Issues Related to Women has been covered in three parts. This is first part, next two parts will come in few days.
Part – 1
A] Crimes Against Women
- Domestic Violence Act
- Genital Mutilation
B] Discrimination Against Women
- Personal Laws and Gender Justice
- Declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR)
- Maternal / Neo-Natal Health
- Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2014
Part – 2
C] Working Women Issues
- Sexual Harassment at Workplace
- Low Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR)
- Maternity Benefit
- Wage disparity
- Women in Combat role
D] SC Ruling on Triple Talaq
E] Women Reservation Bill
F] Misuse of Anti-Dowry Legislation
Part – 3
G] Draft National Policy on Women 2016
H] Other Government Initiatives
- TREAD Scheme by MSME Ministry
- Tejaswini Project in Jharkhand
- “Pink” initiatives in Kerala
- Mahila Shakti Kendra
- Kanyashree Prakalpa Scheme of WB government
- Mahila Police Volunteer (Haryana)
Part – 1
A] Crimes Against Women
-> According to latest NCRB data, crimes against women have more than doubled over the past 10 years.
-> Crimes against women include physical as well as mental cruelty to women such as insult to modesty of women, cruelty by husband and relatives, assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty, kidnapping etc. In 95% cases, offender is known to victim.
-> Andhra Pradesh has reported the most crimes against women (263,839) over the past 10 years. Delhi has the highest rate of crimes against women overall.
-> Cybercrime involves offences committed against people with a criminal motive to cause physical or mental harm, or loss to the victim directly or indirectly, using modern telecommunication networks such as Internet and mobile phones.
-> Cybercrimes threaten a nation’s security and financial health.
-> Cybercrimes which specially target women: E-Mail Spoofing, Harassment via E-Mails, Cyber-Stalking, Cyber Pornography, Dissemination of Obscene Material.
-> Issues regarding women are not addressed in the IT Act 2000. It does not mention the typical cybercrimes like cyber staking, morphing and email spoofing as offences.
-> Internet has become a trafficking platform– social media is used by traffickers to sell people whose photographs they share, without their consent.
Steps taken by the Government:
- Cyber Crime Cells have been set up for reporting and investigation of Cyber Crime cases.
- Cyber forensic training and investigation labs have been set up for training of Law Enforcement and Judiciary.
- Training is imparted to Police Officers and Judicial officers in the Training Labs established by the Government.
- Programmes on Cyber Crime investigation – Various Law schools are engaged in conducting several awareness and training programmes on Cyber Laws and Cybercrimes for judicial officers.
- Scheme for Universalisation of Women Helpline has been approved to provide 24-hour emergency and non-emergency response to all women affected by violence.
National Commission for Women (NCW) has submitted a report which recommended for opening of more cyber cells, dedicated helpline numbers and imparting of proper legal help, setting up forensic labs and technical training law enforcement agencies like police and judiciary to combat cybercrime.
For additional info – Follow article on Criminalisation of Cyber Space (GS-3) – https://ydsedu.com/2017/12/10/criminalisation-of-cyber-space/
2) Domestic Violence Act:
-> Recently Ministry of statistics and program implementation (MoSPI) has released a report titled ‘Women and Men in India 2015’ which says that domestic violence shares highest share in crime against women.
Recent changes in Domestic Violence Act:
- The definition of Domestic Violence has been modified – It includes actual abuse or the threat of abuse that is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic and further harassment by way of unlawful dowry demands to the woman or her relatives.
- Widened the scope of the term WOMEN – The Act now covers “live- in partners”, wives, sisters, widows, mothers, single women.
- Right to Secure Housing i.e. right to reside in the matrimonial or shared household.
- It provides for appointment of protection officers and NGOs to aid the woman for medical examination, legal aid and safe Shelter.
- The Court can pass protection orders to prevent the abuser from aiding or committing an act of domestic violence.
- Punishment of one-year maximum imprisonment and Rs. 20,000 each or both to the offenders is mentioned.
- Non-compliance or discharge of duties by the protection officer is also sought to be made an offence under the Act with similar punishment.
Criticism/Misuse of the Domestic Violence Act:
- Gender biased and not gender neutral- Increasing number of false cases.
- Recently, the SC has struck down the word “adult male” from the pertinent provision in the DV Act to lay down that a woman can also file a complaint against another woman, accusing her of domestic violence. Thus, making it gender neutral.
- Excludes abuses pertaining to marital rape.
- Verbal abuse and mental harassment- scope of subjective interpretation by abused.
- Lack of awareness especially in rural areas where there is more need of such acts.
- Absence of economic, psychological and support system for victim women.
- Insufficient budgetary allocation to States- the States could not assign ‘Protection Officers’ because of the already overburdened department.
Reasons for violence:
- More income of a working woman than her partner, abusing and neglecting in-laws etc.
- Violence against young widows especially in rural areas.
- Orthodox & Patriarchal mindset- male domination and control over women.
- Economic reasons- demand for dowry.
- Infertility or desire for male child.
- The PRIs should also play a progressive and empathetic role towards such cases- should participate in stopping domestic violence.
- More sensitivity training to be given to officers concerned at every stage.
- Women should be financially empowered through various government schemes and programmes.
- NGOs relating to women empowerment should be encouraged to protect women from domestic violence.
- Faster delivery of cases.
- More awareness drive especially in rural areas.
C) Gender Mutilation:
-> It is commonly called khatna and practised by Dawoodi bohras, a muslim sect.
-> The custom is inflicted on young girls, when they are six or seven-year old. Carried out mostly by untrained midwives, it involves cutting off the clitoral hood, in the belief that it will curb a women’s sexual drive.
-> Female genital cutting (FGM) is banned in many countries. In December 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution to eliminate the practice.
-> Sections like 320 (causing grievous hurt), Section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), Section 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), Section 325 (punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt) of IPC aim to curb such practises. Also, some sections of POSCO ACT also aim to abolish violent acts like FGM.
- Goal 5 of Sustainable Development Goals calls for elimination of all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
- To end such forms of violence against women awareness generation is required with the help of NGOs and by using medical explanation of harmful effects of such physical practises.
B] Discrimination Against Women
-> India fell 21 places on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index from 87 (2016) to 108 (2017) in 144-nation list – far below the global average and much behind its neighbours China and Bangladesh. India lost out mainly because of lower participation of women in the economy and low wages.
1) Personal Laws and Gender Justice
-> Personal Laws are a set of laws in India that govern various aspects of a person’s life like family, marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc. due to plurality of faith in India, the laws regulating personal matters were left to be governed according to an individual’s faith.
-> Various Personal laws have left women vulnerable due to their depiction as the weaker gender of the society.
Unjust Laws in Various Religions:
-> There have been questions raised against the validity of three aspects of Muslim personal law: Polygamy + Triple Talaq + Nikah Halala (a practice under which a woman who wishes to remarry her former husband must first consummate a nikah with another man).
-> Among Hindus various concepts have been questioned for their potential of leaving women vulnerable like: Dowry + Property Rights + Bigamy (A Hindu second wife is devoid of her rights and also divested from her status as “wife”).
UCC as a Solution – As per the mandate under the Article 44, the Uniform Civil Code is seen as the panacea to all these problems.
For more info on UCC in English – https://ydsedu.com/2017/11/26/uniform-civil-code-ucc-one-nation-one-code/
For more info on UCC in Hindi – https://ydsedu.com/2017/12/05/समान-नागरिक-संहिता/
2) Declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR)
-> As per the Census 2011, the child sex ratio has shown decline from 927 females per thousand males in 2001 to 918 females per thousand males in 2011. Some of the major cause can be attributed to – Sex selection + Female foeticides
Challenges: Patriarchal mindset (Preference of son over daughter) + Mushrooming of illegal practice among ultrasound centers.
-> Guidelines for female foeticides: Centralised database + Fast track court + awareness campaigns + wide publicity through All India Radio and Doordarshan + Incentive Schemes.
-> Effective implementation of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.
Initiatives to check decline in child sex ratio:
- Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana,
- Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana,
- The Girl Child Protection Scheme of Andhra Pradesh government,
- Aapki Beti, Humari beti by Haryana government,
- Ashray scheme of Rajasthan government,
- Sivagami Ammaiyar memorial girl child protection scheme of Tamil Nadu government,
- Mukhya Mantri Kanya Suraksha Yojana of Bihar government.
Ministries involved: Ministry of WCD (MoWCD) + Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) + Ministry of Human Resource Development (MoHRD)
- It is high time to understand that no society can flourish if half of its population is discriminated.
- Mass Communication Campaign
- Inter-state coordination is necessary to crack down upon unholy nexus between doctors, quacks and illegal ultrasound centres.
- Educating girls and encouraging them to be at par with boys will help to achieve the goal of higher sex ratio in the long run.
3) Surrogacy: [Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016]
-> The Union cabinet recently has approved the introduction of a Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 that seeks to ban commercial surrogacy and allow only infertile couples to bear a child using a surrogate mother.
-> There is a huge rise in incidents concerning exploitation of surrogate mothers, abandonment of children born out of surrogacy and rackets of intermediaries importing human embryos and gametes.
Provisions of Proposed Bill:
-> Single men and women, heterosexual couples who choose not to opt for marriage, gay couples, transgender persons, single parent cannot have baby through surrogacy. Non-resident Indians or People of Indian Origin card-holders will not be allowed to take recourse to a surrogate mother in India.
-> The bill makes it mandatory for surrogate mothers to be married and be a close relative of the couple wanting a child. She should also have given birth to a healthy child before bearing a baby for another couple.
-> Legally wedded Indian couples can have a surrogate child only after five years of legal marriage and will require a medical certificate as proof of infertility (Age of couple: 23-50 for females and 26-55 for males.). Also, they could seek “altruistic” surrogacy, but only through “close relatives”.
-> A woman can only bear one surrogate child.
-> A National Surrogacy Board chaired by the health minister will be created to oversee implementation.
-> The rights of surrogate mother and children born out of surrogacy will be protected.
- Prevent exploitation of women.
- Protects women from repeated surrogate pregnancies for monetary gains.
- A total ban on commercial surrogacy will push the industry underground and render surrogate mothers even more vulnerable.
- Proposed surrogacy bill remains silent on the fate of the frozen embryos.
- It does not address the modern social reality where singles, homosexuals or live-in couples might wish to have a biological child through the surrogacy route.
- It does not take into account the livelihood matters of poor women who are involved in surrogacy business.
Surrogacy is both a need (for the infertile couples) as well as has become the source of income for many (poor women). So before putting a blanket ban one should strive for more empathetic ways and means to deal with the issue along with strict regulations should be put in place to end the commercialization of surrogacy.
4) Maternal / Neo-Natal Health
-> The latest Lancet series on maternal health reveals that nearly one quarter of babies worldwide are still delivered in the absence of a skilled birth attendant and one-third of the total maternal deaths in 2015 happened in two countries: India and Nigeria.
-> According to the World Health Organization (WHO) India’s MMR, which was 560 in 1990, reduced to 178 in 2010-2012. However, as per the MDG mandate, India needs to reduce its MMR further down to 103.
How to improve?
- An improved, accountable health care system at primary level is essential for decreasing maternal mortality to the desired level.
- Make the antenatal, intra-natal and postnatal services available to women, located close to them.
- Ensure delivery by skilled attendant nurses or doctors.
- Peripheral/ Village level interventions specifically directed towards major causes of maternal deaths are required.
-> The Janani Suraksha Yojana (2005) – World’s biggest conditional cash-transfer scheme, aimed to promote institutional delivery instead of delivering babies at home and improve India’s infant and maternal mortality rates.
-> As per a study the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), fertility rates in Indian women have steadily declined (from 2004 when it was 2.88 per woman to 2.4 in 2014).
-> Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA) – It aims to provide assured, comprehensive and quality antenatal care, free of cost, universally to all pregnant women on the 9th of every month.
-> Mothers Absolute Affection – benefits of breastfeeding.
5) Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2014
In February 2017, the SC declined the plea of a woman to abort her foetus detected with Down syndrome. The whole issue set a debate about a woman’s right to choice over her body and termination of foetus, which is considered as a life after a certain period of pregnancy in Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971.
What the draft MTP bill 2014 provides?
- The draft MTP increased the legal limit for abortion from 20 weeks to 24 weeks. It provides for abortion beyond 24 weeks under defined conditions.
- The Bill amends Section 3 of the 1971 Act to provide that “the length of pregnancy shall not apply” in a decision to abort a foetus diagnosed with “substantial foetal abnormalities” or if it is “alleged by the pregnant woman to have been caused by rape”. Under the 1971 Act, even pregnant rape victims cannot abort after 20 weeks, compelling them to move court.
- It allows a woman to take an independent decision in consultation with a registered health-care provider.
- It also takes into account the reality of a massive shortage of both doctors and trained midwives, and seeks to allow Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha practitioners to carry out abortions.
-> In the proposed amendment, all the stakeholders must be consulted so that sex selective abortion and high mortality rate can be curtailed due to rigidity of the law.
-> Since the passage of the MTP Act in 1971, the socio and medical circumstances have undergone various changes; therefore, the law governing this aspect must address the medical and social realities of the present context.
-> Till now, abortion is seen from medical and legal perspective, rather than a matter related to meanings of the family, the state, motherhood and sexuality of younger woman. Therefore, need of the hour is to look at the proposed law through a broader lens, where the right to choice of women over her body and the right of the foetus to be born, would be justified.