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Economic Independence of Women - A Social Need

By Dr. Anjali Hastak* (Ofg.) Principal, Shantaram Potdukhe College of Law, Chandrapur.

Even though constitutional equality between men and women is established, and protective and progressive legislations are being made in favour of women, today also women very rarely enjoy their constitutional and legal rights. Women not only need legal backing but there should be social awareness among them.

As far as property rights are concerned most of the women are not concerned about them. They do not even know about the existence of such laws in their favour and being a suppressed lot they think that their actions may not be acceptable in the society in which they live. Emotionally, by fear of losing their kins they never try to step in courts. Even though legislatures have provided effective laws, they are not at all used by the women. Firstly, because of ignorance of law and secondly, even if they are aware they do not wish to take advantage of the law. Inspite of progressive legislation women have not been able to achieve equal status with dignity of person on par with men.

Laws in the pre-constitutional days were designed to preserve the traditional family system based on male dominance. Woman had only limited interest in the property she held. She could not be coparcener under the Mitakshara system and could not alienate property or seek partition of joint family estate.

Though since independence, the socio-economic status of Indian women has changed significantly, it has not yet reached to the point of desired expectation. Considering the Hindu Joint family still a hard reality, slowness in the matters of womens concern about property rights and taking advantage of progressive legislations, to achieve equal status with men, is expected, as the dead weight of centuries can not easily be put aside.

Women under the present Constitution have equal rights and opportunities with men. By having regard to the historical background special legislations were also provided for women. In India, there is a disparity between the constitutional rights and the rights enjoyed in reality by women, between the concept of womans status and her existing role. Many good social laws already enacted have not proved useful enough. The history of the developed countries of the world marks the struggle of women to achieve the equality with men with respect to basic rights and opportunities enjoyed by men. Indian women, with the exception of few, have not had to struggle for their right to vote, or to education. They were granted such rights even before they organised themselves to demand them.

The world has stepped into the twenty first century and even today in millions so families in India, a daughters birth is unwanted; she is refused her existence starting from her mothers womb. She is always given second rate treatment as compared to a son. She is pulled out of the school to save for brothers education.

Girls of marriageable age usually do not keep themselves informed about parents property. Dowry or other gifts given at the marriage keep such girls satisfied and they leave the natal family with or many times without any information about share in parental property.

As they no more belong to natal family and have no income of their own, they try to settle in husbands family.

The society objects to daughter taking a share from parental property for various reasons. If dowry is given to her, to give share over and above this will be unfair; giving a share to daughter means introducing a stranger i.e. son-in-law in the family to lead disintegration of the family property or losing the property in to her husbands family. If the share is given to daughter it may cause friction between brother and sister and diminish affection between them.

Marriage creates a new legal status for a girl.

This status being patriarchal husband

naturally has an authority and power whereas wife has to obey him. The home she enters after marriage is usually husbands property. Under Hindu Law, wife does not have a legally

recognized proprietary interest in matrimonial home. In majority of cases women are house wives. They do not earn, and even if they have their own income, they very rarely keep it for themselves. Economically they remain entirely dependent on husband. In case of divorce or desertion, if woman has not taken shelter in natal family, her life gets disrupted and she has to face many problems. In such a situation existence of children becomes added problem. She starts facing problems of earning a livelihood, getting maintenance through courts becomes difficult and thus poverty begins with single parenthood.

Theoretically, family relationships are governed by personal laws based on religion and customs and constitutional laws. But in practice, women emotionally depend on strength and moral support given by father and brothers in tragic situations, and, these men relatives in her life use their power to deny her every basic right.

Women hardly use right over the properties of parental and matrimonial families. Even though rights are conferred on them by law, women waive such rights and remain happy only by accepting gifts.

The sorry plight of widows in India is the result of misinterpretation of Smriti texts. All sorts of social, cultural and economical restraints are put on Indian widows. They are entitled to maintenance from deceased husbands property. They have a right to take share equal to son in case of partition between sons, which very rarely happens.

In todays modern fast growing economic age elderly parents are unwanted by their children. If a widow has property in her name, she can have honourable existence. If she has no property or cash, it is dreadful for her to share roof with her own heirs. Such widows have to suffer humiliation and insecurity of old age by shedding tears in silence.

Empowerment of women through their property rights becomes much more essential and these rights need to be readily accessible during none other than this phase of womans life.

Taking advantage of favourable laws becomes extremely difficult for women.


honours, sacrifice and personal interest of men become more important, when women try to

seek justice within family. They can not venture to break off ties with natal families. Women who have dared to do so, have faced bitterest disappointment, systematic isolation and harassment by family members.

Complicated and lengthy court procedure deters women to step the courts. Even after spending large sums on expert lawyers, women have died waiting to enjoy for their share of the property.

There are various hurdles that prevent women from taking advantage of the existing laws which affect her progress and absolute right to property.

For this purpose : Women should be made aware about the beneficial laws. Educational level of women should be raised to higher level. Job oriented education can increase suitable employment opportunities for women. Training in special technical skill can help women to develop her better self image in the society. The great potentiality and capability of media can be utilized to increase legal awareness of women. News papers, magazines, audiovisual media can be utilized as main and effective source of giving legal information to women. The deficiencies, short coming in existing legal system can be made publicly known by arranging special legal literacy programmes for awareness of law. Government should create more schemes and measures for the economical benefits of women in general. Women are socially and economically backward class, hence special legislation should be made for their advancement from time to time. Government should provide various schemes measures and incentives for

participation of more women in the womens economical development programmes.

It is the constitutional duty of the Government to make all laws easily and at convenient prices available to the citizens.

Society should help women to elevate them from a subservient position by providing socio-economic justice and equality to women along with men.

Women should themselves be willing to fight against the exploitation and discrimination.

The problem of womens emancipation in man-dominated world can be achieved by ending patriarchy, by complete change of outlook and habits of thoughts.

Orthodox and age old authoritative values of traditional practices should be changed to move with the modern times.

Evil customs and conventions that restrict all round healthy growth should be banned.

As half the population comprises of women in India, the entire work of liberation of women is to be carried out without taking away the ingredients of dignity and security for women.

Modern India should march ahead with the spirit of love and cooperation between men and women as a fundamental principle.

What is the Status of Women Education in India?


The Sanskrit Shaloka, "Yatra Poojyante Nariastu Ramante Tatra Devah", means that in the ancient past there was great respect for the women. The women were very high in morals and in performance of duties. No yajna could be completed without the presence of wife. It is said, historically in early times women in India enjoyed equal opportunities like that of men. Women in the Vedic ages not only received their due recognition in society but also got equal treatment in the matter of educational training. Many women were composers of Rig Vedic hymns. Gargi and Maitreyi, for instance were looked upon as the leading philosophers of the time. At the end of the Rig Vedic period the social status and position of women came to be degraded. This is clearly evident from most of the slokas in Manusmriti. According to the injunctions of the Smriti literature a woman was reduced to a dependent role in relation to men. Menfolk were now callous about women's education; what they deemed to be important in women was their capacity to bear and rear children. Only among the women of Vaishnava community academic pursuits were still considered to be of great significance. Due of the changed political, social and economic situation in the medieval India, the status of women received a great setback and consequently the opportunity for the education. Education of women remained somewhat neglected during the British period. With the dawn of independence there ushered a new era with regard to the status of the women. Today the Indian woman has equal rights with man to individual and social status, right to education, right to work with adequate wages and security of tenure, right of freedom

of association, right to property and right to health and leisure. The Article 39 of the Constitution lies down. 1. The citizen's men and women have the right to an adequate means of livelihood. 2. There is equal pay for equal work for both men and women. According to a report, "After independence social and economic justice has progressed in this country and so has education of women. The Muslim women are now participating in ever large numbers. The reform movement like Aryar Samaj and Brahmo Samaj, and the Congress movement had created a situation in which education of women received a lot of attention ever from before independence. As a result of this private and governmental effort, education among women has registered distinct progress. Thus while the percent of literacy among women was only 7% when the British left as against 15% among men, it has advanced to about 15% now among them against 35% among men. This, however, indicates that progress of education among them is still backward compared to men. There are still only about 17 women along with 31 men in primary schools one woman along with three men in secondary schools and about three female against eight males in university and higher education. As the population of men and women in about equal in this country, sexes should be about equal in all stages of education, to give a comparative idea of the place of women education in total education the following figures are significant".

Sixty years of Independence and Indian women

Smita Mishra On the sixtieth year of Independence of a country, a woman goes to space, another becomes the President of the Republic and a third reigns the ruling coalition as its supreme commander. It is a country that supposedly respects its women and worships them. The country is none other than India our Matri desh or motherland -that worships Bharat Mata. Its ruling deities are Durga and Kalithe fierce embodiments of superhuman power. Indias Constitution guarantees equality of status and opportunity to all its citizens including women but somehow the birth of a female child here is always a sad moment. Indias paradox The clich that India is a country of paradoxes unfortunately holds true for at least 5 million of the Indian population comprising the fairer sex. Women in India have always been a deprived lot. Subject to terrible social traditions like Sati, Jauhar, Devdasi and Purdah , their bodies and soul have been the objects of perpetual mindless torture since times immemorial. When Nehru had wishfully throated the joy and hope of the newly acquired freedom When an age ends When the soul of a nation long suppressed Finds utterance he definitely also meant the fairer sex. But have things been fair for the fairer sex even after sixty years of liberation? For a whole demographic chunk whose very antecedents have been clouded by centuries of suppression, subjugation and suffering, whose very roots have been watered by pain of a harrowing, squirming and excruciating type- did sixty years of political freedom mean something? How

much the Independence has delivered socially is a question that often rakes our mind. Discouraging facts Its really surprising and sorrowful for a country whose history is embellished with the glowing accounts of gifted women like Gargi, Apala, Razia, Durgavati, Noorjahan, Laxmibai, Indira Gandhi and Mother Teresa - more than 40% women are illiterate. Less than 10% find representation in Legislature and Parliament, more than 60% women in rural area are married off before they are 18.The maternal mortality rate in India is 2nd highest in the world, the sex ratio here is a poor 933 females per thousand males. And even though diarrhoea is known to be the second largest killer of infants, only 43% women know about ORS. The average Indian female has only 1.2 years of schooling. Four to five thousand women die due to dowry related causes every year and nearly 80-90% married women in UP, J& K Bihar, MP, Haryana, and Rajasthan need permission to visit even friends and relatives! Beginnings of change To say that women have made no progress in the past sixty years will be blatant cynicism. Scattered across the ages, women of substance have always made their presence felt. And little requires to be told of the immense contribution of women in the freedom struggle. In fact it was this movement, which brought the secluded, shielded women of India out in the open. But with the end of the freedom euphoria, they were again relegated to the background. Time moved very sluggishly for them and the driblet of development slowly seeped through the tightly closed doors. Sporadic events of stirring, stray instances of uprising kept occurring but it was only in the 1970s that the women were once again organised together in support of the common cause. The incident, which spearheaded the womens movement in the 1970s, was the Mathura rape case. The acquittal of policemen charged with the heinous crime of raping young Mathura had shaken the women of India to the very core. But did this unity mean that the women of India had finally awakened? If yes then why did the Deorala sati case take place almost two decades later? A young woman burning herself alive on the funeral pyre of her husband, and a whole village hailing her step and later worshipping her, as a goddess was an incident sufficient to send shudders . Peeping sunshine The efforts of the subsequent governments in improving the condition of the women cannot be totally undermined. Through legislations and various policies, the attempts by the governments in the past sixty years have been for the betterment of the fairer sex. One should not forget the Act, which gave women equal right over parental property, the Act which made demanding of dowry a punishable offence, the great Panchayati Raj Act that attempted to empower women at the grass root level and the latest Domestic Violence Act which ensures women are safe within the four walls of their homes. The efforts for the improvement of their health and education are also commendable. And to say that in all these years even one single government was indifferent to the condition of the women would be grossly untrue. The time has come Women are still raped, assaulted, murdered, humiliated, mistreated and to top it all butchered even before they are born! The roots of discrimination against women are actually imbibed in the social and

cultural milieu of the country. Sometimes out of compulsion, sometimes for convenience and sometimes due to tradition, society has always been unfair to women. And if even after six decades of liberation, nearly half of a countrys population is still in shackles- the accountability is everybodys. The six million men, the subsequent governments and the women themselves are all under scanner! Sixty years are enough to awaken a sleeping nation, sixty years are enough to strike once again the gong of change, sixty years are enough for a genre to realise its worth and sixty years are enough for the women of our land to finally shake their slumber and step out of their veils and snatch away their opportunities and rights. No more the sky be dark for me No more the horizons bleak Shut out the light from me And I Will snatch the sunny streak!

Political Status of Indian Women: Progress sinceindependence

Political participation of Indian women, though in a miniature form, started with the freedom movement. Mahatma Gandhi was mostly instrumental for arousing political consciousness in the poor, illiterate women and making them take part in the freedom movement. Political participation may be defined as voluntary participation in political affairs through membership, voting and partaking in the activities of the political parties, legislative bodies and/or politically motivated movements. The Constitution of India guarantees adult franchise and provides the framework forwomen to participate actively in politics. Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. It is a pity that women have not substantially availed of the constitutional provisions. The successive election statistics shows that the number of womenwho exercise their franchise has increased from election to election. For the last two decades almost equal numbers of men and women have gone to the polling booths to vote. The number of women filing their nomination papers in any election, national or State, is only a fraction of the corresponding number of men. Some withdraw at the last moment and the contesting candidates become fewer in number. Ultimately the number of women winning elections will be so small that their percentage in the legislative body will be nominal. Women Members in Lok Sabha Lok Sabha Years Total No. of Seats No. of Women Total Percentage

First Second Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Seventh Eighth Ninth Tenth Eleventh Twelfth

1952-57 1957-62 1962-67 1967-71 1971-76 1977-80 1980-84 1984-89 1989-91 1991-96 1996-98 1998-99

499 500 503 523 521 544 544 544 529 509 537 543

22 27 34 31 22 19 28 44 28 36 34

4.4 5.4 6.7 5.9 4.8 3.4 5.1 8.1 5.3 7.1 6.3

Thirteenth 1999-2004 543



The percentage of winning candidates has been below ten in Parliament, in all the past elections, as shown in the chart. The State Assemblies too present a similar situation. No variation whatsoever has occurred in half-a-century! In the same period, Indian women have achieved commendable progress in literacy, education, and employment. They have achieved rights equal to that of men for parental assets. They have proved their ability to master science and technology. In the past we were under the impression that political empowerment will followeconomic empowerment automatically, but we were utterly wrong. Under the circumstances it became obligatory for the womens organisations as well as the Government of India to search for remedial measures to improve the political status of women. After prolonged deliberations, as a first step, the government made the provision in the Panchayat and Nagarpalika Bills of 1992 to reserve 33 per cent of

candidature and constituencies in the local bodiespanchayats, municipalities and corporationsfor women. There was widespread criticism that it will be difficult to find such a big number of eligible womencandidates all of a sudden, and the newly elected members performance may not be befitting to the dignity of the post etc. Two local body elections have taken place since then and twelve uneventful years have passed. Now nobody is bothered about the women members of the local bodies. In 1995 the representatives of the Government of India reported at the Fourth World Conference on the Status of Women at Beijing that the government intended to reserve 33 per cent of candidature and constituencies in the legislative bodiesParliament and State Assembliesfor women. In September 1996, the Constitution 81st Amendment Bill, 1996 was introduced in Parliament. However, following opposition, the bill was referred to the scrutiny of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament with late Ms Geeta Mukherjee as the chairperson. The report of the Committee was produced in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha in the winter session, presuming that the Bill could be reintroduced in the current session itself but nothing positive happened. The main provisions of the Bill, as introduced in Parliament in September 1996, were: (1) not less than one-third seats have to be reserved in the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies for women, and among these reserved seats, provision has to be made for reserved seats for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, in the same proportion as provided in the Constitution for the SC and ST people in general; (2) in the States where there are less than three seats for the Lok Sabha, there will be no reservation. The original Bill made no mention of Rajya Sabha or the Legislative Councils of States. Womens organisations all over the country went on protesting and in the end the Bill was reintroduced on May 16, 1997. Overtly and covertly coalition partners of the ruling as well as the Opposition groups put forward objections. Some members wanted the quantum of reserved seats for women to be reduced to 25 per cent. Leaders of the Other Backward Classes wanted to reserve special quota for the OBC women. There were suggestions that half the parliamentary/State Assembly constituencies could be given dual representation, a male and a female representative simultaneously. All these suggestions, which could be implemented only by further constitutional amendments, were intended to make matters more and more complicated and obstruct the Bill. Now and then a few more attempts were made to take up the Bill, but without success. After all, reservation is a constitutional provision to improve the status of weaker sections of the society. It is only natural that the male dominated legislative bodies would try to find out any number of excuses to obstruct the Bill and maintain male domination in the legislative bodies. The system of reserving for women 33 per cent seats in Parliament already exists in Russia, the Philippines, Korea etc. In certain other countriesNorway, Sweden, France, Germany etc.the political parties take initiative to reserve 33 per cent seats for women. Both ways it has worked

well. Unfortunately in India, no political party has come forward with the suggestion of reserving the candidature for women. Also the Indian political parties arriving at a consensus on the issue is remote. In the majority of our States, women form a bigger vote-bank than men. Eyeing on the womens vote-bank, before every election, most national political parties, in their manifestos, do not fail to promise to make womens reservation a reality. They gather the votes and do nothing to make the Bill an Act of Parliament. What is the root cause of the low representation of women in the elected bodies? I have had opportunity to discuss the matter with many eminent men and women including late Ms Geeta Mukherjee, the chairperson of the Joint Parliamentary Committee, for the scrutiny of the Womens Reservation Bill. Thewomen put the blame on the patriarchal society. The men accept male domination to a certain extent, but place the main responsibility for thus vicious situation on the women themselves. The crux of the matter is that in politics a person who is not a member of a political party is a lay person politically. The membership of women in the political parties is extremely low. The representation of women in the higher cadres of the political parties is lower still. The number of women at the top, policy-making executive bodies of the parties is absolutely nominal. In any political party, if there is a section without sufficient and effective presence in the executive bodies, the interests of that section will naturally be neglected. The male dominated political parties are interested only in the female vote-bank. They are not interested to promote female membership in the party beyond a certain limit so that men could hold maximum number of important positions. In all the main national parites there are separate sub-sections forwomenMahila Congress of the Indian National Congress, Mahila Morcha of the Bharatiya Janata Party, National Federation of Indian Women of the Communist Party of India etc. The womens wings are eternally agitating against price rise, atrocities against women or such other topics, which any government should take up in the priority list and address, with the objective of resolving them. But in practice, the governments leave such issues unresolved, and women go on making a little noise now and again, and gain certain illusory gratification that they have performed some great political task. The poorwomen are not much aware of the mainstream activities of their respective parties at all. When the election comes they vote for the partys symbol and the matter ends there. Obviously women have to change their mode of approach to political participation, if they aspire for substantial representation in the legislative bodies. Women from all strata of society should join political parties of their choice and correct the disparity in male-female ratio in the parties at the grassroot level, as well as in the executive bodies. More and more womenshould take the primary membership of the parties and involve themselves in the local activities. Without improving the primary membership and the grassroot level activities, not many people could go up in the cadres. Politicalstatus could be achieved only through hard and persistent

work. If you have your husband or father or brother to prop you up, you are extremely lucky. In general women may have to face a lot of obstaclesgender discriminations, petty jealousies, scandals, economic constraints, discord in the family and so onwhich should be circumvented with grace and determination. However, it is easily said than done! Without proper representation of women in the legislative bodies and political participation of women at all levels, issues concerning women would remain neglected. According to the Indian Constitution women being the weaker section are eligible for reservation wherever necessary. Till date, womens representation in the legislative bodies is literally being obstructed by male domination. Constitutional and political action has to play a positive roll to solve the problem. As an interim measure, reservation of 33 per cent seats in the legislative bodies for women, through an Act of Parliament, is only just, prim and proper.