By Kishor Kumar Kalita
The Constitution of India conveys a powerful directive for equality and rights of women in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights and Duties and also provides precise provisions for confirmatory actions. Apart from these constitutiol commitments, India is also a sigtory to a number of UN Conventions, primarily Convention on Elimition of all Forms of Discrimition against Woman (CEDAW), Beijing Platform for Action and Convention on Rights of the Child, where the commitment of the tion to protect and empower its women and girl children is quite evident. The discourses on women empowerment has been steadily evolving in this country over the last few decades, wherein paradigm shifts have occurred – from considering women as mere recipients of welfare benefits to mainstreaming gender concerns and engaging them in the development process of the country.
For upholding this spirit, the Government of India formulated the tiol Policy for the Empowerment of Women (NPEW) in 2001 which laid down a comprehensive progressive policy for the advancement, development and empowerment of women with appropriate policy prescriptions and strategies. But even after having such detailed policy prescriptions, Indian women are still struggling to assert their legal rights to life and total emancipation from all kinds of violence and discrimition. Considering the existing legislative as well as policy lacue and institutiol and non-institutiol bars for reinforcing the rights and entitlements for women and girls provided under the Indian Constitution and emating from different intertiol treaties and conventions, the Government of India has recently drafted the tiol Policy for Women, 2016. This draft policy has declared a mission to create an effective framework to eble the process of developing policies, programmes and practices which will ensure equal rights and opportunities for women in the family, community, workplace and in governce.
Here we would like to point out a few criticisms on different provisions of the said draft. The objective of the draft in its very initial clause has mentioned about a conducive socio-cultural, economic and political environment to eble women de jure and de facto fundamental rights. It is a known fact that without having a favorable legal environment, it is quite impossible for a woman to assert any right. Therefore, the objective clause should specially mention about creating a conducive legal environment. In clause 5(I) (xi) read as “traditiol knowledge of including healing practices will be promoted for indigenous treatment systems in remote areas.” Most of the indigenous medicare and healing practices are non-testified and incorporate superstitious elements. Moreover, Article 5 of the CEDAW which was held in 1979 under the aegis of the United tions, urges state parties to take appropriate measures to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimition of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women. Therefore, before promoting these practices, a kind of scientific certification is needed.
The draft policy in clause II(vi) has given emphasis for quality magement of government schools in terms of teaching, facilities and standards, but incorporates nothing about checking the quality of private schools. If the quality of private schools is not monitored and supervised properly, then the objectives stipulated for women’s education through this policy will not be achieved. The clause II(x) has mentioned about making innovative partnerships with leading universities at the intertiol level which literally means opening up the educatiol space of the country to intertiol corporates for establishing schools, colleges universities and other institutions. To elimite this doubt, the draft policy should clearly mention what the term innovative partnership actually means. Similarly, clause (xii) has also mentioned about the public private partnership (PPP) in information and communication technology (ICT). This will encourage a pro-liberal government to reduce its responsibility in ICT sector and it will provide more spaces to the private players, which again will be detrimental for women in availing of appropriate education in this country.
The clause III (viii) is very much appreciable as it gives prominence to the differently-abled women for different kind of supports. Unfortutely, the provision has not assured about any permanent job schemes both in the private and public sector. Instead, the provision vaguely avows for making special provisions under various rural and urban livelihood schemes for women with different forms of disabilities. It is the need of the hour for the State to make inflexible policy, Acts and actions for the wellbeing of the differently-abled persons. Such a decisive action should indisputably make the private sector accountable for the welfare of differently-abled persons, both men and women. Apart from some other lacue, the draft policy has not clearly affirmed any specific job or employment opportunities for women. Again, the draft is silent about supporting unconditiol bank loans and other forms of fincial credit to women for incentivizing woman entrepreneurs in all sectors of livelihood, particularly in the area of agriculture where women usually take leading roles without any recognition. To enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications — the draft policy should mention an appropriate action to be taken within a stipulated time-frame. It also miserably fails to address those primary issues which have often been considered as the main concerns to resolve enduring problems faced by women in this country. Moreover, the draft is seems hesitant about including certain other important provisions such as special legal assistance to women, particularly to contest for property rights and other forms of physical and mental abuses. The draft policy should also take account of establishing special courts for adjudicating both civil and crimil cases, where rights of women are insolently challenged. For developing a gender sensitive legal-judicial system, such proposals should get prime consideration.
(The author is a practicing advocate in Gauhati High Court)