Women Empowerment: A Distant Dream in India
Empowerment is the process that creates power in individuals over their own lives, society, and in their communities. People are empowered when they are able to access the opportunities available to them without limitations and restrictions such as in education, profession, and lifestyle.
In ancient time in India, women had been deprived of the opportunities which were supposed to be enjoyed by them. They had been confined inside the four walls and were compelled to do only the household chores. They were neglected whenever any family decision had to be taken and only male members of the family had the right to make a decision. Child marriage, enforced widowhood, sati, Devadasi, purdah, dowry, female infanticide and the practice of polygamy made the Indian society static.
During the British period, some substantial progress was made in eliminating inequalities between men and women in matters of education, employment, social and political rights. Industrialization, urbanization, and the spread of education were some of the important aspects of change that affected the status of women in various ways. Education was identified as the major instrument to raise the social status of women. A girl school was established for the first time in Bombay in 1824. The Hunter commission too emphasized on the need for female education in 1881. Some social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Ray and Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar also laid stress on women's education. Their zealous endeavors helped to dispel social evils to some extent.
After the independence of India many laws like The Provisions of The Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act 2005, Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, have been enacted to protect the rights of the women. Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (2013) provides protection to women from sexual harassment at all workplaces both in public and private sectors, whether organized or unorganized. The Constitution of India also emphasizes on gender equality and empowers the state to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favor of women. Article 15(3) is the example of one of such provisions that provide a scope of positive discrimination. Article 16 provides equal opportunities for both men and women with regard to employment.
In spite of having so many laws, women in India are still not safe and secure. Various heinous crimes against women are still prevalent in Indian society. As per the annual crime in India Report 2017 released by The National Crime Records Bureau ( NCRB) a total of 3, 59, 849 cases were reported against women in India. Gruesome incidents like rape and sexual assaults have made the girls and women so vulnerable. Although we are witnessing a spurt in such heinous crimes, the conviction rate of the perpetrators is abysmally low. Therefore, Perpetrators can easily evade the law that emboldens them to repeat those incidents.
Due to the continuous increase of crimes like rape and such other incidents women always feel insecurities in their minds which resist them from coming forward to do jobs or business or such other works. The incident that took place in Hyderabad where a veterinary doctor was raped and murdered while returning from her work in November in 2019 is proof that women are not safe even to do the jobs in India. Such incidents make the other women think twice before taking up a job or a career. It's also shameful for a country where a girl is raped and murdered brutally in the capital city and her family members have to struggle day and night for more than seven years to get justice for their daughter. There's a saying that justice delays are justice denied. The sluggish judicial system has failed drastically to repose the faith of the people in the judiciary. Due to the poor functioning of the judiciary, the number of habitual offenders also have increased in India. Due to these worse situations even the family members also sometimes get threatened to allow their daughters to leave their home city or town to pursue their dreams and career that makes their path of success more struggling and arduous.
Although some women have gathered the courage to break the glass ceiling despite the worse scenario, India has still a long way to go to achieve women's empowerment in true sense.