By Mohak Rana, NMIS, School of Law, Mumbai
Editor’s Note: Women empowerment is the process of treating the women with same status with that of men in all the fields of the society. Women Empowerment has become a movement now but in our country it only seems a distant dream. We have restricted our perceptions to only upliftment of women- from the value of an object to the value of a living being. But what is required in the present period is something beyond it. We make a great show off whenever a woman makes high achievements but instead of showing off why not accept it to be natural and normal like we do with men doing the same.
Contrary to today’s scenario, even during Vedic era women had enjoyed equal status with men. Various modes were also adopted to ensure that this stature continues. Like Stridhan and the description of women scholars like Maitray, Gargi shows the importance a woman hold during that period. However this could not continue for long and women lost their value. Now the basic problem a woman faces is that of education, poverty and safety and health. In order to tackle it various schemes and policies are drafted and implemented. So is its significance that even the UN has dedicated one of its Millennium Development Goals to empowerment of Indian woman.
However, milestones came in Indian history with two cases Mohammad Ahmed Khan Vs Shah Bano Begum and Vishakaha Sawhney v State of Rajasthan. Although the former was overturn yet it left a huge impact that the law of the land in India recognizes the rights of a woman. Whereas Vishkha went a step ahead and the law was even laid on the treatment of women. Thus the paper concludes with a positive note that with all the required tools in hand what is required to meet the end is right administration.’
“Sexism is the root oppression, the one which, until and unless we uproot it, will continue to put forth the branch of racism, class, hatred, ageism, competition, ecological disaster, and economic exploitation. No other human differentiations can be similarly powerful in reproducing oppressions, and so, women are the real left.”
Women empowerment means their capacity to participate as equal partners in cultural, social, economic and political systems of a society. Even though the world economy has developed into global economy, in both developed and developing countries women have been suppressed in all walks of life for generations. Women empowerment is far easier said than done. This in a certain respect demands a revolutionary change in the socio cultural values of the society. In USA and western countries the education and health of a woman is much higher comparatively with developing countries. Still gender bias and beliefs are playing as chief obstacles for the growth of women empowerment worldwide. In India also, in spite of various laws that protect women’s rights, the gender inequalities are one of the highest in the world.
Coming back to women empowerment, in the simple words it is the creation of an environment where women can make independent decisions on their personal development as well as shine as equals in society. Women want to be treated as equals so much so that if a woman rises to the top of her field it should be a commonplace occurrence that draws nothing more than a raised eyebrow at the gender. This can only happen if there is a channelized route for the empowerment of women.
Thus it is no real surprise that women empowerment in India is a hotly discussed topic with no real solution looming in the horizon except to doubly redouble our efforts and continue to target the sources of all the violence and ill-will towards women.
STATUS OF WOMEN IN INDIA
Indian cultural history has a very old and long roots, it can be traced back to thousands of years. Sociologists have analyzed the status of women from these early ages to the present day by different methods. Scholars have believed that women of ancient India enjoyed equal status with men in all aspects of life.
The influence of women is marked in every page of Hindu history, right from the most remote periods. What led to the epic wars? Whether it is the abduction of Sita or the insult of Draupadi always the causes which overturned kingdoms committed to the scepter and the pilgrim’s staff and formed the ground work of all the grand epics, were women.
It is evident from all available accounts that in early Vedic society, women occupied the same position as men. Reference to complete gender equality is found in all parts of Vedic literature. Women reached a very high standard of learning and culture, and made all round progress. They could move freely with their husbands or lover, and were employed in a number of professions. Literary women scholars like Gargi, Maitrayi, Godha, Vishwashra were well known and acknowledged for their intellectual and literary abilities. The practice of allowing women to select a husband out of a chosen group ruled out the possibility of child marriages. A man could not undertake any social or religious duty without his wife. Divorce was not permitted infact marriage is considered as “Saat janmo ka bandhan”.
There are evidences to show that widow marriages prevailed and Sati Pratha did not exist in Vedic period. Women had absolute control over their gifts and property received at the time of marriage (it was called “Parinaya”) and it was considered a sin if relatives took away any sort of property belonging to the wife (Stridhana). But the status of women starts declining during the period of Smritis (period of codification of social laws). During this period women were denied the right to study the Vedas. Marriage or domestic lives become compulsory for women. The Moguls, during their rule, allowed a sudden fall in the dignified position occupied by Indian women. Education for women was stopped and they became victims of evil practices like early child marriage. The Purdah system came into existence.
Some social scientists have described the Mogul era as the dark age of women. The atmosphere was so vitiated that even the horrid acts like female infanticide had to be performed for self preservation and even a marriage had to be celebrated secretly to prevent the abduction of new bride. But worst scenario was about to come, Indian women’s position in society further deteriorated during the medieval period when Sati, child marriages and a ban on remarriage by widows became part of social life in some communities in India. Among the Rajputs of Rajasthan, the Jauhar was practiced. In some parts of India, the Devadasis or temple women were sexually exploited. Polygamy was widely practiced, especially among Hindu Kshatriya rulers. In many Muslim families, women were restricted to Zenana areas of the house. Then Britishers arrived in India they listened to the wise counsel of social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Swami Dayanand and they enacted several laws to improve the position of women, to bring back the dignity and glory of women. Some of these enactments were:
- Act prohibiting the practice of sati (in 1850)
- Cast disabilities removal act, 1850
- The Hindu widow remarriage act, 1856
- The special marriage act III of 1872
- The married women’s property act, 1874
- The child marriage act, 1929
- The Hindu gains of earning act, 1930
- The Hindu women’s right to property, 1937
- The Christian marriage act, 1872
- The Parsee marriage and divorce act, 1936
- The dissolution of the Muslim marriage act 1939
These acts in themselves were very good but, since there was no matching enforcement, they were largely on paper and were not reflected in the actual society. But these acts gave a spark, a chance to various reformers and social workers like Ishwar Chandra, Vidya Sagar, Ranade, and Annie Besant. And the inclination of status of women starts from this period.
In emerging India as far as women is concerned this factual inequality is expects to be taken care of by the paternalistic role which the state is expected to play. Legal paternalism is inherent in the directive principles of the Indian Constitution. The preamble of Indian constitution goes one step further and expresses the people’s resolve to secure, among other things, the dignity of the individual. Then, of course, the fundamental rights, clearly reflecting the egalitarian concept, proclaim manifestly the power of the state to take affirmative action for the benefit of women of India. So, at least, since independence it would seem that women in India are no more prisoners of tradition, culture and history, but their destination is governed by moral, natural and written laws, and also by the abiding creed built into our constitution.
CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN IN INDIA
There are many challenges that are currently plaguing the issues of women’s rights in India. A lot of issues are redundant and quite basic which has been faced across the country; they are contributory causes to the overarching status of women in India. Targeting these issues will directly benefit the empowerment of women in India.
While the country has grown from leaps and bounds since its independence the gap between women and men education is severe. In comparison to 82.14% of adult educated men, only 65.46% of adult literate women are there in India. Additionally, the norm of culture that states that the man of the family is the be-all and end-all of family’s decisions is gradually deteriorating the Indian society. Eradicating this gap and educating women about their real place in the world is a step that will largely set this entire movement rolling down the hill to crash and break the wall of intolerance, negligence and exploitation.
- POVERTY IN THE COUNTRY
Poverty is considered the greatest threat to peace in the world, and eradication of poverty should be a national goal as important as the eradication of illiteracy. Due to abject poverty, women are exploited as domestic helps and wives whose incomes are usurped by the man of the house. If poverty were not a concern, then the girl child will be able to follow her dreams without concerns of sexual exploitation, domestic abuse and no education or work.
- HEALTH AND SAFETY
The health and safety concerns of women are paramount for the wellbeing of a country, and are important factors in gauging the empowerment of women in a country. However there are alarming concerns where maternal healthcare is concerned. While there are several programs that have been set into motion by the Government and several NGOs in the country, there is still a wide gap that exists between those under protection and those not. Poverty and illiteracy add to these complications with local quacks giving ineffective and downright harmful remedies to problems that women have. The empowerment of women begins with a guarantee of their health and safety.
“All I ask of our brethren is, that they will take their feet from off our necks.”
The United Nations Development Program constituted eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for ensuring equity and peace across the world. The third MDG is directly related to the empowerment of women in India. The MDGs are agreed-upon goals to reduce certain indicators of disparity across the world by the year 2015.
The third MDG is centered towards promoting gender equality and empowering women: “Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education by no later than 2015”. While India’s progress in this front has been brave, there are quite a few corners that it needs to cut before it can be called as being truly revolutionary in its quest for understanding what women empowerment is. According to the UNDP:-
India missed the 2005 deadline of eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education. However, the country has hastened progress and the Gender Parity Index (GPI) for Gross Enrolment Ratios (GER) in primary and secondary education has risen. Given current trends, India is moderately or almost nearly on track. However, as the Government of India MDG Report 2009 notes, “participation of women in employment and decision-making remains far less than that of men, and the disparity is not likely to be eliminated by 2015.” Achieving GPI in tertiary education also remains a challenge. In addition, the labor market openness to women in industry and services has only marginally increased from 13-18 percent between 1990-91 and 2004-05.
This is the United Nations role for empowering Indian women. Now we will see the Indian efforts for this burning issue:-
MINISTRY FOR WOMEN & CHILD DEVELOPMENT
The Ministry for Women & Child Development was established as a department of the Ministry of Human Resource Development in the year 1985 to drive the holistic development of women and children in the country. In 2006 this department was given the status of a Ministry, with the powers to formulate plans, policies and programs; enacts/ amends legislation, guiding and co-coordinating the efforts of both governmental and non-governmental organizations working in the field of Women and Child Development. It delivers such initiatives such as the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) which is a package of services such as supplementary nutrition, health check-ups and immunization. As mentioned earlier, the empowerment of women begins with their safety and health and this Ministry is committed to providing them.
It is an integrated scheme for the empowerment of women at a total cost of Rs. 116.30 Crores. It is implemented by the ministry for women and child development. Crux of this program will be the establishment of women’s self-help groups which will empower women to have increased access to all kinds of resources that they are denied, in addition to increasing their awareness and skills. This program will benefit about 9, 30,000 women with the setting up of 53,000 self-help groups, 26,500 village societies and 650 block societies.
NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR WOMEN
It was launched by the government of India on International women’s day in 2010 with the aim to strengthen the overall processes that promote all round development of women. It has the mandate to strengthen the inter-sector convergence; facilitate the process of coordinating all the women’s welfare and socio-economic development programs across ministries and departments. The Mission aims to provide a single window service for all programs run by the Government for Women under aegis of various Central Ministries. In light with its mandate, the Mission has been named Mission Poorna Shakti, implying a vision for holistic empowerment of women.
The National Resource Centre for Women has been set up which functions as a national convergence centre for all schemes and programs for women. It acts as a central repository of knowledge, information, research and data on all gender related issues and is the main body servicing the National and State Mission Authority. 
This commission has around 15 major ministries of Indian government as its partner.
There are number of schemes running under the women empowerment mission we will discuss the major schemes here:-
- Poverty Alleviation and Economic Empowerment of Women
- Schemes of Department of Animal Husbandry Dairying Fisheries
- Scheme on Development of Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture
- Scheme on Development of Marine Fisheries, Infrastructure and Post harvest Operations
- Scheme on Fisheries Training and Extension
- Assistance to Cooperatives
- National Bamboo Mission
- Central Poultry Development Organisation
- Development of Commercial Horticulture through Production and Post-Harvest Management
- Promotion and Strengthening of Agricultural Mechanization through Training, Testing & Demonstration
- Gramin Bhandaran Yojna
- Capacity Building to enhance Competitiveness of Indian Agriculture and Registration of Organic Products
- Technology Development and Transfer for Promotion of Horticulture
- Marketing Assistance Scheme
- Scheme of Support to Voluntary Agencies for Adult Education and Skill Development
- Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFURTI)
- Performance & Credit Rating Scheme for Small Industries
- Entrepreneurship Development Institutions (EDIs) Scheme
- National Award Scheme/ Guidelines [Launched by Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprise (MSME)]
- Credit Linked Capital Subsidy Scheme (CLCSS) for Technology Upgradation of the Small Scale Industries
- Management Training Programs
- Scheme For Market Development Assistance For MSME Exporters
- Credit Guarantee Cover Fund Scheme for Small Industries
- Rajiv Gandhi Udyami Mitra Yojana (RGUMY)
- Raw Material Assistance Scheme
- Bamboo Cultivation
- Organic Farming
- Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY)
- Mushroom Farming
- Scheme of Financial Assistance for Preparing Young Professional in Rural Areas
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
- Pottery Technology
- Technopreneur Promotion Program
- Consultancy Promotion Program
- Technology Development & Utilization Program for Women
- Industrial R&D Promotion Program(IRDPP)
- National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation
- National Scheduled Castes Finance & Development Corporation
- Marketing and Export Promotion Scheme
- Scheme for Working Women Hostel
- Grant in Aid Scheme – Export
- Diversified Handloom Development Scheme (DHDS)
- Grant in Aid Scheme – Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojna
- Jute Manufactures Development Council Schemes
- Scheme for Integrated Textile Parks
- Grant in Aid Scheme – HRD Scheme
- Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme
- Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (Handloom Sector)
- Dairy/Poultry Venture Capital Fund
- Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS)
- Antyodaya Anna Yojna (AAY)
- Old and Infirm Persons Annapurna
- National Iodine Deficiency Disorders Control Program (NIDDCP)
- Nutrition Education and Extension
- Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana(RSBY)
- Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC)
- National Rural Drinking Water Program
- Assistance to Cooperatives Scheme
- Strengthening Infrastructure for Quality & Clean Milk Production
The all above schemes are indirectly influencing the women workers and their economic condition. These schemes basically give stress on the individual training and entrepreneurship. They also provide employment to the people through various means. So these schemes provide supplements and food items to poor families, hence playing a pivotal role in women empowerment.
- Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche Scheme
Working women needs support in terms of quality, substitute, care for their young children while they are at work. This scheme provides crèche and day care facilities to those working women’s and poor women’s. This scheme comes under the central social welfare board.
- Short Stay Home For Women and Girls (SSH)
Short Stay Home for women and girls was introduced as a social defense mechanism, by the Department of Social Welfare in 1969. The scheme is meant to provide temporary accommodation, maintenance and rehabilitative services to women and girls rendered homeless due to family discord, crime, violence, mental stress, social ostracism or are being forced into prostitution.
- Mid Day Meal
This scheme provides a post of bhojan mata in every primary and secondary school who make the food for school children.
- Assistance to States for Feed and Fodder Development
The scheme provides central aid and assistance to states to supplement their efforts in feed and fodder development sector. This scheme was implemented from April 2005. Under this scheme women worker gets aids for the feed and fodder.
- Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (RGSEAG) or SABLA
It is a centrally sponsored scheme aimed at all-round development of adolescent girls. It has been introduced in the year 2010-11 on a pilot basis in 200 districts from all the States/UTs. It aims at making the girls ‘self-reliant’ by improving their health and nutrition status, promoting awareness about health, hygiene, nutrition, adolescent reproductive and sexual health, family and child care and facilitating access to public services through various interventions such as guidance and counseling and vocational training. It also aims towards mainstreaming out-of-school adolescent girls into formal/non-formal education. Nearly 100 lakhs adolescent girls per annum are expected to be benefitted under the scheme.
- STEP (Support to Training and Employment Program for Women)
In 1986-87 with the aim of upgrading skills of women for self and wage employment the government of India launched this scheme. The target group includes the marginalized asset less rural women and urban poor. Special focus is on identified focal districts in which women are particularly disadvantaged. The project duration is for 5 years with beneficiaries’ ranging from 200-10000 and a maximum per capita cost of Rs 16000. The funds are directly released to different NGOs and not to the State Governments.
- Social Empowerment and Education
-Vocationalization of Secondary Education
-Higher and Technical Education
-Nutrition Education and Extension
-Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
These schemes are basically for the purpose of providing educational facilities to the women. Because education play a very important role when it comes to any sort of empowerment and specially women empowerment.
- Health & Nutrition
-Integrated Child Development Scheme
-Reproductive & Child Health Program, Ph.II (RCH II)
-National Rural Health Mission
-Janani Suraksha Yojana
-Integrated Child Protection Scheme
-Food Security Mission
-National Iodine Deficiency Disorders Control Program (NIDDCP)
-Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY)
It is a conditional cash transfer scheme that targets pregnant and lactating women 19 years of age and older who have had two children. Its goal is to partly compensate them for wage-loss during childbirth and childcare and to provide conditions for safe delivery and good nutrition and feeding practices. It is a pilot project launched in year 2010
- Kishori Shakti Yogana
This schemes aims to improve the nutritional, health and development status of adolescent girls, promote awareness of health, hygiene, nutrition and family care, link them to opportunities for learning life skills, going back to school, help them gain a better understanding of their social environment and take initiatives to become productive members of the society.
- Empowerment of Vulnerable and Marginalized Groups and Women in Difficult Circumstances
– Schemes of National Scheduled Tribes Finance and development Corporation (NSTFDC)
– Integrated Child Development Scheme
-Integrated Child Protection Scheme
-Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana
-Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)
The scheme envisions a supportive institutional framework for woman victim of difficult circumstances so that she could lead her life with dignity and conviction. It envisages that shelter, food, clothing, and health as well as economic and social security are assured for such women. It also envisions that the special needs of these women are properly taken care of and under no circumstances they should be left unattended or abandoned which could lead to their exploitation and desolation.
This schemes aims to prevent trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation through social mobilization and involvement of local communities, awareness generation program generate public discourse through workshops/seminars and such events and any other innovative activity. It also facilitate rescue of victims from the place of their exploitation and place them in safe custody. It provides rehabilitation services both immediate and long-term to the victims by providing basic amenities/needs such as shelter, food, clothing, medical treatment including counseling, legal aid and guidance and vocational training.
- Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY) 
This scheme provides shelter to the poor community. Right now implemented in every state and providing homes to the poor.
LEGAL POINT OF VIEW
The series of liberal and progressive sounding legislation affecting women enacted in our country over the period of the last two decades, are the outcome of continuous struggles launched by women’s group, sensitive lawyers and democratic right groups.
This chapter deals with those legislations and decisions of various cases who guaranteed social justice to Indian women and helps in the ongoing schemes and strategies for empowerment of Indian women………….
1. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
An Act to provide in pursuance of the International Convention signed at New York on the 9th day of May, 1950, for the prevention of immoral traffic.
2. The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961) (Amended in 1986)
An act that abolishes the dowry system practiced in Indian weddings and imposes penal charges on violation of the act. It discourages the taking or giving of dowry.
3. The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986
An act to prohibit indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner and for the matters connected herewith or incidental there to. An amendment bill of this act is pending in Rajya Sabah.
4. The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 (3 of 1988)
An act to provide for the more effective prevention of the commission of sati and its glorification and for matters connected herewith or incidental thereto, whereas sati or the burning or burying alive of widows or women is revolting to the feelings of human nature and is nowhere enjoyed by any of the religions of India as an imperative duty.
5. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
Act to provide for the more effective protection of the rights of women guaranteed under the constitution that are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
6. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION and REDRESSAL) Act, 2013
An act to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at work place and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. It is applicable and enacted whereas sexual harassment results in violation of the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under article 14 and 15 of the constitution of India and her right to life and to live with dignity under article 21 of the constitution and right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business which includes a right to safe environment free from sexual harassment.
7. The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of misuse) Act 1994 
An Act to provide for the regulation of the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for the purpose of detecting genetic or metabolic disorders or chromosomal abnormalities or certain congenital malformations or sex-linked disorders and for the prevention of the misuse of such techniques for the purpose of pre-natal sex determination leading to female foeticide; and, for matters connected there with or incidental thereto.
8.The criminal law (amendment) Bill, 2013
This legislation is the result of a protest against Delhi rape case also known as Nirbhaya case. This legislation provides amendment in Indian penal code, Code of Criminal Procedure and Indian evidence act on laws related to sexual offences. This bill introduces and amended offenses like acid attack, act with intent to disrobe a woman, voyeurism, stalking & sexual harassment into the Indian penal code.
9.Women’s Reservation Bill (The Constitution 108th Amendment Bill)
It proposes to amend the Constitution of India to reserve one-third of all seats in the Lok Sabha, and in all state legislative assemblies for women. The Rajya Sabha passed the bill but the Lok Sabha has not yet voted on the bill. This will be helpful in increasing the political participation of women.
10. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
This major piece of legislation deal with the equal rights in employment for women workers. This act was implemented in the International women’s year on the demand for equality in employment voiced by working women.
BENCHMARK CASE LAWS
1. Air India Vs Nargesh Meerza, [(1981) 4 SCC 335]
This case deals with the women’s right to equality. In this case the Supreme Court struck down the clause of retirement of air hostess on attaining 35 years of age or on marriage within first 4 year of service or on first pregnancy as being arbitrary and unreasonable and clearly violative of article 14 of Indian Constitution.
2. Vishaka Sawhney Vs State of Rajasthan, AIR 1997 SC 3011, (1998)
This is the very famous case and the alarm raiser for the need of such act which can prevent the women from sexual harassment at the work place.
In this landmark judgment the supreme case held that sexual harassment at work place is a violation of article 15 and 21 of the constitution and he laid down the exhaustive guidelines to prevent sexual harassment of working women in places of their work until a law is passed for this purpose. Recently in 2013 The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION and REDRESSAL) Act, 2013 was passed by the parliament of India.
3. Sarla Mudgal Vs Union of India 1995, AIR 1531, 1995 SCC (3) 635
This case brought to lime light, the gross exploitation of personal laws of women. In this instance, a Hindu male, married under the Hindu law, desirous of taking on a second wife, converted to Islam. After the second marriage he reverted to Hinduism. Second wife pleaded that she had no protection under either of the personal law.
In view of this case the Supreme Court directed the union government to implement uniform civil code.
4. Mohammad Ahmed Khan Vs Shah Bano Begum, 1985 AIR 945, 1985 SCR (3) 844
Popularly known as the Shah Bano case, a penurious Muslim woman claimed for maintenance from her husband under section 125 of the code of the criminal procedure after she was given triple talaq from him. The Supreme Court held that the Muslim women have a right to get maintenance from her husband under section 125. After the decision, nationwide discussions, meetings and agitations were held. Then Rajiv Gandhi led government overturned the Shah Bano case decision by way of Muslim women (Right to protection on divorce) act, 1986, which curtailed the right of a Muslim women for maintenance under section 125 of the code of criminal procedure.
5. Tuka Ram And Anr vs State Of Maharashtra, 1979 AIR 185, 1979 SCR (1) 810
Popularly known as the Mathura rape case was an incident of custodial rape. Mathura, a young tribal girl, was allegedly raped by two policemen on the compound of Police Station. But the Supreme Court acquitted the accused, and the decision resulted the big public outcry and protest, which eventually led to amendments in Indian rape law via The Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act 1983 (No. 46) .
6. Mackinnon Mackenzie Vs Audrey D’costa, 1987 AIR 1281
The first major judgment on the Equal Remuneration act had been delivered by the Supreme Court in this case. In this case Audrey a lady stenographer sued her company under equal remuneration act as she was paid less than the male stenographer.
By adopting international laws and treaties on women’s right, the United Nations has helped to set a common standard for measuring how societies advance equality between men and women. Among such treaties are
- The convention on the political rights of Women (1952)
- The convention on the nationality of Married Women (1957)
- The convention on recovery abroad of maintenance (1956)
- The convention on the consent of marriage (1962)
- The convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (1979)
In addition to these treaties United Nations also observed 1975 as International women’s year.
In this chapter we will see the schemes which are state aided and particularly implemented in a particular state of country.
Schemes implemented in various states
The state of Uttarakhand has come up with many schemes for the women’s residing in the state. These schemes are:
1. Uttarakhand Women Integrated Development Scheme
With the aim to reduce the workload in daily life of women, To develop decision making capacity in women, To create understanding amongst women on Panchayati Raj System and Women self-employment. Government of Uttarakhand came up with this scheme in 2003 but because of the change in government this scheme is pending.
2.Nanda Devi Kanya Dhan Yojna
This scheme provides monitory aid to the women on the birth of girl child with the objective to reduce gender discrimination and to stop female feticide.
West Bengal Legislative Assembly has passed the West Bengal Panchayat Election Bill, 2012 which provides 50% reservation for women, in elections ensuring the equal participation of women in the politics.
The state of Gujarat has come up with the fabulous schemes for the women empowerment including every sector. These schemes are:
1. Krishi Talim Yojna
It is training in the field of Agriculture, imparted to Women Farmers and Farmers wives for Research and use of latest technology. These Agricultural women are paid stipend and transportation for the training course.
2. Sakhi Mandal Yojna
The Project is to enable the poor women, particularly in rural areas of Gujarat to improve their access to resources and consequently strengthen livelihoods and quality of life. Sakhi Mandals are formation of women self help groups based on thrift and credit principles. It provides financial services to accelerate the process of economic development and ensure welfare of women.
3. Nari Adalat
These are the courts in which women jurists dispense justice in women’s cases of rape, dowry, abandonment etc. They solve these cases faster than the ordinary judicial courts.
4. Chiranjeevi Yojna
Under this scheme BPL families have been provided with all the costs and expanses on the delivery of a baby through a proper hospital.
5. Mahila Vrudh ashram
These are the exclusive old age homes made only for the women’s.
6. Gaurav Nari Niti
This schemes aims at the gender equality.
7. Fish entrepreneur yojna 
Through this scheme government encourages lower caste women to sell fishes and become self reliant. For this purpose all the resources and instruments are provided by Gujarat government on a 50 % subsidized rate.
Periyar EVR Nagammai Free Education Scheme has been implemented in the State from 1989-90 for women students, irrespective of caste, creed and community, to encourage their education and to reduce dropout rate. This is a major scheme in the field of women education in Tamil Nadu.
Apart from the state schemes many NGOs like Jaipur rugs foundation, SNEHA, Yuva Parivartan etc. are working in the field of women empowerment. These NGO’s are providing educational facilities and vocational trainings to women in different areas.
Thinking on development has shifted repeatedly over the past forty years. So has thinking on women in development. This shift in thinking coincides with a growing concern about the lack of progress observed in improving the quality of life for women viz a viz men over the past few decades. This leads one to suggest that the past shifts in development thinking have not been of much help to women.
Women around the world share a common condition; they are not full and equal participants in public policy choices that affect their lives. Nowhere is the gap between de jure and de facto equality among men and women greater than in the area of decision making. The top decision making position remain largely male dominated spheres where women have little influence.
The lack of women’s participation in political decision making has important consequences. It deprives women of important rights and responsibilities as citizens, and excludes their perspectives and interests from policy making and decision making. Their voices are missing from key decisions on national budgets and setting of government priorities. Their skills and viewpoint often remain unheard, underrepresented or ignored.
India as a country is still recovering from years of abuse in the time of the Raj and more years of economic suffering at the hands of the License Raj. It is only now that globalization, liberalization and other socio-economic forces have given some respite to a large proportion of the population. However, there are still quite a few areas where women empowerment in India is largely lacking.
To truly understand what women empowerment is, there needs to be a sea-change in the mind-set of the people in the country. Not just the women themselves, but the men have to wake up to a world that is moving towards equality and equity. It is better that this is embraced earlier rather than later, for our own good.
We have many schemes, many programs for the purpose of women empowerment at every stage of administration, all we need is a good system and agencies for the implementation of these policies and programs. And if we can build up that system, if we can implement these programs then the goal of women empowerment can be achieved very easily through these programs.
Swami Vivekananda once said “arise away and stop not until the goal is reached”. Thus our country should thus be catapulted into the horizon of empowerment of women and revel in its glory.
We have a long way to go, but we will get there someday. We shall overcome.
- Proper awareness for laws should be there that is law should not be restricted to papers only but the implementation of law should be there so that every woman can be familiar with her rights. Significant steps should be taken to implement all the laws which are amended to facilitate detention, prevention and punishment of crimes against women.
- Women education has to be made compulsory and women should be encouraged to become literate because without being educated women cannot have a access to her right.
- Strict implementation of the schemes and policies for women empowerment should be done.
- Awareness camps for women should be organized where they can become familiar with the framed schemes and policies and can take benefit of those schemes and policies.
Formatted on 14th March 2019.
https://www.nmew.gov.in/index.php?lang=1 accessed on 26th December 2013
https://ncw.in/frmLLawsRelatedtoWomen.aspx accessed on 24th December 2013
 https://www.gujaratindia.com accessed on 28th December 2013