regulates the conditions under which a pregnancy may be aborted. The Bill increases the time period within which abortion may be carried out.
  • Currently, abortion requires the opinion of one doctor if it is done within 12 weeks of conception and two doctors if it is done between 12 and 20 weeks.
  • The Bill allows abortion to be done on the advice of one doctor up to 20 weeks, and two doctors in the case of certain categories of women between 20 and 24 weeks.
  • The Bill sets up state-level Medical Boards to decide if pregnancy may be terminated after 24 weeks in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities.

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Internet usage in Indian states

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Internet usage in India and the digital divide

The recent National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) survey helps us gain an idea about the spread of awareness regarding the internet among people.

This newscard provides a picture of gendered as well as regional differentiation of internet usage in India.

Statewise Internet Usage

(1) Gendered data

  • A very high differential is also seen among the female and male population who have ever used the internet. In every state, it is seen that the percentage of male users exceeds the number of females.
  • The states and Union territories with the highest percentage of internet users among men are Goa (82.9 %), Lakshadweep (80.3 %), and Mizoram (79.7 %).
  • Also, states like Sikkim (76.7 %), Goa (73.7 %) and Mizoram (67.6 %) have the highest percentage of female internet users. The lowest internet usage among men is seen in Meghalaya (42.1 %), Assam (42.3 %) and Bihar (43.6 %).
  • In some states like Bihar, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, there is almost double the number of male internet users than female ones. Among women, it is seen in Bihar (20.6 %), Andhra Pradesh (21 %) and Tripura (22.9 %).

(2) Urban-Rural divide

  • Except for West Bengal, there is no other state which shows a lower percentage of urban male internet users compared to rural ones.
  • States like Goa, Kerala and Lakshadweep don’t show a huge variation in internet accessibility in the urban and rural areas.
  • But in every other state, there is an approximate difference of 10-15 % between the two regions, with urban areas staying ahead.

Why it matters?

  • The internet today has a very huge range and a big impact on the lifestyle and empowerment of people.
  • Female empowerment and gender equality have been one of the UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goals that our country is trying to achieve.
  • Good and affordable internet availability to women will be a big step towards fulfilling this goal.

Significance of the data

  • Gender differentiation that is seen in the offline world also affects the variations that we have seen in the online world, which includes differences in education, employment and income.
  • Sexual harassment and trolling are other reasons why people prefer to keep their female relatives away from the internet.
  • Just like phone ownership was used as an indicator to understand the women empowerment situation in the country, this too can be an indicator for the same.

Conclusion

  • The results from the NFHS-5 survey are still partial, but they have shown a great variation in the access to the internet among the states, between men and women and also between the rural and urban regions of each state.
  • When we look at the differentials in the usage of the internet by women across the rural and urban regions, a huge gap is seen between the urban and rural women’s use of the internet.
  • The variations are very high, with the percentage of women users of the internet in rural areas being just half of that in urban areas. These disparities paint a sad picture.

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Representation of Women in Judiciary

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Women in Judiciary

Attorney-General has told the Supreme Court that more women judges in constitutional courts would certainly improve gender sensitivity in the judiciary.

Q.Women judges could bring a more comprehensive and empathetic perspective of gender sensitivity in the judiciary. Discuss.

Women in Judiciary: A dismal figure

  • The Supreme Court has only two women judges as against a sanctioned strength of 34 judges.
  • There has never been a female Chief Justice. This figure is consistently low across the higher judiciary.
  • There are only 80 women judges out of the sanctioned strength of 1,113 judges in the High Courts and the Supreme Court.
  • Only two of these 80 women judges are in the Supreme Court and the other 78 are in various High Courts, comprising only 7.2% of the number of judges.
  • There are six High Courts — Manipur, Meghalaya, Patna, Tripura, Telangana, and Uttarakhand — where there are no sitting women judges.

A short timeline

  • The first female Judge appointed in Supreme Court was Justice M. Fathima Beevi from Kerala in 1987.
  • She was later followed by Justice Sujata V. Manohar from Maharashtra in 1994 and in the year 2000, Justice Ruma Pal was appointed from West Bengal.
  • And in the year 2010, Justice Gyan Sudha Misra from Bihar was appointed.
  • In 2014, Justice Ranjana Desai from Mumbai was appointed and currently, Justice R. Banumathi from Tamil Nadu is the only woman judge in Supreme Court.

(Note: This data might be useful for State PSCs or other exams. UPSC aspirants need not remember this.)

What did the A-G say?

  • Improving the representation of women could go a long way towards a more balanced and empathetic approach in cases involving sexual violence.
  • Judges need to be trained to place themselves in the shoes of the victim of sexual violence while passing orders, said the AG.
  • There is a dearth of compulsory courses in gender sensitization in law schools.
  • Certain law schools have the subject either as a specialization or as an elective.

Why need more women in Judiciary?

  • The entry of women judges into spaces from which they had historically been excluded has been a positive step in the direction of judiciaries being perceived as being more transparent, inclusive, and representative.
  • By their mere presence, women judges enhance the legitimacy of courts, sending a powerful signal that they are open and accessible to those who seek recourse to justice.
  • They could contribute far more to justice than improving its appearance: they also contribute significantly to the quality of decision-making, and thus to the quality of justice itself.
  • Women judges bring those lived experiences to their judicial actions, experiences that tend toward a more comprehensive and empathetic perspective.
  • By elucidating how laws and rulings can be based on gender stereotypes, or how they might have a different impact on women and men, a gender perspective enhances the fairness of the adjudication.

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Gender Advancement through Transforming Institutions (GATI) Initiative

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GATI

Mains level : Women in sciences

One of the focuses of the new Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, currently being drafted by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is to increase the participation of women in science.

Connect the dots:

Women in STEM presents a dismal picture of gender equality in India.

GATI

  • The DST is incorporating a system of grading institutes depending on the enrolment of women and the advancement of the careers of women faculty and scientists.
  • It will be called GATI (Gender Advancement through Transforming Institutions).
  • The concept borrows from a programme started by the UK in 2005 called the Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network), which is now being adopted by many countries.
  • The DST will soon launch a pilot, which the British Council has helped it develop.

Why need such initiative?

  • India is ranked 108 out of 149 countries in the 2018 Global Gender Gap report.
  • According to DST figures, in 2015-16, the share of women involved in scientific research and development was 14.71% — after it had actually increased from 13% in 2000-2001 to 29% in 2014-15.
  • The DST has also found that women are either not promoted, or very often drop out mid-career to attend to their families.

What is Athena SWAN?

  • The Athena SWAN Charter is an evaluation and accreditation programme in the UK enhancing gender equity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).
  • Participating research organisations and academic institutions are required to analyse data on gender equity and develop action plans for improvement.
  • Signatories commit to addressing various issues such as –
  1. Unequal gender representation;
  2. Tackling the gender pay gap;
  3. Removing the obstacles faced by women in career development and progression;
  4. Discriminatory treatment often experienced by trans people;
  5. Gender balance of committees and zero tolerance for bullying and sexual harassment.

Way ahead

  • To get as many institutions as possible to sign up, the DST will need to manoeuvre around government red tape as most universities, barring the IITs and NITs, are run and funded by the government as well.
  • This means that these institutions don’t have direct control over institutional policies, recruitment and promotions.
  • The DST has tied up with the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), under the UGC, aiming to push gender equity through them.

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Supreme Court’s guidelines for deserted Wives and Children

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Alimony

The Supreme Court has laid down uniform and comprehensive guidelines for family courts, magistrates and lower courts to follow while hearing the applications filed by women seeking maintenance from their estranged husbands’.

Debate: Alimony as a right of women or a feminist taboo

Why such a judgement?

  • Usually, maintenance cases have to be settled in 60 days, but they take years, in reality, owing to legal loopholes.
  • The top court said women deserted by husbands are left in dire straits, often reduced to destitution, for lack of means to sustain themselves and their children.
  • Despite a plethora of maintenance laws, women were left empty-handed for years, struggling to make ends meet after a bad marriage.

What did the Court say?

  • The Supreme Court has held that deserted wives and children are entitled to alimony/maintenance from the husbands from the date they apply for it in a court of law.
  • To ensure that judicial orders for grant of maintenance are duly enforced by husbands, the court said a violation would lead to punishments such as civil detention and even attachment of the property of the latter.
  • The plea of the husband that he does not possess any source of income ipso facto does not absolve him of his moral duty to maintain his wife, if he is able-bodied and has educational qualifications, the court declared.
  • Both the applicant wife and the respondent-husband have to disclose their assets and liabilities in a maintenance case.
  • Other factors such as “spiralling inflation rates and high costs of living” should be considered, but the wife should receive alimony which fit the standard of life she was used to in the matrimonial home.

Covering expenses

  • The expenses of the children, including their education, basic needs and other vocational activities, should be factored in by courts while calculating the alimony.
  • Education expenses of the children must be normally borne by the father. If the wife is working and earning sufficiently, the expenses may be shared proportionately between the parties.

Permanent alimony

  • The court opined it would not be equitable to order a husband to pay his wife permanent alimony for the rest of her life, considering the fact that in contemporary society marriages do not last for a reasonable length of time.
  • Anyway, the court said, the duration of marriage should be accounted for while determining the permanent alimony.

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[pib] POWER Initiative

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : POWER Initiative

Mains level : Women in sciences

The Union Minister for Science & Technology has launched a Scheme titled SERB-POWER (Promoting Opportunities for Women in Exploratory Research).

Try this MCQ:

Q.The POWER initiative sometimes seen in news is related to

a)Reforms in the DISCOMs

b)Renewable Energy Sector

c)Women Empowerment

d)Health Sector

POWER Initiative

  • It is a scheme to mitigate gender disparity in science and engineering research funding in various S&T programs in Indian academic institutions and R&D laboratories.
  • The Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), a statutory body of the DST has been contemplating to institute a scheme to mitigate gender disparity in science and engineering.
  • SERB – POWER Scheme will have two components namely (i) SERB-POWER Fellowship (ii) SERB- POWER Research Grants.

A. Salient features of the SERB-POWER Fellowship

  1. Target: Women researchers in 35-55 years of age. Up-to 25 Fellowships per year and not more than 75 at any point in time.
  2. Components of support: Fellowship of Rs. 15,000/- per month in addition to regular income; Research grant of Rs. 10 lakh per annum; and Overhead of Rs. 90,000/- per annum.
  3. Duration: Three years, without the possibility of extension. Once in a career.

B. Salient features of the SERB – POWER Research Grants

POWER Grants will empower women researchers by funding them under the following two categories:

  1. Level I (Applicants from IITs, IISERs, IISc, NITs, Central Universities, and National Labs of Central Government Institutions): The scale of funding is up to 60 lakhs for three years.
  2. Level II (Applicants from State Universities / Colleges and Private Academic Institutions): The scale of funding is up to 30 lakhs for three years.

Why need such a scheme?

  • Integration of the gender dimension in research design has gained considerable attention in the global scenario.
  • Enhancement of participation and promotion of women in the research workforce has to be one of the prime priorities.

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UN Report on Gender Gap in Labour Market

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Gender gap in labor market

Gender equality across the world remains a far-fetched goal and no country has achieved it so far, according to the 2020 edition of the United Nations report on the state of gender equality in the world.

Try this question for mains:

Q.Discuss how marriage age and women’s health are linked with each other?

About the Report

  • The report titled “World’s Women: Trends and Statistics” was released by the UN-DESA.
  • The report provided a reality-check on the global status of women 25 years since the world adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
  • It presented the global state of gender equality in six critical areas: Population and families; health; education; economic empowerment and asset ownership; power and decision-making; and violence against women and the girl child as well as the impact of COVID-19.

Highlights on status of women

  • The gender gap in the labour market, for example, has not budged a bit since 1995.
  • While the status of women has improved with regard to education, early marriage, childbearing and maternal mortality, the progress has stagnated in other areas.

Participation in the labour market

  • The gender gap in the labour market has remained as it was since 1995: The gap of 27 percentage points has barely changed since then, the report showed.
  • Only 47 per cent women of working age participated in the labour market, compared to around 74 per cent men, according to the report.
  • The largest gender gap in labour force participation was observed in the prime working age (25-54).
  • This gap has remained unaddressed since 1995 and was at 32 percentage points as of 2020, according to the report. It was 31 percentage points in 1995.
  • In India, the ratio of female-to-male labour force participation rate was 29.80 in 2019 as against the desired ratio of 50 per cent.

Working for free

  • The data in the interactive UN report showed how women remained under the burden of unpaid domestic and care work.
  • On an average day, women globally spent about three times (4.2 hours) as many hours on unpaid domestic and care work as men (1.7 hours).
  • Unpaid domestic work includes activities related to the maintenance of the household, including food preparation, upkeep of the home, caring for pets etc.

Family responsibilities

  • Family responsibilities and unequal distribution of unpaid domestic and care workers were among the primary reasons for women not joining the labour force.
  • Their participation depended on their liabilities and responsibilities in their household, noted UN. It found that women living alone were more likely to be in the labour market.
  • On an average, 82 per cent women of prime working-age living alone were in the labour market, compared to 64 per cent women living with a partner and 48 per cent living with a partner and children.
  • Their participation rates in the economy were found to improve in the latter part of their lives after their responsibilities reduced — when their children grew older.

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What India can learn from Kenya about women’s representation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Women's representation

Asymmetric representation in India and Kenya has given rise to complex debate in both countries. The article analyses the similarities and difference.

Issue of women’s representation in Parliament

  • Many political promises have been made in seven decades of the working of the Indian Constitution regarding 33 per cent reservation in Parliament.
  • But the two bills, introduced in 1996 and 2010, have been allowed to lapse.

What are the hurdles?

  • Every political party endorses the idea but the battle within political classes has been over “quota within a quota”.
  • Some have argued that ways should be found to ensure that this reservation should contain 33 per cent reservation within for SC and ST women.
  • Some have championed a systemic practice of reservation at the stage of distributing party tickets.
  • Some continue to fight for underprivileged and rural women.
  • Some maintain that a constitutional convention mandating increased representation for women by parties will be more appropriate than a constitutional amendment.

Comparison with Kenya

  • While both fall short in equitable representation, Kenya has secured about 22 per cent women in the present National Assembly.
  • India peaked to its highest number in the 2019 elections with 62 women (around 14.58 per cent),out of a total of 542 Lok Sabha seats.
  • In the Kenyan Senate women number only 21 (or 31 per cent) of the 67-member House are female; in the Indian Rajya Sabha women comprise 25 out of 243 elected members.
  •  In both societies, women’s representation has always been “pyramidical”, most women remain below the constitutional radar at the bottom, even when a few scale national heights.
  • Asymmetric representation in both societies has generated a long and complex debate concerning women’s representation.

Difference in constitutional histories and judicial actions

  • India has nothing like the two-thirds rule in Kenya’s new constitution.
  • Kenya’s Constitution requires that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.
  • But the 2010 constitutional norm of a “two-thirds gender rule”, buttressed by the requirement that the electoral system shall comply with this rule has been breached.
  • The judicial orders (from 2012) giving various timeframes to enact legislation to implement gender parity have found Parliament unresponsive.
  •  The stage was thus set for the exercise of constitutional power and function by the chief justice to advise the president to dissolve Parliament.
  • This was a great victory for the Kenyan women.

Conclusion

Indian sisterhood can yearn wistfully, but valiantly, for another Vishakha moment in the demosprudential leadership of the nation by the apex court.

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Private: Representation of Women in Parliament

What do Germany, Taiwan and New Zealand have in common? These are all countries that have women heading their governments. And although they are located in three different continents, the three countries seem to have managed the pandemic much better than their neighbours.

There is an observed revival of the demand for providing reservation for Women in Parliament by multiple interest groups.

Status of Women in Indian Politics:

  • As per the 2017 Women in Politics Map Report released by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women, India ranks 148 globally in terms of representation of women in executive government and parliament.
  • Women’s representation has steadily increased in the Lok Sabha. In the first-ever election, only 5% of the House consisted of women. Now, that has increased to 14%.
  • Women representation at State level: As on October 2016, out of the 4,118 Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) across the country, only 9% are women, according to the Economic Survey.
  • The highest percentage of women legislators come from Bihar, Haryana and Rajasthan (14%).

Women reservation at local level: The 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution in 1993 made it mandatory to earmark 33% of all positions in Panchayati Raj Institutions for women. This has shown positive results as follows:

  • According to the Economic Survey, as of December 2017, there are 13.72 lakh elected women representatives in Panchayati Raj Institutions. This constitutes 44.2% of total elected representatives at the Panchayat level.
  • Women Sarpanchs also accounted for 43% of total Gram Panchayats (GPs) across the country, exhibiting active leadership of women in local government.

Country Wise Data on Political Representation of Women (Percentage Wise)
Sweden – 47 (2006)
Argentina – 40 (2007)
Norway – 36 (2005)
Canada – 24 (2006)
Pakistan – 21 (2008)

Arguments for Women Reservation in Parliament:

1.Constitutional rights: Although equality of the sexes is enshrined in the Constitution, it is not the reality. Therefore, vigorous affirmative action is required to improve the condition of women.

2.Redistribution of resources: political reservation has increased redistribution of resources in favour of the groups which benefit from reservation.

3.Previous experience: A study about the effect of reservation for women in panchayats shows that women elected under the reservation policy invest more in the public goods closely linked to women’s concerns.

  • For example, in Rajasthan and West Bengal, for instance, increased female political representation in local bodies led to more investment in drinking water and roads.

4.Gender equality: A 2008 study, reveals that a sizeable proportion of women representatives perceive an enhancement in their self-esteem, confidence and decision-making ability.

5.B.R. Ambedkar said that “political power is the key to all social progress”:

  • For example, women in villages with a head council position reserved for women are more likely to report crimes to the police.

6.Historical injustice: Proportion of women in the Lok Sabha has seen only a meagre increase since independence from 4.5% in the first Lok Sabha to the current 14% in the 17th Lok Sabha. Therefore, there is a need to undertake some positive discrimination for increasing the women participation in Indian politics.

7.Recording effect: Increase in the responsiveness of the official towards the pleas of disadvantaged groups.

  • For example, greater police responsiveness towards crimes against women in constituencies where women were part of the political leadership.

8.To break the Vicious cycle: Socio-economic disadvantages lead to reduced opportunities for women to participate in the political process, leading to weakened representation which, in turn, retards the process of addressing socio-economic disadvantages.

Women’s Reservation Bill

  • A.k.a Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 2008: It is pending in the parliament.
  • It aims to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies.
  • The bill says that the allocation of reserved seats shall be determined by such authority as prescribed by Parliament and that the reserved seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the state or union territory.
  • It also provides for reservation of seats for women to cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of this Amendment Act.
  • This will be a Constitutional Amendment under Article 368 and will need the ratification of half of the state legislatures before coming into force.

Arguments against Women Reservation in Parliament:

  • Unequal status: It may perpetuate inequality of women since they would not be perceived to be competing on merit.
  • Restricts choice : Reservation of seats restricts choice of voters to women candidates.
  • Rotation of reserved constituencies in every election may reduce the incentive for an MP to work for his constituency as he may be ineligible to seek re-election from that constituency.
  • A study by Ministry of Panchayati Raj recommended that rotation of constituencies should be discontinued at the panchayat level because almost 85% women were first timers and only 15% women could get re-elected because the seats they were elected from were de-reserved.
  • Also, the first timer women representatives may not be able to perform the work with high efficiency.
  • It could lead to election of “proxies” or relatives of male candidates.

Other Concerns Raised Against the Reservation:

  • Mandatory reservations will not address deeper imbalances of power: Inexperienced candidates will struggle to raise funds for their campaigns, defend the interest of their constituencies, and ultimately stand little chance of being re-elected.
  • General quota would favour upper caste and class women: It would compete with claims of other minority groups and infringe on existing quotas for Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
  • Lack of education and leadership training: A survey found that female panchayat heads to be less acquainted with the functioning of the Panchayati system than their male counterparts.
  • Lacks social capital: Since women are not integrated in any local political process initially, and, unlike men, are not part of the relevant social and power networks, women leaders are prone to inefficiencies.

Way Ahead:

  • The rotation of seats can be done over a period of 3-4 election cycles to enable women representatives of a particular constituency to develop administrative expertise during that period.
  • The women reservation may be extended in the first instance for 15 years then reviewed to decide whether it should be continued.
    While consensus for reservation of women in parliament and State legislature is being built, the political parties can provide for reservation for candidates within the parties.
  • Other options like Dual member constituencies may be considered, where some constituencies shall have two candidates, one being a woman.
  • The advantages of Dual member constituency are it does not decrease the democratic choice for voters, does not discriminate against male candidates and might make it easier for political representatives to cater to large constituencies.

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Weighing in on the efficacy of female leadership

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Women's Reservation

The article analyses the issue of women representation and leadership.

Role of female leaders in pandemic

  • Germany, Taiwan and New Zealand have women heading their governments.
  • Three countries seem to have managed the pandemic much better than their neighbours.
  • A detailed recent study by researchers in the United States reports that States which have female governors had fewer COVID-19 related deaths.
  •  The authors of the study conclude that women leaders are more effective than their male counterparts in times of crises.

Role of women as pradhans in gram panchayats

  • Women leaders perform significantly better than men in implementing policies that promote the interests of women.
  • This was demonstrated in study conducted by Nobel Laureate Esther Duflo and co-author Raghabendra Chattopadhyay.
  • They used the system of mandated reservations of pradhans in gram panchayats to test the effectiveness of female leadership.
  • Study concluded that pradhans invested more in rural infrastructure that served better the needs of their own gender.
  • This is also an important goal from the perspective of gender equality.

Underrepresentation of women in politics

  •  Female members make up only about 10% of the total ministerial strength in India.
  • The underrepresentation of female Ministers in India is also reflected in the fact that there is only one female Chief Minister.
  • Despite this, women constitute just over 14% of the total strength of the Lok Sabha.
  • This gives us the dismal rank of 143 out of 192 countries for which data are reported by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

State of Women’s Reservation Bill

  • Women running for elections face numerous challenges, it is essential to create a level-playing field through appropriate legal measures.
  • Attempts have also been made to extend quotas for women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies through a Women’s Reservation Bill.
  •  Male members from several parties opposed the Bill on various pretexts.
  • Although the Rajya Sabha did pass the bill in 2010, the Lok Sabha and the State legislatures are yet to give their approval.
  • 24 years that have passed since it was first presented in the Lok Sabha.

Way forward

  • Political parties can sidestep the logjam in Parliament by reserving say a third of party nominations for women.

Conclusion

There is substantial evidence showing that increased female representation in policy making goes a long way in improving perceptions about female effectiveness in leadership roles. This decreases the bias among voters against women candidates, and results in a subsequent increase in the percentage of female politicians contesting and winning elections.

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Examining the legislative error of disentitling daughters

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hindu Succession Act 1956 and amendments

Mains level : Paper 2- The Supreme Court judgement making daughters coparcener in her own right

The article highlights the importance of the latest Supreme Court Judgement making daughter coparcener in own right by birth removing the conditions laid down in the previous judgement.

Background

  • In Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma (2020), the Supreme Court held that a coparcener’s daughter would become a coparcener in her own right by birth.

Amendment in 2005 and related SC judgement

  • There is a difference between rights conferred by the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 and the amendment to that act in 2005.
  • In 1956 Act, equal right of succession at par with a son was given to a daughter, but only after the demise of the father or mother.
  • The 2005 amendment gave the right to property to a daughter in a joint Hindu family during the lifetime of the father.
  • In Prakash v. Phulavati 2005, the Supreme Court decided on the prospectivity or retrospectivity of the law creating coparcenary rights in favour of daughters.
  • It created a condition that the rights under the amendment are applicable only to living daughters of living coparceners as on September 9, 2005; however, it gave no reason as to why this was chosen as a condition.
  • The status of a daughter to be subject to her father being alive is apparently a mistake.
  • The death of an individual should not determine the rights of their heirs.
  • If any right had accrued in the daughter’s favour by a legislation, the same can’t be disturbed by death of her father.

What the SC said in latest judgement

  • In the present judgment, Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma , the court rightly held that as laid down in Section 6 (1) (a), daughter is to be a coparcener by birth; so there is no question of being prospective or retrospective.
  • It is the physical status that matters and should not be linked to a date.
  • Even in the case of unregistered partition deeds executed before December 20, 2004, the court has opened a new window for daughters.
  • Daughters can claim a right even in an unregistered partition deed which has not been proved conclusively.

Conclusion

There is a need to examine all the existing laws and wherever discriminatory practices exist, they need to be amended appropriately.

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How marriage age and women’s health are linked?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IMR, MMR

Mains level : Marriage age issues

PM had announced a panel to fight malnutrition in young women and ensure they get married at the right age. Take a look at how the two are linked:

How prevalent is underage marriage?

  • Data show that the majority of women in India marry after the age of 21.
  • Chart 1 shows the mean age of women at marriage is 22.1 years, and more than 21 in all states. This does not mean that child marriages have disappeared.
  • The latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) found that about 26.8% of women aged 20-24 (Chart 2) were married before adulthood (age 18).

Try this question for mains:

Q. Discuss how marriage age and women’s health are linked with each other?

How does the age of marriage correlate with health?

  • Preventing early marriage can reduce the maternal mortality ratio and infant mortality ratio.
  • At present, the maternal mortality ratio — the number of maternal deaths for every 100,000 children born — is 145.
  • India’s IMR shows that 30 of every 1,000 children born in a year die before the age of one.
  • Young mothers are more susceptible to anaemia. More than half the women of reproductive age (15-49 years) in India are anaemic.

What delayed marriage can alter?

  • Poverty, limited access to education and economic prospects, and security concerns are the known reasons for early marriage.
  • If the main causes of early marriage are not addressed, a law will not be enough to delay marriage among girls.

What do the data show?

  • Women in the poorest 20% of the population married much younger than their peers from the wealthiest 20% (Chart 5).
  • The average age at marriage of women with no schooling was 17.6, considerably lower than that for women educated beyond class 12 (Chart 6).
  • Almost 40% of girls aged 15-18 do not attend school, as per a report of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
  • Nearly 65% of these girls are engaged in non-remunerative work.
  • That is why many believe that merely tweaking the official age of marriage may discriminate against the poorer, less-educated and marginalised women.

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Debate: Minimum age of marriage for women

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Marriage age issues and its discrimination nature

PM in his I-Day speech has announced that the central government has set up a committee to reconsider the minimum age of marriage for women during his address to the nation on the 74th Independence Day.

Try this question for mains:

Q.The different minimum age of marriage for women and men is a discriminatory provision. Analyse.

Back in debate

  • The minimum age of marriage, especially for women, has been a contentious issue.
  • The law evolved in the face of much resistance from religious and social conservatives.
  • Currently, the law prescribes that the minimum age of marriage is 21 years and 18 years for men and women respectively.

Issue over majority

  • The minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of majority which is gender-neutral.
  • An individual attains the age of majority at 18 as per the Indian Majority Act, 1875.
  • The law prescribes a minimum age of marriage to essentially outlaw child marriages and prevents the abuse of minors.

What is the committee that the PM mentioned?

  • The Union Ministry for WCD had set up a task force to examine matters pertaining to the age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering Maternal Mortality Ratio and the improvement of nutritional levels among women.
  • The task force would examine the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood with health, medical well-being, and nutritional status of the mother and neonate, infant or child, during pregnancy, birth and thereafter.
  • It will also examine the possibility of increasing the age of marriage for women from the present 18 years to 21 years.

How common are child marriages in India?

  • UNICEF estimates suggest that each year, at least 1.5 million girls under the age of 18 are married in India.
  • It makes our country home to the largest number of child brides in the world — accounting for a third of the global total.
  • Nearly 16 per cent adolescent girls aged 15-19 are currently married.

Provisions for the minimum age for marriage

  • Personal laws of various religions that deal with marriage have their own standards, often reflecting custom.
  • For Hindus, Section 5(iii) of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom.
  • However, child marriages are not illegal — even though they can be declared void at the request of the minor in the marriage.
  • In Islam, the marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid.
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively.
  • Additionally, sexual intercourse with a minor is rape, and the ‘consent’ of a minor is regarded as invalid since she is deemed incapable of giving consent at that age.

Evolution of the law

  • The IPC enacted in 1860 criminalised sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 10.
  • The provision of rape was amended in 1927 through The Age of Consent Bill, 1927, which declared that marriage with a girl under 12 would be invalid.
  • The law faced opposition from conservative leaders of the Indian National Movement, who saw the British intervention as an attack on Hindu customs.
  • A legal framework for the age of consent for marriage in India only began in the 1880s.

Comes in: The Sarda Act

  • In 1929, The Child Marriage Restraint Act set 16 and 18 years as the minimum age of marriage for girls and boys respectively.
  • The law, popularly known as the Sarda Act after its sponsor Harbilas Sarda, a judge and a member of Arya Samaj, was eventually amended in 1978 to prescribe 18 and 21 years as the age of marriage for a woman and a man respectively.

Contention over different legal standards

  • There is no reasoning in the law for having different legal standards of age for men and women to marry. The laws are a codification of custom and religious practices.
  • The Law Commission consultation paper has argued that having different legal standards “contributes to the stereotype that wives must be younger than their husbands”.
  • Women’s rights activists have argued that the law also perpetuates the stereotype that women are more mature than men of the same age and, therefore, can be allowed to marry sooner.
  • The international treaty Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also calls for the abolition of laws that assume women have a different physical or intellectual rate of growth than men.

Why is the law being relooked at?

  • Despite laws mandating minimum age and criminalizing sexual intercourse with a minor, child marriages are very prevalent in the country.
  • From bringing in gender-neutrality to reduce the risks of early pregnancy among women, there are many arguments in favour of increasing the minimum age of marriage of women.
  • Early pregnancy is associated with increased child mortality rates and affects the health of the mother.

Upholding the Constitution

  • Petitioners, in this case, had challenged the law on the grounds of discrimination.
  • It is argued that Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, which guarantee the right to equality and the right to live with dignity, were violated by having different legal ages for men and women to marry.
  • Two significant Supreme Court rulings can act as precedents to support the petitioner’s claim.
  • In 2014, in the ‘NALSA v Union of India’ case, the Supreme Court, while recognising transgenders as the third gender, said that justice is delivered with the “assumption that humans have equal value and should, therefore, be treated as equal, as well as by equal laws”.
  • In 2019, in ‘Joseph Shine v Union of India’, the Supreme Court decriminalized adultery, and said that “a law that treats women differently based on gender stereotypes is an affront to women’s dignity”.

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Hindu Women’s Inheritance Rights

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : HUF

Mains level : Women's property right

The Supreme Court has expanded a Hindu woman’s right to be a joint legal heir and inherit ancestral property on terms equal to male heirs.

What is the ruling?

  • The SC Bench ruled that a Hindu woman’s right to be a joint heir to the ancestral property is by birth and does not depend on whether her father was alive or not when the law was enacted in 2005.
  • The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 gave Hindu women the right to be coparceners or joint legal heirs in the same way a male heir does.
  • Since the coparcenary (heirship) is by birth, it is not necessary that the father coparcener should be living as on 9.9.2005, the ruling said.

What is the 2005 law?

  • The Mitakshara school of Hindu law codified as the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 governed succession and inheritance of property but only recognised males as legal heirs.
  • The law applied to everyone who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew by religion.
  • Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and followers of Arya Samaj, Brahmo Samaj are also considered Hindus for the purposes of this law.
  • In a Hindu Undivided Family, several legal heirs through generations can exist jointly.

Background

  • Traditionally, only male descendants of a common ancestor along with their mothers, wives and unmarried daughters are considered a joint Hindu family.
  • The legal heirs hold the family property jointly.
  • Women were recognised as coparceners or joint legal heirs for partition arising from 2005.
  • The 174th Law Commission Report had also recommended this reform in Hindu succession law.
  • Even before the 2005 amendment, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu had made this change in the law, and Kerala had abolished the Hindu Joint Family System in 1975.

What did the law bring in?

  • Section 6 of the Act was amended that year to make a daughter of a coparcener also a coparcener by birth “in her own right in the same manner as the son”.
  • The law also gave the daughter the same rights and liabilities “in the coparcenary property as she would have had if she had been a son”.
  • The law applies to ancestral property and to intestate succession in personal property — where succession happens as per law and not through a will.

How did the case come about?

  • While the 2005 law granted equal rights to women, questions were raised whether the law applied retrospectively and if the rights of women depended on the living status of their father.
  • Different benches of the Supreme Court had taken conflicting views on the issue. Different High Courts had also followed different views of the top court as binding precedents.
  • The Prakash v Phulwati (2015) case held that the benefit of the 2005 amendment could be granted only to “living daughters of living coparceners” as on September 9, 2005 (the date when the amendment came to force).
  • In February 2018 a bench headed by Justice A K Sikri held that the share of a father who died in 2001 will also pass to his daughters as coparceners during the partition of the property as per the 2005 law.

The present case

  • These conflicting views led to a reference to a three-judge Bench in the current case.
  • The ruling now overrules the verdicts from 2015 and April 2018.
  • It settles the law and expands on the intention of the 2005 legislation to remove the discrimination as contained in section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
  • It gave equal rights to daughters in the Hindu Mitakshara coparcenary property as the sons have.

What was the government’s stand?

  • The solicitor argued in favour of an expansive reading of the law to allow equal rights for women. He referred to the objects and reasons of the 2005 amendment.
  • The Mitakshara coparcenary law not only contributed to discrimination on the ground of gender but was oppressive and negated the fundamental right of equality guaranteed by the Constitution.

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Women officers can now get permanent commission in Indian Army

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SSC/PC

Mains level : Debate over suitablity of women in combat roles of Indian Army

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has issued the formal Government Sanction Letter for grant of Permanent Commission (PC) to women officers in the Army.

Try this question for mains:

Q.“Concern for equality of sexes or political expediency should not influence defence policies.” Discuss on lines with the debate over the induction of women in the armed forces.

Also read: https://www.civilsdaily.com/burning-issue-women-in-armed-forces/

Why such an order?

  • The order follows a Supreme Court verdict in February that directed the government that women Army officers be granted PC and command postings in all services other than combat.
  • Following this, Army Chief had said it was an enabling one and gives a lot of clarity on how to move forward.
  • He had stated that the same procedure for male SSC officers will be followed for women to give PC.

Women in Army: Background of the case

  • The induction of women officers in the Army started in 1992.
  • They were commissioned for a period of five years in certain chosen streams such as Army Education Corps, Corps of Signals, Intelligence Corps, and Corps of Engineers.
  • Recruits under the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES) had a shorter pre-commission training period than their male counterparts who were commissioned under the Short Service Commission (SSC) scheme.
  • In 2006, the WSES scheme was replaced with the SSC scheme, which was extended to women officers. They were commissioned for a period of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years.
  • Serving WSES officers were given the option to move to the new SSC scheme or to continue under the erstwhile WSES.
  • They were to be, however, restricted to roles in streams specified earlier — which excluded combat arms such as infantry and armoured corps.

2 key arguments shot down

  • The Supreme Court rejected arguments against a greater role for women officers, saying this violated equality under the law.
  • They were being kept out of command posts on the reasoning that the largely rural rank and a file will have problems with women as commanding officers. The biological argument was also rejected as disturbing.
  • While male SSC officers could opt for permanent commission at the end of 10 years of service, this option was not available to women officers.
  • They were, thus, kept out of any command appointment, and could not qualify for a government pension, which starts only after 20 years of service as an officer.
  • The first batch of women officers under the new scheme entered the Army in 2008.

Arguments by the Govt

  • The Centre had mentioned several reasons behind the differential treatment of women officers.
  • It had proposed that women officers with up to 14 years of service would be granted a permanent commission, while those above 14 years would be permitted to serve for up to 20 years and retire with pension without being considered for permanent commission.
  • It also stated that those with more than 20 years of service would immediately be released with pension
  • This order did not grant permanent commission to women with over 14 years of service, and hence discriminatory.
  • Furthermore, the 2019 order granted permanent commission only for staff appointments and not command appointments.
  • The centre justified this by stating that that the units in Army are composed entirely of male soldiers, who are mostly from rural backgrounds and thus, are not mentally prepared to accept women officers in the command of units.
  • It also stated that the lower physical capacity of women officers would be a challenge for them to command units wherein officers are expected to lead the men from the front and need to be in prime physical condition to undertake combat tasks.
  • The government also stated that the adverse conditions, including two unsettled borders and internal security situations in the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir, have a major bearing on the employment of women officers in light of their physiological limitations.
  • Also, it had stated that the isolation and hardships would eat into their resolve and that they have to heed to the call of pregnancy, childbirth and family.
  • The government also argued that women ran the risk of capture by the enemy and being taken as prisoners of war.

SC Criticized the Government’s Note

  • Reflects Poorly on Women: The note had shown women officers in a poor light, saying isolation and hardships would eat into their resolve and that they would have to heed to the call of pregnancy, childbirth and family. The note had mentioned that women ran the risk of capture by enemy and taken prisoner of war.
  • Patriarchal Notion: The court held that the the note reflected the age-old patriarchal notion that domestic obligations rested only with women.
  • Sex Stereotype: The court also dismissed the point that women are physiologically weaker than men as a “sex stereotype”.
  • Offence to dignity of Indian Army: The court noted that challenging abilities of women on the ground of gender is an offence not only to their dignity as women but to the dignity of the members of the Indian Army – men and women – who serve as equal citizens in a common mission.

Implications of the judgement

  • The SC did away with all discrimination on the basis of years of service for grant of PC in 10 streams of combat support arms and services, bringing them on a par with male officers.
  • It has also removed the restriction of women officers only being allowed to serve in staff appointments, which is the most significant and far-reaching aspect of the judgment.
  • It means that women officers will be eligible to the tenant all the command appointments, at par with male officers, which would open avenues for further promotions to higher ranks for them.
  • It also means that in junior ranks and career courses, women officers would be attending the same training courses and tenanting critical appointments, which are necessary for higher promotions.

Back2Basics: Permanent Commission (PC) Vs. Short Service Commission (SSC)

  • SSC means an officer’s career will be of a limited period in the Indian Armed Forces whereas a PC means they shall continue to serve in the Indian Armed Forces, till they retire.
  • The officers inducted through the SSC usually serve for a period of 14 years. At the end of 10 years, the officers have three options.
  • A PC entitles an officer to serve in the Navy till he/she retires unlike SSC, which is currently for 10 years and can be extended by four more years, or a total of 14 years.
  • They can either select for a PC or opt-out or have the option of a 4-years extension. They can resign at any time during this period of 4 years extension.

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State of the World Population Report 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNFPA

Mains level : Preventing violence and abuse against women

The UNFPA has released the State of the World Population Report 2020.

Highlights of the WPR

I) Global prospects

  • According to estimates averaged over a five year period (2013-17), annually, there were 1.2 million missing female births, at a global level.
  • The same study shows that in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan excess female mortality of girls below 5 years of age was under 3 per cent.
  • These skewed numbers translate into long-term shifts in the proportions of women and men in the population of some countries, the report points out.
  • In many countries, this results in a “marriage squeeze” as prospective grooms far outnumber prospective brides, which further results in human trafficking for marriage as well as child marriages.

II) Data on India

  • India had about 4,60,000 girls ‘missing’ at birth each year.
  • The figure shows that the number of missing women has more than doubled over the past 50 years, who were at 61 million in 1970.
  • The report examines the issue of missing women by studying sex ratio imbalances at birth as a result of gender-biased sex selection as well as excess female mortality due to deliberate neglect of girls because of a culture of son preference.
  • Excess female mortality is the difference between observed and expected mortality of the girl child or avoidable death of girls during childhood.
  • The report cites a 2014 study to state that India has the highest rate of excess female deaths at 13.5 per 1,000 female births or one in nine deaths of females below the age of 5 due to postnatal sex selection.

About UNFPA

  • The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, is a UN organization.
  • It is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.
  • Their work involves the improvement of reproductive health; including the creation of national strategies and protocols, and birth control by providing supplies and services.
  • The organization has recently been known for its worldwide campaign against child marriage, obstetric fistula and female genital mutilation.

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Count work, not workers

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Decline in women's work participation rate and possible causes of it.

Context

India is one of the few countries in the world where women’s work participation rates have fallen sharply — from 29 per cent in 2004-5 to 22 per cent in 2011-12 and to 17 per cent in 2017-18.

What could be the possible explanations for the decline?

  • No consensus among economists: Trying to explain whether women are choosing to focus on domestic responsibilities or whether they are pushed out of the workforce has become a minor industry among economists.
  • Can the quality of data be the explanation? Strangely, the one explanation we have not looked at is whether the declining quality of economic statistics may account for this trend.
    • Our pride in the statistical system built by PC Mahalanobis is so great that we find it unimaginable that it could fail to provide us with reliable employment data.
    • However, as challenges to economic statistics have begun to emerge in such diverse areas as GDP data and consumption expenditure, perhaps it is time to consider the unimaginable.
    • Issue of data collection: Is the decline in women’s labour force participation real or is it a function of the way in which employment data are collected?

Anatomy of the decline in participation rates

  • Driven by rural women: The anatomy of the decline in women’s work participation rates shows that it is driven by rural women.
  • Data of the prime working-age group: In the prime working-age group (25-59)-
    • Urban area data: Urban women’s worker to population ratios (WPR) fell from 28 per cent to 25 per cent between 2004-5 and 2011-12, stagnating at 24 per cent in 2017-18.
    • Rural area data: However, compared to these modest changes, rural women’s WPR declined sharply from 58 per cent to 48 per cent and to 32 per cent over the same period.
  • Among rural women, the largest decline seems to have taken place in women categorised as unpaid family helpers — from 28 per cent in 2004-5 to 12 per cent in 2017-18.
    • This alone accounts for more than half of the decline in women’s WPR. The remaining is largely due to a drop of about 9 percentage points in casual labour.
  • In contrast, women counted as focusing solely on domestic duties increased from 21 per cent to 45 per cent.

What are the explanations for this massive change?

  • Data collection issue: It is the change in our statistical systems that drives these results.
    • Change of workforce collecting data: The questionnaires through which the National Statistical Office (NSO) collects employment data have not changed, but the statistical workforce has, and the surveys that performed reasonably well in the hands of seasoned interviewers are too complex for poorly trained contract data collectors.
  • How data is collected? The National Sample Surveys (NSS) do not have a script that the interviewer reads out. They have schedules that must be completed. The interviewer is trained in concepts to be investigated and then left to fill the schedules to the best of his or her ability.
    • The NSS increasingly relies on contract investigators hired for short periods, who lack
  • Need for redesigning the surveys: Do we need to return to the days of permanent employees or can we design our surveys to overcome errors committed by relatively inexperienced interviewers?
    • A survey design experiment led by Neerad Deshmukh at the NCAER-National Data Innovation Centre provides an intriguing solution.
    • In this experimental survey, interviewers first asked about the primary and secondary activity status of each household member, mimicking the NSS structure.
    • They then asked a series of simple questions that included ones like, “do you cultivate any land?” If yes, “who in your household works on the farm?”
    • Similar questions were asked about livestock ownership and about people caring for the livestock, ownership of petty business and individuals working in these enterprises.
  • What was the result of survey experiment: The results show that the standard NSS-type questions resulted in a WPR of 28 per cent for rural women in the age group 21-59, whereas the detailed activity listing found a WPR of 42 per cent — for the same women.
    • This is an easily implementable module that does not require specialised knowledge on the part of the interviewer.

Identifying the sectors from which women are excludes

  • Missing the identification of sector: In our concern with ostensibly declining women’s work participation, we have missed out on identifying sectors from which women are excluded and more importantly, in which women are included.
  • What data for men indicate? For rural men, ages 25-59, between 2004-5 and 2017-18, casual labour declined by about 6 percentage points.
    • However, this decline is counterbalanced by regular salaried work which increased by 4 percentage points.
    • Thus, it seems likely that men are exchanging precarious employment with higher-quality jobs.
  • What data for women indicate? In contrast, women’s casual work has declined by 9 percentage points while their regular salaried work increased by a mere 1 percentage point.
    • Moreover, the usual route to success, gaining formal education, has little impact on women’s ability to obtain paid work.
  • The explanation for the disparity: Rural men with a secondary level of education have options like working as a postman, driver or mechanic — few such opportunities are open to women.
    • It is not surprising that women with secondary education have only half the work participation rate compared to their uneducated sisters.
  • Takeaway: The focus on employment for women needs to be on creating high-quality employment rather than getting preoccupied with declining employment rates.

Conclusion

It may be time for us to return to the recommendations of ‘Shramshakti: Report of National Commission on Self Employed Women and Women in the Informal Sector’ and develop our data collection processes from the lived experiences of women and count women’s work rather than women workers. Without this, we run the risks of developing misguided policy responses.

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[pib] National Creche Scheme

The WCD Minister has informed about some progress in the National Creche Scheme. As of today, 6453 creches are functional across the country under the Scheme.

National Creche Scheme

  • Earlier named as Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme, the NCS is being implemented as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme through States/UTs with effect from 1.1.2017.
  • It aims to provide daycare facilities to children (age group of 6 months to 6 years) of working mothers.

Salient features of the Scheme

  • Daycare Facilities including Sleeping Facilities.
  • Early Stimulation for children below 3 years and pre-school education for 3 to 6 years old children.
  • Supplementary Nutrition ( to be locally sourced)
  • Growth Monitoring
  • Health Check-up and Immunization

Further, the guidelines provide that :

  • Crèches shall be open for 26 days in a month and for seven and a half (7-1/2) hours per day.
  • The number of children in the crèche should not be more than 25 per crèche with 01 Worker and 01 helpers respectively.
  • User charges to bring in an element of community ownership and collected as under:
    1. BPL families – Rs 20/- per child per month.
    2. Families with Income (Both Parents) of up to Rs. 12,000/- per month – Rs. 100/- per child per month
    3. Families with Income (Both Parents) of above Rs. 12,000/- per month – Rs. 200/- per child per month.

 

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The role of women in developing a knowledge economy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 1- Empowerment of women is necessary to achieve the aim of $5 trillion economy.

The role of women in developing a knowledge economy

Context

Indian economic success requires scientific skills that can foster a knowledge economy, the emergence of which depends on how gender-balanced the workforce is.

Half the scientific potential squandered

  • The requirement of the skilled workforce: A rapidly growing India requires a highly skilled technical workforce that is crucial for developing a knowledge economy.
    • Unfortunately, half the scientific potential of India—women in science—is squandered.
    • Women make up only 14% of the 280,000 scientists, engineers, and technologists in research and development institutions across the country, according to a recent study.
  • Several barriers in careers: Today, fewer women apply for or hold key scientific positions as several barriers prevent them from progressing in their careers, in comparison with their male counterparts.

Several unacknowledged factors that disadvantage women

  • There is widespread frustration experienced by women, who find it difficult if not impossible to fulfil their scientific potential.
    • Even today, several factors that disadvantage women are not acknowledged widely enough.
  • What are the difficulties faced by women: Peer-reviewed research reports have indicated that women-
    • Scientists earn less.
    • Have less prestige within departments.
    • Have less lab space.
    • Are offered inadequate jobs on graduating with science degrees and have more teaching responsibilities.
    • They also face greater difficulty in receiving grants and therefore apply for fewer grants in the first place.
  • Imperative to tackle issues: It is imperative to tackle these issues with vigour if India is to take its rightful place among developed nations.

Lack of informal networks

  • Women tend to lack access to informal networks that provide opportunities to work in high-profile projects.
    • Which include attending conferences abroad or on-the-job opportunities.
  • How it affects them? They lack the work experience that would enable them to rise up the ranks and provide access to the wide range of developmental models that could build the credibility they need to advance.

Importance of mentor

  • Performance assessment is now an integral part of an organization’s performance management systems, implemented as companies move away from the age-old concepts of training and skill development.
  • How mentors matters? Mentors often help build confidence as well as professional identity in protégés and offer access to developmental opportunities, allowing individuals to demonstrate their ability and gain trust.
    • Mentors keep information channels open and provide feedback on performance in crucial times.
    • It has been noted that almost every successful woman has had a mentor at some time.

How organizations work culture matters?

  • Unepathetic culture: Organizations often define success by the willingness of their employee to work for long hours and prioritize work over everything else—a “live to work” ideal, generally regarded as more masculine.
    • Group membership as criteria leads to discrimination: When women feel selected or assessed on the basis of group membership rather than their work record and abilities, they experience gender discrimination.
    • Women feel that an unempathetic culture is one of the most significant barriers to their advancement.
  • Gender bias as a major career obstacle: A study highlighted that only 3% of women surveyed regarded family responsibilities as their most serious career obstacle, while 50% cited gender bias.
    • Only 7% of female employees surveyed reported leaving the organization for family reasons, whereas 73% reported leaving because they saw limited opportunities.
    • Quit rate: The quit rates for women were significantly lower in organizations that provided better training and promotion opportunities.
  • The need for the employee-friendly policies: In recent years, we have witnessed an increase in the number of women with children who participate in the country’s paid workforce.
    • An organization’s culture has a significant impact on those who work within it.
    • Unfortunately, not many organizations have revised their work policies or employee expectations to enable women to strike a balance between their work and family responsibilities.
    • Flexible policies: For instance, the internet and telecom revolutions have enabled organizations to introduce employee-friendly policies such as Flexi-work hours and work-from-home that have significantly transformed workplace practices.

Way forward

  • Need for the realisation of the full potential of women: Science needs the best scientists, and a knowledge economy needs a gender-balanced workforce. This can only be attained by realizing the full potential of women.
  • Reach out to young girls: Apart from being wasteful and unjust, the under-representation of women in science threatens the goal of achieving excellence in the field. To tackle this, we must set an ambitious target of reaching out to 1 million young girls each year and encourage them to take up science and make a difference.
  • Convention of women: A national convention of women in science must be held annually, with a specific focus on discussing and building general awareness around the major challenges that women face.

Conclusion

We must mobilize all our resources if India aims to be a $5 trillion economy. The gender imbalance in science and technology is a looming challenge and threatens to weaken our country’s competitive economic position. By addressing these concerns, we can empower and motivate more women to join scientific fields, unlock India’s full potential, and develop the country to become a knowledge economy.

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Skill her, skill India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Schemes for women empowerment.

Mains level : Paper 2- Various measures and schemes by the government for women empowerment.

Context

On March 8, we honour and celebrate women on the occasion of the International Women’s Day. Women in our country are making strides in social, financial and political fields.

Women breaking the barriers

  • Women working for the development of the country: Be it the 1857 mutiny for India’s freedom or the struggle for Independence, our women have always made India proud.
    • Even today, women are performing their duties with full devotion for the development of the country and upliftment of society.
    • They are working efficiently in various fields, such as academics, literature, music and dance, sports, media, business, information technology, science and technology, politics and social development.
  • Breaking barriers in various fields: Indian women from metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai are breaking barriers in fields ranging from politics to the corporate sector.
  • Giving society a new direction: Women are giving society a new direction through their leadership and critical participation in panchayat elections.
    • Increasing awareness and clear intentions are the reason behind women strengthening economic, social and cultural establishments.
    • This is very important for a democratic system.

Female participation in the corporate sector

  • IT sector participation: There is a constant evolution of female participation in the corporate sector. Female participation is constantly increasing in the Information Technology sector.
  • Presence in other areas: Along with the IT sector, the presence of women is also increasing in the banking and finance sector.
    • Last year, the Indian Space Research Organisation decided to hand over the command of Chandrayaan-2 to two women, and these women also played a key role in the mission.

Government schemes for women empowerment

  • Our government is running many schemes for women’s empowerment such as the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Mahila E-haat Scheme, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana, Sakhi Yojana, Ladli Yojana, Digital Laado and the Swachh Bharat Mission.
  • Government is also working extensively on women’s nutrition.
  • Multiple ministries working on the same: The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Women and Child Empowerment, and Human Resource Development are working closely in this regard.
  • Identification of skill set: We know that every person has a unique skill-set. What is needed is a mechanism to ensure that that skill-set is identified and honed in the best possible way.
    • The government need to ensure that all women in our country from different occupations are trained in their respective skill-sets and are employable.
  • Government need to put to best use their skill-set to become self-employed entrepreneurs and progress.
  • Around 68.12 lakh women in India have been trained under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikaas Yojana 2.0.
  • Under the Jan Shikshan Sansthan Scheme, around 08 lakh women have been trained in the 2018-2020 period, while 38.72 lakh women have been trained in Industrial Training Institutes (ITI).
    • At present, there are 18 National Skill Training Institutes across the country to train women. Special batches are being conducted to provide basic, theoretical and advanced training to women.
  • Making progress in non-traditional skills: It is a matter of joy and pride that while women in India are studying electronics, fashion design, technology and business management, there are also those who hone their new-age skills in artificial intelligence, data analytics, 3D printing, etc.
    • Along with traditional skills like beauty, wellness and healthcare, women are also progressing quickly in non-traditional skills such as electronics and hardware.

The role of various missions in strengthening women’s skill

  • The National Rural Livelihood Mission has strengthened women’s skills and prepared them for employment.
  • Training for self-employed tailors, beauty therapists, customer care executives, hairstylists, yoga trainers, etc. are being carried out in the Prime Minister Skill Centres.
  • Women playing a significant role in various missions: Very soon, one will get to see women playing significant roles in central government schemes such as the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, Swachh Bharat Mission and Smart City Mission.
    • By joining these missions, women will make a huge contribution in giving a new shape to society.
    • In fact, in the creation of a New India, women’s education and skill development are going to be critical.
  • In the last few years, the central government has rolled out various schemes that have emboldened the women of our country and taken them on the path of self-reliance and security.

Conclusion

The efforts of our government have created a milieu of trust in the women of our country. They are confident that the country’s government machinery is standing by them by creating an atmosphere of respect and development for women. In the past few years, our government has made massive advancements in providing education and honing skill-sets. We pledge to make sure that these efforts reach each and every Indian woman.

 

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Permanent Commission to Women in Indian Army

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Debate over suitablity of women in combat roles of Indian Army

 

  • The Supreme Court brought women officers in 10 streams of the Army on a par with their male counterparts in all respects, setting aside longstanding objections of the government.
  • The case was first filed in the Delhi High Court by women officers in 2003 and had received a favourable order in 2010. But the order was never implemented and was challenged by the government.

Women in Army: Background of the case

  • The induction of women officers in the Army started in 1992.
  • They were commissioned for a period of five years in certain chosen streams such as Army Education Corps, Corps of Signals, Intelligence Corps, and Corps of Engineers.
  • Recruits under the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES) had a shorter pre-commission training period than their male counterparts who were commissioned under the Short Service Commission (SSC) scheme.
  • In 2006, the WSES scheme was replaced with the SSC scheme, which was extended to women officers. They were commissioned for a period of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years.
  • Serving WSES officers were given the option to move to the new SSC scheme or to continue under the erstwhile WSES.
  • They were to be, however, restricted to roles in streams specified earlier — which excluded combat arms such as infantry and armoured corps.

2 key arguments shot down

  • The Supreme Court rejected arguments against a greater role for women officers, saying this violated equality under the law.
  • They were being kept out of command posts on the reasoning that the largely rural rank and a file will have problems with women as commanding officers. The biological argument was also rejected as disturbing.
  • While male SSC officers could opt for permanent commission at the end of 10 years of service, this option was not available to women officers.
  • They were, thus, kept out of any command appointment, and could not qualify for government pension, which starts only after 20 years of service as an officer.
  • The first batch of women officers under the new scheme entered the Army in 2008.

Arguments by the govt.

  • The government put forth other arguments before the Supreme Court to justify the proposal on the grounds of permanent commission, grants of pensionary benefits, limitations of judicial review on policy issues, occupational hazards, reasons for discrimination against women and rationalization on physiological limitations for employment in staff appointments.
  • The apex court has rejected these arguments, saying they are “based on sex stereotypes premised on assumptions about socially ascribed roles of gender which discriminate against women”.
  • It has also said that it only shows the need “to emphasise the need for change in mindsets to bring about true equality in the Army”.

Implications of the judgement

  • The SC has done away with all discrimination on the basis of years of service for grant of PC in 10 streams of combat support arms and services, bringing them on a par with male officers.
  • It has also removed the restriction of women officers only being allowed to serve in staff appointments, which is the most significant and far-reaching aspect of the judgment.
  • It means that women officers will be eligible to tenant all the command appointments, at par with male officers, which would open avenues for further promotions to higher ranks for them.
  • It also means that in junior ranks and career courses, women officers would be attending the same training courses and tenanting critical appointments, which are necessary for higher promotions.

Way Forward

  • The implications of the judgment will have to be borne by the human resources management department of the Army, which will need to change policy in order to comply.
  • But the bigger shift will have to take place in the culture, norms, and values of the rank and file of the Army, which will be the responsibility of the senior military and political leadership.
  • After the Supreme Court’s progressive decision, they have no choice but to bite the proverbial bullet.

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To help her work

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Inclusive growth and need to focus on gender budgeting in India.

Context

When it came to allocating funds, the budget relegates women’s economic participation to secondary importance.

The current status of women in India

  • Lack of Equality: India continues to struggle to provide its women with equal opportunity.
  • A low score on international measures: On international measures of gender equality.
    • India scores low on women’s overall health and survival and ability to access economic opportunities.
  • Why it matters? Since the woman’s economic engagement is related to her own and her family’s well-being, the continuing decline in rural women’s labour force participation is a cause for concern, and both affects and reflects these worrying gender gaps.

Why female labour force participation matters beyond social cause?

  • Source of economic growth: Ignoring India’s declining female labour force participation at a time of economic distress is a mistake.
    • Not just a social cause: Involving women in the economy is not a social cause — it is a source of efficiency gains and economic growth.
  • Missing out on many things: In a country where young women’s education is now at par with men’s, ignoring that half of the population isn’t participating equally in the economy means we are missing out on many things, like-
    • Innovation.
    • Entrepreneurship.
    • And productivity gains.
  • Large potential to increase in GDP: The large potential increases in GDP that could accrue to India and countries around the world, if they could only close their labour force gender gaps, are often cited.
    • 60% increase in GDP: A report by McKinsey Global Institute suggests that if women participated in the Indian economy at the level men do, annual GDP could be increased by 60 per cent above its projected GDP by 2025.
    • Underlying conclusion: The underlying conclusion is that women’s potential to contribute to GDP is huge.
    • Gain larger than any other region: The same analysis also suggested that India’s potential GDP gains through achieving economic gender parity were larger than gains in any of the other regions they studied.

How can the state be responsive to women? 

It can be ensured in the following two ways-

  • 1.MGNREGA-Important focus: An important focus could be a smarter policy and gender-intentional implementation.
    • A key example comes from MGNREGA, a programme whose official policy has long been to pay individual workers in their own bank accounts.
    • It is observed that this policy was typically not implemented and that women’s wages were usually being paid into the bank account of the woman’s husband.
  • Why paying wages in women’s account matters?
    • Giving women digital control of her wage:
    • This seemingly small change — giving a woman digital control of her wages — had a big impact.
    • Working women more outside their home: Women who received digital accounts plus training worked more outside their homes, not only for MGNREGA but also in private employment.
  • Higher economic engagement and lessening patriarchy
    • Importantly, women from especially conservative households reported higher economic engagement and an improved ability to move about their communities unaccompanied.
    • Lessening of patriarchal norms: Surveys conducted showed that the payment in account also began to influence restrictive patriarchal norms.
  • 2.Need to move beyond MGNREGA
    • Ease of doing business and reform in labour market reforms: Continuing to improve ease of doing business and addressing rigid labour market regulations can also draw more women into high-potential sectors.
    • Such as those supported under Assemble in India.
    • Potential in manufacturing: Rural women’s relative participation in manufacturing has grown compared to men’s, and manufacturing stands out as a promising means to pull young women, in particular, into the economy.
    • Potential in SMEs: Ensuring better support to small and medium-sized enterprises can help new businesses.

Conclusion

  • Attune schemes to the aspiration of women: Ensuring that these programmes are attuned to the needs and aspirations of women is not expensive. But it makes a much difference.
    • Review of policy and programme: It requires a review of individual policies and programme implementation.
  • Increase the funding: The government needs to increase funding to programmes targeting women. Until then, the policy can build on the fact that pulling women into the economy isn’t just a function of budget allocations or social sector programmes. It’s also a matter of thoughtful policy design and political will.

 

 

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Explained: Why are there more men than women in the field of STEM?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Women in STEM

Across the world, there are more men who are active in science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM) than women. Of the 866 Nobel winners so far, only 53 have gone to women.

Sociology behind the gender-divide

  • Research shows that when men and women apply for jobs — be in the labour market, or in places where high level qualifications are demanded, men candidates engage in self-promotion, and are boastful while equally qualified women are more ‘modest’ and ‘undersell’ themselves.
  • Even in groups and situations where men and women are present as colleagues, the views of women are either ignored or listened to less seriously than those of men.
  • As a result, women tend to underestimate their ability relative to men, especially in public settings, and negotiate less successfully.

Why this imbalance?

The authors suggest three socio-psychological reasons, namely:

  1. masculine culture
  2. lack of sufficient early exposure to computers, physics and related areas compared to boys in early childhood and
  3. gender gap in self-efficacy

Stereotypes and role models

I] Masculine culture

  • The masculine culture is due to stereotyping that men are fitter for certain jobs and skills than women, and that women are more ‘delicate’, ‘tender’ and thus unfit for ‘hard’ jobs.
  • In addition, there are not enough female role models whom women may admire and follow.

II] Lack of exposure

  • The lack of exposure in early childhood to certain fields and the supposed stereotyping of computer field practitioners as ‘nerds’ with social awkwardness would seem to have played a role from women shying away into other fields.

III] Gender gap in self-efficacy

  • The ‘gender gap in self-efficacy’ appears to have arisen as a result of the above two, and leads to a worry in girls’ and women’s minds as to ‘whether I am really only fit for certain ‘soft’ fields and jobs or a feeling of diffidence.
  • This is clearly a reflection and product of masculine culture.
  • But then, even when we turn to life sciences, where both men and women compete for positions and career advancements in universities and research labs, this gender disparity is glaring.

India is no better

  • The men rule roosts here too in India. India has been a patrilineal society with the notion that women need not take on jobs, and that this notion has only recently been revised.
  • Women form only 10-15% of STEM researchers and faculty members in the IITs, CSIR, AIIMS and PGIs.
  • In private R & D labs, there are very few women scientists.

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[pib] Establishment of Chairs named after eminent Women in Universities

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various chairs named after eminent Women

Mains level : Women empowerment

 

On the occasion of National Girl Child Day, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has set up 10 Chairs in different fields with an aim to carry out research activities to encourage women.

Chairs named after eminent Women

  • The initiative is called “the Establishment of Chairs in the Universities in the name of eminent women administrators, artists, scientists and social reformers”.
  • It is being launched with the assistance of University Grants Commission (UGC).
  • The main objective is to inspire women to pursue higher education and to achieve excellence in their area of work.
  • The financial implications of the proposal is Rs. 50 lakh per Chair per year and the total expenditure for establishing ten Chairs will be approximately Rs. Rs. 5 crore per annum.
  • The Chairs are to be established for a period of 5 years initially as per the guidelines.

The chairs proposed by UGC and approved by the Ministry are as under:

S. No. Subject Proposed name of chair
1. Administration Devi Ahilyabai Holkar
2. Literature Mahadevi Varma
3. Freedom Fighter (North East) Rani Gaidinliu
4. Medicine & Health Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi
5. Performing Art Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi
6. Forest/Wildlife Conservation Amrita Devi (Beniwal)
7. Mathematics Lilavati
8. Science Kamala Sohonie
9. Poetry & Mysticism Lal Ded
10. Educational Reforms Hansa Mehta

 Functions of these chairs

  • Academic functions of the Chairs will be to engage in research and, in turn, contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the area of the study, strengthen the role of university/academics in public policy making etc.
  • The University will review the progress of the Chair annually and submit a final report on the activities and outcome of the Chair to the UGC after five years.
  • However, the UGC may undertake the exercise of reviewing the Chair for its continuance, at any stage.

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Women Business and the Law (WBL) Index 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WBL index

Mains level : India's poor performance and reasons behind

 

The Women Business and the Law (WBL) 2020 index to measure the economic empowerment of women was recently published.

WBL Index

  • The WBL report released by the World Bank.
  • It is based on the countries’ formal laws and regulations that have a bearing on women’s economic participation, covering eight areas (eg, parenthood, equality of pay).
  • It tracks how laws affect women at different stages in their working lives and focusing on those laws applicable in the main business city.

India’s poor performance

  • India placed 117th among 190 countries on the index.
  • India, the world’s most populous democracy scored 74.4 on a par with Benin and Gambia and way below least developed countries like Rwanda and Lesotho.
  • The global average was 75.2 — a slight increase from 73.9 in the previous index released in 2017.

Global Performance

  • Only eight economies scored a perfect 100 — Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden.
  • Those countries have ensured equal legal standing to men and women on all the eight indicators of the index.
  • No economy in ‘East Asia and the Pacific’, ‘Europe and Central Asia’, or ‘Latin America and the Caribbean’ were among top reformers, the report claimed.
  • Countries in ‘Middle East and North Africa’ and ‘Sub-Saharan Africa’ accounted for nine of the 10 top progressing countries on the WBL Index:
  1. Saudi Arabia
  2. The United Arab Emirates
  3. Nepal
  4. South Sudan
  5. São Tomé and Príncipe
  6. Bahrain
  7. The Democratic Republic of Congo
  8. Djibouti
  9. Jordan
  10. Tunisia

Significance of the Index

  • Legal rights for women are both the right thing to do and good from an economic perspective.
  • When women can move more freely, work outside the home and manage assets, they are more likely to join the workforce and help strengthen their country’s economies.

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Savitribai Phule’s impact on women’s education in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Savitribai and Jyotirao Phule and thier legacy

Mains level : Pioneers of women education in the colonial India

Yesterday, January 3rd was birth anniversary of one of India’s first modern feminists and a social reformer Savitribai Phule. She is especially remembered for being India’s first female teacher who worked for the upliftment of women and untouchables in the field of education and literacy.

Who was Savitribai Phule?

  • Phule was born in Naigaon, Maharashtra in 1831 and married activist and social-reformer Jyotirao Phule when she was nine years old.
  • After marriage, with her husband’s support, Phule learned to read and write and both of them eventually went on to found India’s first school for girls called Bhide Wada in Pune in 1948.
  • Before this, she started a school with Jyotirao’s cousin Saganbai in Maharwada in 1847.
  • Since at that time the idea of teaching girls was considered to be a radical one, people would often throw dung and stones at her as she made her way to the school.
  • Significantly, it was not easy for the Phule’s to advocate for the education of women and the untouchables since in Maharashtra a nationalist discourse was playing out between 1881-1920 led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
  • These nationalists including Tilak opposed the setting up of schools for girls and non-Brahmins citing loss of nationality.

Her work

  • Essentially, both Jyotirao and Savitribai recognised that education was one of the central planks through which women and the depressed classes could become empowered and hope to stand on an equal footing with the rest of the society.
  • The Phules started the Literacy Mission in India between 1854-55.
  • They started the Satyashodhak Samaj (Society for Truth-Seeking), through which they wanted to initiate the practice of Satyashodhak marriage, in which no dowry was taken.
  • Because of the role played in the field of women’s education, she is also considered to be one of the “crusaders of gender justice”.
  • Her books of poems “Kavya Phule” and “Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar” were published in 1934 and 1982.

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[op-ed snap] Mind the gap: On gender gap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gender Gap Index

Mains level : Closing the gender gap

Context

Assessing women’s access to equal opportunity and resources against the access that men have would be a scientific way of evaluating commitment to the advancement of its citizens. Going by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2020, questions can be raised whether this government is doing the right thing. 

State of India

  • Drop in ranks – India has dropped four points from 2018, to take the 112th rank on the Index. 
  • Index – The index measures the extent of gender-based gaps on four key parameters — economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. 
  • Access – It measures gender-based gaps in access to resources and opportunities in countries, rather than the actual levels of the available resources and opportunities. 
  • The extent of the gap – India has closed two-thirds of its overall gender gap, with a score of 66.8%.
  • Concern – the report notes with concern that the condition of women in large fringes of Indian society is ‘precarious’. 
  • Economic gap – with a score of 35.4%, at the 149th place, and down seven places, indicates that only a third of the gap has been bridged.
  • The participation of women in the labor force is also among the lowest in the world, and the female estimated earned income is only one-fifth of male income
  • Health – An alarming statistic is India’s position (150th) on the very bottom of the Health and Survival subindex. This is due to the skewed sex ratio at birth, violence, forced marriage, and discrimination in access to health. 
  • On the educational attainment (112th rank) and political empowerment (18th rank) fronts, the relatively good news is buried.

Way ahead

  • Not enough – Doing what the government is currently doing is clearly not going to be sufficient.
  • It needs to engage intimately with all aspects indicated by the Index to improve the score and set targets to reduce the gender gap in the foreseeable future. 
  • It will have to scale up efforts to encourage women’s participation and increase opportunities for them.
  • A commitment to ameliorate the conditions for women is a non-negotiable duty of any state.

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Global Gender Gap Index, 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Gender Gap Index, 2020

Mains level : Addressing gender inequalities in India

India has ranked 112th among 153 countries in the annual Global Gender Gap Index for 2020.

About the report

  • The report is annually published by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
  • It benchmarks countries on their progress towards gender parity in four dimensions: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment.
  • The report aims to serve “as a compass to track progress on relative gaps between women and men on health, education, economy and politics”.

Key findings

  • Iceland, Norway, and Finland occupy the top three spots in the Report.
  • Globally, the average (population-weighted) distance completed to gender parity is at 68.6%, which is an improvement since last edition.
  • The largest gender disparity is in political empowerment.
  • Only 25% of the 35,127 seats in parliaments around the world are occupied by women, and only 21% of the 3,343 ministers are women.

India’s performance has deteriorated

  • India has slipped four places on the index to 112, behind neighbours.
  • India’s latest position is 14 notches lower than its reading in 2006 when the WEF started measuring the gender gap.
  • It also ranked lower than many of its international peers, and some of its neighbours like China (106th), Sri Lanka (102nd), Nepal (101st), Brazil (92nd), Indonesia (85th) and Bangladesh (50th).
  • India is now ranked in the bottom-five in terms of women’s health and survival and economic participation.

Positive notes for India

  • On a positive note, India has closed two-thirds of its overall gender gap, but the condition of women in large section of India’s society is precarious and the economic gender gap has significantly widened since 2006.
  • India is the only country among the 153 countries studied where the economic gender gap is larger than the political one.
  • India ranks high on the political empowerment sub-index, largely because the country was headed by a woman for 20 of the past 50 years.
  • But, female political representation today is low as women make up only 14.4 per cent of Parliament (122nd rank globally) and 23 per cent of the cabinet (69th).

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[op-ed snap] Her freedoms

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Tackling sexual violence against women

Context

The attack on Nirbhaya, the law student and the veterinary doctor show that simply going about life can prove hazardous to life and safety if you are an Indian woman. 

Actions in the past

    • A raft of legislation followed the upheaval in 2012 :
      • expanding the definition of rape 
      • lowering the age at which juveniles could stand trial
      • increasing endorsement of the death penalty as punishment

Violence against women

    • These incidents illustrate how streets and highways turn toxic against women even in a city.
    • Often, men inflict sexual violence on women as punishment. 
    • Many women demand an acknowledgment of their experience of sexual abuse.
    • They should reclaim the public space that is denied to them by the ruse of safety and self-protection. 
    • Worried parents will stop them from going out at night; they will be told to shrink their lives into narrower and narrower circles to pre-empt the actions of possible assaulters.

Need for action

    • As more and more women turn out to work, study and occupy public and private spaces with assertion, governments, and society must reboot.
    • Law enforcement agencies have to bring culprits to book. The process of justice should not doubly punish the survivor. 
    • State governments should make cities and towns safe for women’s mobility, their entertainment, and their freedom.
    • The violence is a reminder to continue the difficult conversation about power and patriarchy.
    • It’s not just enough to train girls in self-defense but to teach boys empathy. 
    • There is a need to reimagine women’s freedoms beyond curfews, dress codes, and propriety.

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[oped of the day] The mother of non-issues

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Maternal health

Context

Maternity benefits in India are a non-issue. The governments are clueless about their legal, financial and political aspects.

Existing structures

    • Maternity Benefits Act – Maternity benefits are generous for a small minority of Indian women employed in the formal sector and covered under the Maternity Benefit Act. 
    • NFSA – Under the National Food Security Act, 2013, all pregnant women (except those already receiving similar benefits under other laws) are entitled to maternity benefits of ₹6,000 per child.
    • Maternity benefits scheme – a maternity benefit scheme was rolled out in 2017: the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY). 
    • The majority left out – The vast majority of pregnant women, however, are left to their own devices.

Survey

    • Jaccha-Baccha Survey (JABS) was conducted in six states of north India — Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh. 
    • Unable to meet pregnancy needs – due to lack of knowledge or power, most of the sample households were unable to take care of the special needs of pregnancy, whether it was food, rest or health care. 
    • Food needs – Among women who had delivered a baby in the preceding six months, only 31% said that they had eaten more nutritious food than usual during their pregnancy. 
    • Less weight gain – Their average weight gain during pregnancy was just seven kg on average, compared with a norm of 13 kg to 18 kg for women with a low body-mass index. In Uttar Pradesh, 39% of the respondents had no clue whether they had gained weight during pregnancy, and 36% had gone through it without a health check-up.
    • HP presents a better picture – only in Himachal Pradesh, rural women are relatively well-off, well-educated and self-confident. The special needs of pregnancy received significant attention.

Need for maternity benefits

    • Reduce hardships – Maternity benefits could help to relieve these hardships and give babies a chance of good health. 
    • PMMVY: The modalities of the scheme violate the NFSA: benefits are restricted to the first living child, and to ₹5,000 per woman. The budget provision of ₹2,700 crores is a fraction of the ₹15,000 crores required for the full-fledged implementation of maternity benefits as per NFSA norms. The actual expenditure was barely ₹2,000 crore.

Performance of PMMVY

    • Less number covered
      • 80 lakh women received at least one instalment of PMMVY money between April 1, 2018, and July 31, 2019, and 50 lakh received all three instalments. 
      • Based on an estimated population of 134 crores and a birth rate of 20.2 per thousand, the annual number of births in India would be around 270 lakh. Of these, a little less than half would be first births.
      • These figures imply that in 2018-19 only around 22% of all pregnant women received any PMMVY money, and around 14% received the full benefits.
    • Ruined in steps
      • Reduced coverage – The coverage and benefits were reduced compared with NFSA norms. Had the benefits been higher and universal, the scheme would have been a hit.
      • Tedious procedure – The application process is tedious. From filling a long-form for each instalment, women have to submit a series of documents, including their ‘mother-and-child protection’ card, bank passbook, Aadhaar card and husband’s Aadhaar card. Essential details in different documents have to match, and the bank account needs to be linked with Aadhaar.
      • Technical limitations – There are frequent technical glitches in the online application and payment process. When an application is rejected or returned with queries, the applicant may or may not get to know about it.
    • Aadhaar
      • Rejected payments due to mismatch between a person’s Aadhaar card and bank account. 
      • More than 20% of the respondents mentioned that they had faced difficulties because the address on their Aadhaar card was that of their maika, not of their sasural.

Examples of T.N., Odisha

    • Some State governments have put in place effective maternity benefit schemes of their own. 
    • Tamil Nadu – Under the Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy Maternity Benefit Scheme, pregnant women in Tamil Nadu receive financial assistance of ₹18,000 per child for the first two births, including a nutrition kit. 
    • Odisha – Odisha’s Mamata scheme also covers two births with lower entitlements — ₹5,000 per child, as with the PMMVY. 
    • The JABS survey suggests that the Mamata scheme is working reasonably well: among women who had delivered in the last six months, 88% of those eligible for Mamata benefits had applied, and 75% had received at least one of the two instalments.

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[op-ed snap] The gender digital divide

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Gender Digital Divide

Context

India’s digital divide between men and women is huge.

Data

  • At a recent session at the Indian Mobile Congress, it was pointed out that only 35% of Indian women have access to the internet. 
  • According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, male users account for 67% of India’s online population; women account for just 29%.
  • A large proportion of Indian women remain cut off from the world’s most significant phenomenon of recent decades.
  • The Internet has become a great enabler. The gap is not just socially appalling, it is also terrible for the country’s economic prospects. 
  • According to GSMA’s The Mobile Gender Gap Report 2019, closing the gender gap in mobile internet use in developing countries could add $700 billion to their combined economy over the next five years.

Internet as an enabler

  • The impact isn’t just about money but also the empowerment of women through information. 
  • Those who have the means to cross-check assertions made in social settings are that much more likely to exercise greater agency in their lives. 
  • Greater female presence online could also make the internet a nicer place, given the bad civic sense—trolls, fake news, and various misdeeds—that prevails in large parts of cyberspace. 

Conclusion

The divide may mirror India’s structural inequities. A failure to address the gap will hurt us all.

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[op-ed snap] In his company

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Women and the glass ceiling

Context

If national societies were brands, “diversity” would certainly be the buzzword for India. So would hierarchy and inequality. 

Facts

  • The CS Gender 3000 report, released by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, points to the lack of equal or even adequate representation of women in the upper echelons of corporate India. 
  • According to the report, India’s female representation on corporate boards has increased by 4.3% over the past five years to 15.2%. 
  • This growth is well below the global average of over 20%
  • India also has the third-lowest rank in the Asia Pacific region with regard to female CEO representation – at 2%.
  • It also has the second-lowest rank for female CFO representation at just 1%.

Mere confirmation

  • The report merely confirms what has long been known anecdotally.
  • Apart from a few high-profile corporate leaders, by and large, the upper echelons and even senior management positions in the private sector continue to be dominated by men. 
  • At the time of intake, there is far greater gender parity, but the number of women reduces exponentially as we move higher on the pyramid of the corporate hierarchy. 
  • The report surveyed 3,000 companies across 56 countries and found that, globally, the number of women in leadership has doubled. 
  • The countries that lead — Norway, France, Sweden, and Italy — either have formal quotas or informal targets for gender parity in place. 
  • India’s private sector has long resisted government-imposed quotas for affirmative action.

Attempts to resolve the inequalities

  • Since Independence, various attempts have been made to resolve the contradiction between diversity and inequality.
  • Reservation in government jobs and educational institutions, 25% quota for students from economically weaker sections in private schools are such attempts.
  • Though the private sector resists legislation that circumscribes it in matters of hiring and promotion, there can be no case for the continuing glass ceiling that women and marginalised social groups face.
  • The private sector accounts for over 95% of the labour force. Corporate leaders and boards must seriously consider institutionalised mechanisms to ensure diversity and equality. 
  • Government regulation is best stymied by proactive action from companies themselves

Conclusion

Keeping half the population from roles that could allow them to change the nature of India Inc can only be counterproductive in the long run.

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[op-ed snap] Why women are still being treated as unequal to men

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Role of religion and family in gender equality

CONTEXT

According to a study published in American Psychologist, for the first time in history, 86% of US adults have admitted that men and women are equally intelligent. In 1946, only 35% of those surveyed thought both men and women are equally intelligent. 

Status of gender equality

  1. From the days when one had to hunt for food, to the days of agricultural output and the industrial economy, the superior physical abilities of man gave him an advantage over women in work efficiency. With the arrival of the knowledge economy, the human brain has become the most important tool for work. 
  2. According to the World Employment And Social Outlook Trends For Women 2018 report, more women than ever before are both educated and participating in the labour market today. 
  3. Men’s rates of graduation remain relatively stagnant, while women across socioeconomic classes are increasingly enrolling for and completing post-secondary degrees. 
  4. The Global Gender Gap Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum says that it will take 108 years to close the gender gap and 202 years to achieve parity in the workforce. 
  5. Studies show that many admit that women are equal to men at a conscious level but many also hold many biases towards women. 

Challenges in bringing gender equality

  1. For millions of years, except in few matriarchal societies, the man has always been considered the head of the family. 
  2. The provider-role he played was always seen superior to the nurturer-role that women played in a family. 
  3. Gender parity was not a norm in families across societies.
  4. Even with the arrival of the knowledge economy and women earning better salaries, there is a tendency to “manning up and womaning down” salaries. 
    • In marriages in which women earned more, women said that they earned 1.5% less, on average, than they actually did. Their husbands said they earned 2.9% more than they did. 
    • Even among the educated, there are deep rooted biases that prevent people from admitting that the man is no longer the provider-in-chief.
  1. A study at the University of Chicago found that marriages in which the woman earned more were less likely in the first place and more likely to end in divorce. 
  2. It also found that women who out-earned their husbands were more likely to seek jobs beneath their potential and do significantly more housework and child care than their husbands to make their husbands feel less threatened. 
  3. The norms in our families act as a huge deterrent to achieving gender parity.

Role of religion

  1. Religious stories depict that male bodies are created in God’s own image and so are considered better than female bodies, which are somehow deficient and in need of purification. 
  2. All the key functions of organized religion, such as conducting religious ceremonies and heading the religious hierarchy, are reserved for men. 
  3. No organized religion treats women equal to men.
  4. The unequal treatment of women by religion has exerted a very strong influence on every society’s gender norms. 
  5. Studies establish that countries where the majority of inhabitants have no religious affiliation display the lowest levels of gender inequality, and countries with the highest levels of gender inequality are those with high levels of religious affiliation. 
  6. We cannot achieve gender parity if religion continues to turn its back on women. 

CONCLUSION

Achieving gender parity is not about organizing awareness programmes and pasting a few posters in offices. It is all about fundamentally altering beliefs upheld by the two strongest institutions of any society: the family and religion.

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Explained: Why is age of marriage different for men and women?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Debate over different ages of marriage

  • This week, the Delhi High Court took up a plea that sought a uniform age of marriage for men and women.
  • The bench issued a notice to the Centre and the Law Commission of India, seeking their response to the public interest litigation.

Indian Majority Act, 1875

  • Currently, the law prescribes that the minimum age of marriage is 21 and 18 years for men and women, respectively.
  • The minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of majority, which is gender-neutral.
  • An individual attains the age of majority at 18 as per the Indian Majority Act, 1875.

Minimum age

  • The law prescribes a minimum age of marriage to essentially outlaw child marriages and prevent abuse of minors.
  • Personal laws of various religions that deal with marriage have their own standards, often reflecting custom.
  • For Hindus, Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom.
  • Child marriages are not illegal but can be declared void at the request of the minor in the marriage.
  • In Islam, the marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid under personal law.
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively.

It’s Evolution

  • The Indian Penal Code enacted in 1860 criminalised any physical intercourse with a girl below the age of 10.
  • The provision of rape was amended in 1927 through the Age of Consent Bill, 1927, which made marriages with a girl under 12 invalid.
  • The law had faced opposition from conservative leaders of the nationalist movement such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Madan Mohan Malaviya who saw the British intervention as an attack on Hindu customs.
  • In 1929, the Child Marriage Restraint Act set 16 and 18 years as the minimum age of marriage for women and men respectively.
  • The law, popularly known as Sarda Act after its sponsor Harbilas Sarda, a judge and a member of Arya Samaj, was eventually amended in 1978 to prescribe 18 and 21 years as the age of marriage for a woman and a man, respectively.

Why challenged in court?

  • The petitioner in the Delhi HC case, has challenged the law on the grounds of discrimination.
  • He alleges that Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, which guarantee the right to equality and the right to live with dignity, are violated by having different legal age for men and women to marry.
  • Two Supreme Court rulings could be significant to the context of this argument.
  • In 2014, in NALSA v Union of India, the Supreme Court while recognising transgenders as the third gender said that justice is delivered with the “assumption that humans have equal value and should, therefore, be treated as equal, as well as by equal laws.”
  • In 2019, in Joseph Shine v Union of India, the Supreme Court decriminalized adultery and said that “a law that treats women differently based on gender stereotypes is an affront to women’s dignity.”

The debate

  • The different legal standard for the age of men and women to marry has been a subject of debate.
  • The laws are a codification of custom and religious practices that are rooted in patriarchy.
  • In a consultation paper of reform in family law in 2018, the Law Commission argued that having different legal standards “contributes to the stereotype that wives must be younger than their husbands”.
  • Women’s rights activists too have argued that the law perpetuates the stereotype that women are more mature than men of the same age and therefore can be allowed to marry sooner.
  • The international treaty Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also calls for the abolition of laws that assume women have a different physical or intellectual rate of growth than men.
  • The Law Commission paper recommended that the minimum age of marriage for both genders be set at 18.
  • The difference in age for husband and wife has no basis in law as spouses entering into a marriage are by all means equals and their partnership must also be of that between equals, the Commission noted.

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[op-ed snap] Making national legislatures more gender-balanced

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Women's reservation Issue

CONTEXT

  • The Global Gender Gap report for 2018 said that the widest gender disparity is in the field of political empowerment.
  • To cite the Inter-Parliamentary Union 2018 report, women legislators account for barely 24% of all MPs across the world.
  • However, the experience of the top-ranked countries in the IPU list does give an indication of how women’s presence in political spaces took an upward turn in those nations.

Background

  • Rwanda, a landlocked nation with a population of 11.2 million, tops the list, with 61.3% seats in the Lower House and 38.5% in the Upper House occupied by women.
  • Since 2003, the country has implemented a legislated quota of 30% in all elected positions, which has enabled a steady inflow of women parliamentarians after successive elections.
  • Its Constitution has also set a quota of 30% in all elected offices.
  • However, some believe that the higher representation of women in the country cannot be attributed solely to quotas — women were thrust into the political limelight due to the huge vacuum that emerged in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, which resulted in a large chunk of the country’s male population getting killed.

Leader in the Caribbean

  • Cuba, the largest Caribbean island nation with a population of about 11.1 million, holds the second rank, with 53.2 % seats of its 605-member single House being occupied by women representatives.
  • The Communist dispensation in Cuba did not opt for legislated gender quotas, but does follow a practice akin to voluntary quota systems.
  • However, Cuban women are less represented at the local level, where candidates are selected by the local communities that often overlook women candidates.
  • Sweden, the fifth-rank holder in the IPU, has a professedly feminist government and has maintained a women’s parliamentary representation of at least 40% since 90s.
  • The 349-member single House, Swedish Parliament, now has 161 women with 46.1% representation.
  • Sweden does not have any constitutional clause or electoral law earmarking representation for women in elected bodies.
  • The issue of compulsory gender quota didn’t find favour in Sweden as it was believed that such a quota will create reverse discrimination and violate the principles of equal opportunities.
  • Almost all political parties there have adopted measures to ensure a fair representation for women at all levels.
  • In 1993, the Social Democratic Party adopted the ‘zipper system’, described as “a gender quota system whereby women and men are placed alternately on all party lists.”
  • This further boosted women’s seat share.

Nepal’s example

Closer home, Nepal occupies the 36th position in the IPU and its 275-member Lower House has 90 women, about 32.7% of the total strength.

Situation in India

  • India, at 149 among the 192 countries in the IPU list, had barely 11.8% women’s representation in the 16th Lok Sabha, which improved to 14.5% in the current Lower House.
  • At least seven out of the 29 States have not sent a single woman MP.
  • The 108th Constitutional Amendment Bill stipulating 33% quota for women in the Parliament and in State Assemblies remains in political cold storage.

Way forward

  • The system of voluntary party quotas, which has worked well in many countries, is not likely to cut much ice in India’s deeply embedded patriarchal society.
  • As has happened in the case of panchayats and municipalities, only a legally mandated quota could perhaps ensure a large-scale entry of Indian women into the higher echelons of political power.

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[pib] Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MKSP

Mains level : Feminization of Agriculture in India

  • As per Agriculture Census conducted at an interval of every five years by the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, the percentage of female operational holdings in the country have increased from 12.78 percent during 2010-11 to 13.78 percent during 2015-16.

Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP)

  • In line with the provisions of National Policy for Farmers (NPF) (2007), Ministry of Rural Development is already implementing a programme exclusively for women farmers namely MKSP.
  • It is a sub-component of Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihood Mission (DAY-NRLM).
  • The primary objective of MKSP is to empower women by enhancing their participation in agriculture and to create sustainable livelihood opportunities for them.
  • Funding support to the tune of up to 60% (90% for North Eastern States) for such projects is provided by the Government of India.

Feminization of Agriculture in India

  • Rural women form the most productive work force in the economy of majority of the developing nations including India.
  • More than 80% of rural women are engaged in agriculture activities for their livelihoods.
  • About 20 per cent of farm livelihoods are female headed due to widowhood, desertion, or male emigration.
  • Agriculture support system in India strengthens the exclusion of women from their entitlements as agriculture workers and cultivators.
  • Most of the women-headed households are not able to access extension services, farmers support institutions and production assets like seed, water, credit, subsidy etc.
  • As agricultural workers, women are paid lower wage than men.
  • MKSP recognizes the identity of “Mahila” as “Kisan” and strives to build the capacity of women in the domain of agro-ecologically sustainable practices.

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[op-ed snap] Squandering the gender dividend

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Reasons for decline in women work force and possible solutions.

CONTEXT

  • If labour force survey data are to be believed, rural India is in the midst of a gender revolution in which nearly half the women who were in the workforce in 2004-5 had dropped out in 2017-18.
  • The 61st round of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) recorded 48.5% rural women above the age of 15 as being employed either as their major activity or as their subsidiary activity — but this number dropped to 23.7% in the recently released report of the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS). 

Incremental decline

Rural Women data –Worker to population ratio (WPR) for rural women aged 15 and above had dropped from 48.5% in 2004-5 to 35.2% in 2011-12, and then to 23.7% in 2017-18.

Urban Women Data – In contrast, the WPR for urban women aged 15 and above declined only mildly, changing from 22.7% in 2004-5 to 19.5% in 2011-12, and to 18.2% in 2017-18.

Concerns regarding this data

  • If rising incomes lead households to decide that women’s time is better spent caring for home and children, that is their choice.
  • However, if women are unable to find work in a crowded labour market, reflecting disguised unemployment, that is a national tragedy.
  • Decline is not located primarily among the privileged sections – A comparison of rural female WPRs between 2004-5 and 2017-18 does not suggest that the decline is located primarily among the privileged sections of the rural population.
  • Concentration among lower education strata – More importantly, most of the decline in the WPR has taken place among women with low levels of education. For illiterate women, the WPR fell from 55% to 29.1% while that for women with secondary education fell from 30.5% to 15.6%.

Comparison with men

Easier for men to find a job –

  • Men’s participation in agriculture has also declined.
  • However, men were able to pick up work in other industries whereas women reduced their participation in other industries as well as agriculture — resulting in a lower WPR.
  • Mechanisation and land fragmentation have reduced agricultural work opportunities for both men and women.
  • Other work opportunities, except for work in public works programmes, are not easily open to women.
  • This challenge is particularly severe for rural women with moderate levels of education.
  • A man with class 10 education can be a postal carrier, a truck driver or a mechanic; these opportunities are not open to women.
  • Hence, it is not surprising that education is associated with a lower WPR for women; in 2016-17, 29.1% illiterate women were employed, compared to only 16% women with at least secondary education.
  • On-going experimental research at the National Council of Applied Economic Research’s National Data Innovation Centre (NCAER-NDIC) suggests a tremendous undercount of women’s work using standard labour force questions, particularly in rural areas.
  • Although women try to find whatever work they can, they are unable to gain employment at an intensive level that rises above our labour force survey thresholds. This suggests an enormous untapped pool of female workers that should not be ignored.

Possible solutions

1. Establishment of the Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development –

  • Establishment of the Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development is a welcome move by the new government.
  • It is to be hoped that this committee will take the issue of declining female employment as seriously as it does the issue of rising unemployment among the youth.

Development of transportation infrastructure – 

One of the most powerful ways in which public policies affect rural women’s participation in non-agricultural work is via the development of transportation infrastructure that allows rural women to seek work as sales clerks, nurses and factory workers in nearby towns.

Multi-Sectoral Reforms –

If the cabinet committee were to focus on multi-sectoral reforms that have a positive impact on women’s work opportunities, the potential gender dividend could be far greater than the much celebrated demographic dividend.

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Free transport for women in Delhi

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Women safety measures

  • Under a new proposal announced by the Delhi government, women will have the option to not pay for rides.
  • The move, which is at the stage of feedback and planning, has drawn various reactions.

Logic behind the move

  • The most common reason for any city incentivizing the use of public transport has been to tackle congestion on the roads.
  • The reasons given by the Delhi government are different.
  • One, to make it easier for women to move from informal and more unsafe modes of transport such as shared autos and cabs to more formal and safer modes such as the Metro.
  • Two, the government hopes that with women being able to travel for free, more of them, especially from the economically disadvantaged groups, would start working.

What’s so special with the move?

  • Globally, conversations around free public transport have revolved around decongestion and affordability, rather than safety.
  • One reason is that many of these experiments have been carried out in highly advanced Scandinavian countries with mostly safe public spaces and better reporting rates of crime against women.

Various Challenges

  • The proposal to make public transport free for women has no well known precedent anywhere in the world, and could be the first of its kind.
  • Studies on fully free public transport systems have underlined both positives and challenges.
  • In 1991, the Netherlands introduced a seasonal free-fare travel card for higher education students, which led to the share of trips made by students rising from 11% to 21%.
  • Fifty-two per cent of cyclists, and 34% of car users moved.
  • However, small European cities can hardly be an indicator for Delhi.
  • The population of all of the Netherlands is around 1.7 crore, much less than Delhi’s estimated 2 crore.
  • Average income levels are not comparable, and the public transportation system in Delhi is weaker than in most European countries.

Challenges of implementation

  • Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) is looking at special passes for women.
  • But the Metro has automated fare collection (AFC) gates that require tokens or Metro cards — the Metro will have to either isolate entry or exit points for women.
  • Along with safety on public transport, last mile connectivity is a big issue.
  • For women, walking to and from the nearest bus stop or Metro station, especially during the early mornings and late evenings, remains unsafe in many places in the city.

Way Forward

  • The challenge for the Delhi government is to find the funds for the project.
  • According to the Delhi government, the cost of subsidizing women’s travel will be around Rs 1,200 crore annually.
  • However, studies show that operational costs frequently rise in the long run, and schemes become increasingly less viable.
  • The West has done it to battle road congestion and pollution.
  • We haven’t really found a similar project in developing countries. But perhaps this will make us the pioneers.

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SDG Gender Index

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the index

Mains level : Gender equality in India


  • A SDG Gender Index to measure global gender equality ranks India at 95th among 129 countries.
  • This comes close on the heels of the Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum where India was ranked 108th.

SDG Gender Index

  • It has been developed by Equal Measures 2030, a joint effort of regional and global organisations including African Women’s Development and Communication Network, Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation etc.
  • It accounts for 14 out of 17 SDGs (sustainable development goals) that cover aspects such as poverty, health, education, literacy, political representation and equality at the workplace.
  • A score of 100 reflects the achievement of gender equality in relation to the targets set for each indicator.
  • It means, for example, that 100% of girls complete secondary education, or that there is around 50-50 parity for women and men in Parliament.
  • A score of 50 signifies that a country is about halfway to meeting a goal.

Key findings for India

  • India’s highest goal scores are on health (79.9), hunger & nutrition (76.2), and energy (71.8). Its lowest goal scores are on partnerships (18.3, in the bottom 10 countries worldwide), industry, infrastructure and innovation (38.1), and climate (43.4).
  • On indicators that define such goals, India scored 95.3 on the percentage of female students enrolled in primary education who are overage.
  • Some of India’s lowest scores on indicators include the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments (score 23.6; women made up 11.8% of Parliament in 2018).
  • On seats held by women in the Supreme Court (4%), India has a score of 18.2.

Gender-based violence

  • On gender-based violence, indicators include proportion of women aged 20-24 years who were married or in a union before age 18 (27.3%)
  • Women who agreed that a husband/partner is justified in beating his wife/partner under certain circumstances (47.0%) and
  • Women aged 15+ who reported that they “feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where she lives” (69.1%)

Global Scenario

  • The ranking found that the world is far from achieving gender equality with 1.4 billion girls and women living in countries that get a “very poor” grade.
  • The global average score of the 129 countries — which represent 95% of the world’s girls and women — is 65.7 out of 100 (“poor” in the index).
  • Altogether, 2.8 billion girls and women live in countries that get either a “very poor” (59 and below) or “poor” score (60-69) on gender equality.
  • Just 8% of the world’s population of girls and women live in countries that received a “good” gender equality score (80-89) and no country achieved an “excellent” overall score of 90 or above.

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap] No courts for women

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Improving women's representationin Judiciary.

CONTEXT

In the context of the apathy shown towards the woman complainant by an all-male bench (headed by the CJI) in the immediate aftermath of the allegations, and by the in-house committee which has given a clean-chit to the CJI, one cannot help but ponder: Would this incident have been handled differently if the judiciary was not as male-dominated as it always has been?

Gender disparity in judiciary

  • The judiciary is one of the least diverse institutions in India, with the lack of gender diversity being the most visible yet ignored aspect.
  • Since 1950, the SC has had only eight female judges out of 239, with the present three out of 27 being the highest concurrent representation women have ever had on the SC bench.
  • In the subordinate judiciary, merely 27.6 per cent of the judges are female.
  • This lack of women on the bench, at all levels of the judiciary, is at the very root of the impunity with which the top court has, in a single stroke, destroyed decades worth of progress made in deterring sexual harassment of women from all walks of life.

Collegium system as a barrier

  • Even if a female advocate crosses these barriers to continue and thrive in her profession, the current collegium system for the appointment of judges is simply not designed to ensure her elevation to the bench.
  • At present, the appointment of a judge to a high court is based on a recommendation made by a collegium of the three senior-most judges of that HC, and approved by a collegium of the three senior-most judges of the SC.
  • Although the state and central governments have a role to play in the process, the final say, for all practical purposes, rests with the SC collegium.
  • In 25 HC collegiums across the country, there are just five senior female judges with 19 of the collegiums having no female judge at all.
  • Only one woman so far has been a member of the SC collegium (Justice Ruma Pal), with Justice R Banumathi set to become the second later this year; and, at least until 2025, no female judge is going to occupy the CJI’s position.

Self perpetuating phenomenon

  • This nearly all-male composition of the highest decision-making bodies in the judiciary has made gender disparity a self-perpetuating phenomenon .
  • The data shows that out of the 363 persons recommended for elevation, merely 39 were female (just over 10 per cent). Of these, only 21 were confirmed with the remaining 18 names either being remitted to the HCs or deferred for later appointments.
  • The only way out of this vicious cycle is for the nearly all-male collegiums to go beyond their inherent biases and take affirmative measures to improve gender diversity on the bench.
  • More recommendations by collegium – The HC collegiums should consciously recommend more female names for elevation and the SC collegium must consider such recommendations more favourably.
  • Early elevation in career – Further, the female judges should be elevated early enough in their careers so that they make it to the collegiums and become decision makers (the average age of the 19 female judges elevated since October 2017 is 53 years).

Conclusion

Not a perception problem – Lack of gender diversity is not just a perception problem.

The real impact on proceedings – It is seen to have a real impact on the manner of proceedings and the nature of the final verdict — as is evident in the present instance.

Reinforcing trust in judiciary – specially in the judiciary, gender diversity is a virtue in itself — it reassures litigants that diverse opinions are taken into consideration and re-instils their trust in the justice-delivery system.

Opportunity for course correction –  The present calamity in the judiciary, as unfortunate as it is, also provides an unprecedented opportunity to course correct on several accounts. Here’s hoping the men in power have the wisdom to seize it.

By Explains

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap] The gender ladder to socio-economic transformation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Steps to be taken to improve women participation in work force in India.

CONTEXT

India is in the middle of a historical election which is noteworthy in many respects, one of them being the unprecedented focus on women’s employment.

Women Employment Data

  • Currently, the participation of women in the workforce in India is one of the lowest globally.
  • The female labour force participation rate (LFPR) in India fell from 31.2% in 2011-2012 to 23.3% in 2017-2018.
  • This decline has been sharper in rural areas, where the female LFPR fell by more than 11 percentage points in 2017-2018.

Reasons For low rate

  • The answers can be found in a complex set of factors including low social acceptability of women working outside the household, lack of access to safe and secure workspaces, widespread prevalence of poor and unequal wages, and a dearth of decent and suitable jobs.
  • Most women in India are engaged in subsistence-level work in agriculture in rural areas, and in low-paying jobs such as domestic service and petty home-based manufacturing in urban areas.
  • But with better education, women are refusing to do casual wage labour or work in family farms and enterprises.

Education and work

1.Negative relationship –

    • A recent study observed a strong negative relationship between a woman’s education level and her participation in agricultural and non-agricultural wage work and in family farms.
    • The study also showed a preference among women for salaried jobs as their educational attainment increases; but such jobs remain extremely limited for women.
    • It is estimated that among people (25 to 59 years) working as farmers, farm labourers and service workers, nearly a third are women, while the proportion of women among professionals, managers and clerical workers is only about 15% (NSSO, 2011-2012).
    • 2.Unpaid Labour –
      • Time-use surveys have found that they devote a substantial amount of their time to work which is not considered as work, but an extension of their duties, and is largely unpaid.
      • The incidence and drudgery of this unpaid labour is growing.
      • This includes unpaid care work such as childcare, elderly care, and household work such as collecting water.
      • The burden of these activities falls disproportionately on women, especially in the absence of adequately available or accessible public services.
      • It also encompasses significant chunks of women’s contribution to agriculture, animal husbandry, and non-timber forest produce on which most of the household production and consumption is based.

Steps to improve women’s participation

  • A two-pronged approach must entail facilitating women’s access to decent work by providing public services, eliminating discrimination in hiring, ensuring equal and decent wages, and improving women’s security in public spaces.
  • It must also recognise, reduce, redistribute, and remunerate women’s unpaid work.

Demands by women

  • Gender-responsive public services – On the question of work, women’s demands include gender-responsive public services such as free and accessible public toilets, household water connections, safe and secure public transport, and adequate lighting and CCTV cameras to prevent violence against women in public spaces and to increase their mobility.
  • Decent living wages  & social security –Furthermore, they want fair and decent living wages and appropriate social security including maternity benefit, sickness benefit, provident fund, and pension.
  • Provisions for migrant workers – Women have also expressed the need for policies which ensure safe and dignified working and living conditions for migrant workers.
  • For example, in cities, governments must set up migration facilitation and crisis centres (temporary shelter facility, helpline, legal aid, and medical and counselling facilities).
  • Spaces for women – They must also allocate social housing spaces for women workers, which include rental housing and hostels. They must ensure spaces for women shopkeepers and hawkers in all markets and vending zones.

Recognition as farmers

1. Their fundamental demand is that women must be recognised as farmers in accordance with the National Policy for Farmers.

    • This should include cultivators, agricultural labourers, pastoralists, livestock rearers, forest workers, fish-workers, and salt pan workers.
    • Thereafter, their equal rights and entitlements over land and access to inputs, credit, markets, and extension services must be ensured.

Conclusion

Unless policymakers correctly assess and address the structural issues which keep women from entering and staying in the workforce, promising more jobs — while a welcome step — is unlikely to lead to the socio-economic transformation India needs.

 

 

 

 

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap] A ticket for her

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Women's Representation in Politics

CONTEXT

National parties have fielded very less percentage of women in Lok Sabha elections.

Situation of national Parties

  •  Outburst of women in politics shows, women are tiring of the power differential in the national parties — with ample reason.
  • Neither the BJP nor the Congress has done more than talk about women’s political empowerment.
  • In the current elections to the Lok Sabha, they have fielded 12 per cent and 13.7 per cent of women candidates, respectively.
  • That is far less than the commitments by two “regional” parties —  Trinamool Congress has fielded 40 per cent women candidates, while BJD has fielded 33 per cent.

Questions need to be raised

  • The question to be asked of both the BJP and the Congress is: How do they claim to be “national” parties if they do not attempt to adequately represent the political aspirations of 50 per cent of the country’s people?
  • The question of representation is also inevitably tied to equity.
  • When a patriarchal culture and society confines a majority of women to subordinate social and economic roles, politics must find a way of punching holes into the walls — and let some air in.
  • That is not to say that parties should be blind to the calculus of competing interests that determine elections, but they must also ask themselves why they have so far made little space for women’s ambitions.
  • As women rightfully complained, dynasty cannot be the only factor in choosing women candidates.
  • Several social and political firestorms have shown — whether it is the debate over triple talaq, or the allegations of sexual assault against minister, or the agitation for women’s entry to Sabarimala — that Indian women are forcefully renegotiating the terms of their social contract, even if they are not always in a position of strength.
  • But for these contestations to bring in substantial and far-reaching change, political power is essential.
  • Not just that, to bring in a fresh perspective on lawmaking, there is no better prescription than an infusion of new talent — of people from various gendered, caste and class positions.

Conclusion

Politics is, of course, a balancing act between the demands of pragmatism and idealism. But in this case, national parties have brazenly and consistently chosen to ditch equality for realpolitik. As more voices speak up, they must realise that the time’s up for patriarchal condescension.

 

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap] A model policy for women in the police

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Role of women & women’s organization

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nothing Much

Mains level:Facilitating womes’s representation and safety at workplace in Police Services.


NEWS

CONTEXT

  • Women constitute about 7% of the police strength in India. This number is expected to rise, with many States and Union Territories providing for 30% (and more) reservation for women in the police in specific ranks. However, this is not enough.
  • The discourse on mainstreaming women in the police by making policing inclusive, non-discriminatory and efficient in India is missing in policy circles.

Need for policies

  • One way to mainstream women in the police is to develop a model policy that will challenge the deep-rooted patriarchy in the institution.
  • Unfortunately, till now, not a single State police department has attempted to even draft such a policy.
  • Thus, neither the Central nor State governments can get very far by merely adopting reservation to increase gender diversity without considering the need for policymaking.
  • A model policy, while laying the foundation for equal opportunities for women in every aspect of policing, should also strive to create a safe and enabling work environment. Without this, all other efforts will remain piecemeal.

Steps needed to be taken

  • One of the first steps to ensure a level playing field for women in the police is to increase their numbers.
  • Merely providing reservation is not enough; police departments should develop an action plan to achieve the target of 30% or more in a time-bound manner.
  • Departments should also undertake special recruitment drives in every district to ensure geographical diversity.
  • To achieve the target, the police should reach out to the media and educational institutions to spread awareness about opportunities for women in the police.
  • Current data reveal that most women in the police are concentrated in the lower ranks. Efforts should be made to change this. The impulse to create women-only battalions for the sake of augmenting numbers should be eliminated.
  • Second, the model policy should strive to ensure that decisions on deployment of women are free of gender stereotyping to facilitate bringing women into leading operational positions.
  • At present, there appears to be a tendency to sideline women, or give them policing tasks that are physically less demanding, or relegate them to desk duty, or make them work on crimes against women alone.
  • Women police officers should be encouraged to take on public order and investigative crimes of all types, and should be given duties beyond the minimum mandated by special laws.
  • Desk work too must be allocated evenly among men and women.
  • Police departments still lack proper internal childcare support systems. Departments need to be mindful of this social reality and exercise sensitivity in making decisions on transfers and posting of women personnel.
  • Women should be posted in their home districts in consultation with supervising officers.

Preventing Sexual Harassment at Work Place

  • Police departments must also ensure safe working spaces for women and adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination and harassment, in order to make policing a viable career option for women.
  • Departments are legally bound to set up Internal Complaints Committees to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace.
  • Departments must operationalise the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013.

Conclusion

  • Some of these suggestions have already been made by the National Conference of Women in Police. However, Central and State governments have not yet developed or adopted a comprehensive framework towards achieving substantive gender equality.

By Explains

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

95 per cent women in India involved in unpaid labour

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & Employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Highlights of the report

Mains level: Inequality of Wages for Women


News

  • In India, 95 per cent or around 195 million women are employed in the unorganized sector or in unpaid labour, says a report released by consultancy firm Deloitte.

About the report

  • The report titled ‘Empowering Women & Girls in India for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ was released during the Gender Equality Summit 2019 by UN Global Compact Network India.
  • The share of women in the workforce fell to 25 per cent and the female labour force participation rate (FLPR) stands at 26 per cent; with 195 million women work in the unorganised sector or do unpaid work says the report.
  • It adds that involving women in the workforce can help achieve future aspirations that can boost India’s GDP by 27 per cent.
  • However, this will only be possible if participation of women increases in workplace to same number as men.

Highlights of the report

  • Limited access to education, information, technology, social and political participation.
  • In India, the female labour force participation has had a decadal fall from 36.7 per cent in 2005 to 26 per cent in 2018, with 95 per cent (195 million) women employed in the unorganised sector or in unpaid word.
  • In the education sector, 39.4 per cent girls aged between 15−18 dropped out of schools and colleges
  • In terms of digital literacy, only 34 per cent women in India have access to mobile technology, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER).

By Explains

Explain the News

Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap] Women and the workplace

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Role of women & women’s organization

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nothing Much

Mains level:Facilitating womes’s representation and safety at workplace following UN’s Model


NEWS

CONTEXT

For more than a century, March 8 has marked International Women’s Day — a global day celebrating the achievements of women and promoting gender equality worldwide. But as we pause to celebrate our many advances, we must also acknowledge how much remains to be done.

Interlinking Issues

  • Two interconnected issues have emerged as priorities over the past two years:
    • sexual harassment at the workplace
    • obstacles to women’s participation at all levels of the workforce, including political representation.
  • The 2017-18 explosion of the #MeToo movement across social media uncovered countless cases of unreported sexual harassment and assault, first in the U.S. and then in India.
  • In both countries, it led to the resignations or firing of dozens of prominent men, mostly politicians, actors and journalists.

UN’s Stand on women’s representationand safety

  • UN Secretary-General António Guterres has been a staunch supporter of women’s rights since his election in 2016, stating the need for “benchmarks and time frames to achieve [gender] parity across the system, well before the target year of 2030”.
  • he UN released a System-wide Strategy on Gender Parity to transform the UN’s representation of women at senior levels. Today the UN’s Senior Management Group, which has 44 top UN employees, comprises 23 women and 21 men.

UN’s response to MeToo movement

  • In response to the MeToo movement, the UN recently conducted a system-wide survey to gauge the prevalence of sexual harassment among its more than 200,000 global staff.
  • Though only 17% of UN staff responded, what the survey uncovered was sobering.
  • One in three UN women workers reported being sexually harassed in the past two years, predominantly by men.
  • Clearly, the UN gender strategy has much to improve, but then the UN, like most other international and national organisations, has a decades-old cultural backlog to tackle.
  • UN research plays a significant role. As findings on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) indicate, many countries, including India, were able to substantially increase their performance on issues such as sex ratios and maternal mortality once their leaders had signed on to the MDGs.
  • Tracking performance on the Sustainable Development Goals, a more comprehensive iteration of the MDGs, will again provide useful pointers for policymakers and advocates going forward.

Efficacy of Single Window Grievance redressal

  • How can organisations as large as the UN improve their internal cultures surrounding sexual harassment, gender parity, and gender equity?
  • This issue has generated considerable debate in India, where political parties have begun to ask how they are to apply the rules of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 which lays down that every office in the country must have an internal complaints committee to investigate allegations of sexual harassment.
  • In this context, does the UN Secretariat’s single window structure for such complaints provide a better practice?
  • UN agencies, including the multi-institute UN University that aims to achieve gender parity at the director level by end 2019, still have to identify their organisation-specific mechanisms.

Impact of Previous Laws

  • In India, going by past figures — — the impact of the 2013 Act, one of the most comprehensive in the world, has been poor.
  • Despite a large jump in complaints recorded, convictions have not shown a proportionate rise, largely due to poor police work.

Way Forward

  • Both the UN’s early successes and the Indian experience offer lessons to UN member-states, few of which have gender parity or serious action against sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • .In the U.S., companies such as General Electric, Accenture, Pinterest, Twitter, General Mills and Unilever are setting and achieving targets to increase female representation at all levels of their workforce.
  • This March 8, let us hope that companies worldwide pledge to follow the examples in the U.S. And that other institutions, whether universities or political parties, follow the UN example.
  • Gender reforms begin at home, not only in the family but also in the workplace.

 

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Women’s Livelihood Bonds

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & Employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Women Livelihood Bond

Mains level: Promoting Women entrepreneurs


News

  • The World Bank, the Small Industries Development Bank (Sidbi) and the UN Women, along with 10 wealth management firms and leading corporates has announced the launch of a new social impact bond to offer credit to rural women entrepreneurs.

Women Livelihood Bond

  • The bonds, which will have a tenure of five years, will be launched by SIDBI with the support of World Bank and UN Women.
  • The proposed bond will enable individual women entrepreneurs in sectors like food processing, agriculture, services and small units to borrow around Rs 50,000 to Rs 3 lakh at an annual interest rate of around 13-14 per cent or less.
  • SIDBI will act as the financial intermediary and channel funds raised to women entrepreneurs through participating financial intermediaries like banks, NBFCs or microfinance institutions.

By Explains

Explain the News

Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap] What stops rural women from getting involved in entrepreneurship?

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Role of women & women’s organization

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Biz Sakhi

Mains level: Empowerment of Rural women by promoting entrepreneurship


NEWS

CONTEXT

Women constitute only 14 per cent of the total entrepreneurs in the country. Women in rural areas face multiple barriers to pursuing income-generating activities, with patriarchal family and societal norms being the primary hurdle.

Initiatives Improving Rural Women’s participation in workforce

  • The need to improve women’s participation in the economy has been a long-standing priority and is also crucial towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals
  • In recent years, entrepreneurship has emerged as an ideal way for rural women to contribute, by taking a few hours out of their day they can engage in small businesses and bring home additional income.
  • There are multiple programmes which offer support to such women such as the Start and Improve Your Business Program (SIYB) of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the government’s Trade Related Entrepreneurship Assistance and Development (TREAD).
  •  Hero MotoCorp Ltd and the Government of Haryana too seeks to positively impact the lives of 14,000 underprivileged wome.
  • However, Recent data released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation shows that women constitute only 14 per cent of the total entrepreneurs in the country.

Reasons for low participation of women in businesses

  • Through its pilot programmes with rural women under the Disha Programme, UNDP India has come to realise that one of the reasons for this lack of uptake is the absence of mentorship for women entrepreneurs. 
  • Women in rural areas face multiple barriers to pursuing income-generating activities, with patriarchal family and societal norms being the primary hurdle.
  • Other issues include lack of awareness about opportunities, difficulty in accessing formal financing and poor customer management skills.

Positive efforts towards an inclusive workfoce through Biz Sakhis

  • Trained by Disha Project – a partnership between UNDP India, IKEA Foundation and India Development Foundation, the Biz Sakhis are women from rural communities who guide budding female entrepreneurs through multiple processes and provide both practical and psychological support to them.
  • They encourage rural women to start their own businesses by making them aware of entrepreneurship as a realistic opportunity, and, by informing them of the benefits of starting their own small businesses.
  • Biz Sakhis are instrumental at this point in helping them access formal banking channels for loans, by providing them information about schemes such as the Mudra Yojana Scheme of the government.
  • Biz Sakhis provide inputs to help women access market linkages and introduce them to a variety of business models and ideas to help them scale up.
  • They also work with small business owners to develop their communication skills, and to be able to persuade and negotiate with stakeholders within the ecosystem of their businesses.
  • The most important role that Biz Sakhis play in the lives of rural entrepreneurs, is to be the source of emotional and psychological support.

Conclusion

Often, family pressures and societal norms discourage women from engaging in such activities or cause them to abandon their business in the wake of community backlash. Being from the community themselves, Biz Sakhis can effectively engage with women and the community at large to counter such barriers and empower rural women to sustain their businesses.

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

[pib] “Web- Wonder Women” Campaign

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Indian Society | Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WWW campaign

Mains level:  Role of Social Media in Women Empowerment


News

  • The Union WCD has launched an online campaign, ‘#www :  Web- Wonder Women’.

Web-Wonder Women Campaign

  1. Indian women have always been enterprising and have created a positive impact on society with their hard-work, experience and knowledge.
  2. #www: WebWonderWomen is a campaign to specially honour and encourage such voices that have in their own capacity driven a positive impact on social media platforms.
  3. The Campaign’s Partners aim to recognize the fortitude of Indian women stalwarts from across the globe that has used the power of social media to run positive & niche campaigns to steer a change in society.

Rules for Nomination

  1. The Campaign invites Entries via Nominations from across the world, as per the laid out criteria.
  2. Indian-origin women, working or settled anywhere in the world, are eligible for nomination.
  3. The shortlisted entries will be open for public voting on Twitter and the finalists will be selected by a specialized panel of judges.
  4. Nominations have been invited in a large number of categories including Health, Media, Literature, Art, Sports, Environmental protection, fashion among others.

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Lok Sabha Passes Amendment Bill To Remove Leprosy as Ground For Divorce

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018

Mains level: Discrimination being faced by leprosy patients in the society & how inaction from the government’s end has helped in increasing its effect


 News

Leprosy: Not a ground for Divorce

  1. The Lok Sabha on has passed the Personal Laws (Amendment Bill), 2018, which seeks removal of leprosy as a ground for divorce.
  2. To this end, it seeks to amend five Acts:
  • the Divorce Act, 1869,
  • the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939,
  • the Special Marriage Act, 1954,
  • the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and
  • the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956.
  1. The Amendment Bill proposes to amend the provisions in these Acts which prescribe leprosy as a ground for divorce or separation from the spouse.

Why such move?

  1. The medical advances made in the field have making leprosy curable with multi-drug therapy.
  2. Leprosy patients were isolated and segregated from society as the leprosy was not curable and the society was hostile to them.
  3. However, as a result of intensive healthcare and availability of modern medicine to cure the disease, the attitude of the society towards them began to change.
  4. The discriminatory provisions contained in various statutes against the persons affected with leprosy were made prior to the medical advancements rendering leprosy a curable disease.

In line with UN resolution

  1. This is in keeping with the UN General Assembly Resolution of 2010 on the ‘Elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members’
  2. India has signed and ratified the Resolution

Back2Basics

Leprosy

  1. Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae.
  2. The exact mechanism of transmission of leprosy is not known.
  3. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes.
  4. Leprosy is known to occur at all ages ranging from early infancy to very old age.
  5. Leprosy is curable and early treatment averts most disabilities.

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