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Vibhuti Patel Gender Equality And Human Rigths in India SM (1) 2, 2011

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Gender equality between women and men refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities for women and men and girls and boys. Gender equality implies that the interests, needs and priorities of both women and men are taken into consideration recognizing the diversity of different groups of women and men. Gender equity that provides a level playing field for men & women so that they have a fair chance to realize equal outcomes are a pre-condition for ensuring gender equality and human rights. The ultimate goal in gender equality is to ensure that women and men have equitable access to, and benefit from society’s resources, opportunities and rewards. And, as part of this, women need to have equal participation in defining what is valued and how this can be achieved. Equity is a means. Equality is the result. Gender equity denotes an element of interpretation of social justice, usually based on tradition, custom, religion or culture, which is most often to the detriment to women. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, also known as the Women’s Bill of Rights, declares that countries should: Act to eliminate violations of women’s rights, whether by private persons, groups or organizations, Endeavour to modify social and cultural patterns of conduct that stereotype either gender or put women in an inferior position, Ensure that women have equal rights in education and equal access to information, Eliminate discrimination against women in their access to health care, End discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations.
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  Gender Equality and Human Rights in India Vibhuti Patel* Gender equality between women and men refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities for womenand men and girls and boys. Gender equality implies that the interests, needs and  priorities of both women and men are taken into consideration recognizing thediversity of different groups of women and men. Gender equity that provides alevel playing field for men & women so that they have a fair chance to realize equaloutcomes are a pre-condition for ensuring gender equality and human rights. Theultimate goal in gender equality is to ensure that women and men have equitableaccess to, and benefit from society’s resources, opportunities and rewards. And, as part of this, women need to have equal participation in defining what is valued and how this can be achieved. Equity is a means. Equality is the result. Gender equitydenotes an element of interpretation of social justice, usually based on tradition,custom, religion or culture, which is most often to the detriment to women. TheConvention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,also known as the Women’s Bill of Rights, declares that countries should: Act toeliminate violations of women’s rights, whether by private persons, groups or organizations, Endeavour to modify social and cultural patterns of conduct that stereotype either gender or put women in an inferior position, Ensure that womenhave equal rights in education and equal access to information, Eliminate dis-crimination against women in their access to health care, End discrimination against women in all mattersrelating to marriage and family relations.  Fundamental Rights ensure empowerment of women through Article 14 - equalrights and opportunities for men and women in the political, economic and social sphere;Article 15 - prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sex, religion, caste etc; Article15(3) - empowers the State to take affirmative measures for women. Article 16- providesfor equality of opportunities in the matter of public appointments. The directive Principalsensure empowerment of women through’ Article 39- enjoins the state to provide an ad-equate means of livelihood to men and women and Equal pay for equal work. Article 42-State to ensure the provision for just and humane condition of work and maternity relief.Article 51v (A) (e) - fundamental duty on every citizen to renounce the practices derogatoryto the dignity of women. Women’s Movement and Legal Reforms When the government of India signed the UN charter on Equality, Development and Peacein 1975, the process of gender audit in the governance got an official stamp (Patel, 2002). In1976, the Equal Remuneration Act was enacted to provide equal opportunities, equal treat-ment and equal wages for work of similar nature. Women’s groups have been consistentlydoing public scrutiny of Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 and specific provisions for women ingeneral labour laws, The Factories Act, 1948 – Section 34 provides that the State Govern-ment can lay down rules prescribing weights that may be carried by men and women, theContract Labour (Abolition and Regulation) Act and Rules- that separate provision of utili-ties for women and fixed working hours. Women’s access to legal service largely remainsinadequate in spite of the legal service Act, 1987. *  Director, PGSR & Professor & Head, Department of Economics, SNDT Women's University, Churchgate, Mumbai-400020, India Social Modernity,  Vol.1, No. 2, December 2011ISSN 2229 - 6050 Keywords : Infant and ChildMorality, Intervention, Received on : 10 June, 2011 Accepted on : 25 September, 2011  The Labour Laws for Empowerment of Women: The labour laws for empowerment of women are based on principle of gender justice.They are as follows:Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 ensures equal opportunity, equal treatment and equalwages.Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 provides 90 days paid leave for working womenThe Factories Act, 1948 – Section 34 provides that the State government can lay downrules prescribing weights that may be carried by men and women.The Contract Labour (Abolition and Regulation) Act and Rules- separate provision of utilities for women and fixed working hours.Women in the unorganized sector do not get benefits of the labour laws in spite of Unorganised Workers' Social Security Act, 2008. No. 33 of 2008.In the formal or organized sector, there are industrial legislations and other protective legisla-tions for workers. Most of these legislative provisions, unfortunately, seem to be workingagainst the interests of workers, lack implementation and need reform. Government regu-lated minimum wages ensure only the bare essentials of survival but even that basic level isdenied to workers in the informal sector. Factory inspectors usually avoid reporting as em-ployers complain of low profitability, threaten closure and bribe them to keep quiet. At presentcrèches are provided in industries that employ more than 30 women employees and theretoo, ways and means are used to avoid this facility by the employers. There is no provisionfor providing crèches in the service sector and for both men and women working in shifts.In India, the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, enacted pursuant to Article 39 (d) of theConstitution of India provides for the payment of equal remuneration to men and womenworkers, for providing equal opportunities to women and men and for the prevention of discrimination on the grounds of sex against women in the matter of employment. The task of ensuring that there is no discrimination is very difficult, as there is no effective way of implementing the limited findings of the advisory committee. Secondly, the definition andevaluation of the same work or work of similar nature leave much to be desired. Even thecourts have used different expressions relating to valuation of identical work. This is one of the least invoked legislations.Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 provides for maternity benefit in case of childbirth, miscar-riages, abortions, Medical Termination of Pregnancies (Maps) and tubectomy. Establish-ments employing less than ten persons are left out from the purview of the Maternity BenefitAct or the Employees State Insurance Act. Under the present Maternity Benefit Act, 1961the eligibility for maternity leave is that the woman before availing the leave must haveworked for eighty days in that establishment or organization. These eighty days include paidholidays and weekly holidays and the period for which she was laid off. In many organiza-tions they are never allowed to complete the required number of days on record. Violation of Basic Human Rights in Informal Sector The informal sector as opposed to the formal sector is often loosely defined as one inwhich workers do not have recognition as workers and work without any social protection.In the informal sector, women workers are forced to work without contracts, without socialsecurity, with low wages under bad working conditions. In the absence of health insurance,income security, it is difficult for women workers in informal sector to place importance on Vibhuti Patel  their health. The lack of income security often has direct consequence on the access toeducation for the children of women workers in informal sector. They are not able to studyand alleviate their poverty. Often children get absorbed into the informal sector themselvesas adults due to lack of education or as children to help adults earn more (e.g. home basedworkers, vendors, self employed). Unorganised labour is usually perceived as ‘poor’ and asa beneficiary, consequently there are provisions in the national budgets to help them out of their poverty and vulnerability. They are treated as beneficiaries of anti-poverty programs.The main concern of informal sector workers is irregular employment (Patel & Karne, 2006). Sexual Harassment at Workplace In 1997 the Supreme Court passed the landmark judgment in the Vishakha case layingdown guidelines to be followed by establishments in dealing with complaints of sexual ha-rassment. The Court stated that these guidelines were to be implemented until legislation ispassed to deal with the issue (Mathew, 2002)). The Vishakha Guidelines provide clear-cutdefinition of sexual harassment at work place. The Supreme Court Directive, 1997 clearlyand unambiguously provides an answer to the question, ‘What is Sexual Harassment?’As defined in the Supreme Court guidelines (Vishakha Vs the State of Rajasthan, August1997) sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour as:Physical contact, a demand or request for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks,showing pornography and any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of asexual nature, e.g. leering, dirty jokes, sexual remark about a person’s body etc.Pursuant to this, the Government of India requested the National Commission of Women(NCW) to draft the legislation. A number of issues were raised regarding the NCW draftproduced, and ultimately a Drafting Committee was set up to make a fresh draft. A numberof women’s organisations are part of this Committee, including, from Mumbai, Majlis. Majliswas asked to make the draft. Some women’s organisations and women lawyers associatedwith Trade Unions in Mumbai have collectively worked on the draft with Majlis. Particularconcerns while drafting have been to include the unorganized sector and to incorporate pro-visions of labour law. The bill to be introduced in the parliament is known as The SexualHarassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention and Redressal) Bill, 2004. The 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution The 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution provides for 33% reservations of seats for women in Panchayats and Municipalities. As of now we have 1.2 million womenelected representatives in gram panchayat, taluka panchayat, zilla panchayat, municipal coun-cils and municipal corporations (Patel, 2002). The Recent amendments in Bihar andMaharashtra have ensured 50% reservation for women in local self government bodies.UNDP Report, 2001 reported, “The evidence on gender and decentralisation in India sug-gests that while women have played a positive role in addressing, or attempting to address, arange of practical gender needs. (Practical gender needs are identified keeping into consid-eration, gender based division of labour or women’s subordinate position in the economy.They are a response to immediate perceived necessity, identified within a specific context.They are practical in nature and often are concerned with inadequacies in living conditionssuch as provision of fuel, water, healthcare and employment); their impact on strategic gen-der needs (Strategic gender needs Strategic Gender Needs are different in different eco-nomic contexts and are determined by statutory provisions, affirmative action by the state, Social Modernity  pro-active role of the employers to enhance women’s position in the economy and socialmovements) is not remarkable.” (UNDP 2001). Countering Violence against Women Violence against women (VAW) is a manifestation of historically unequal power rela-tions between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination againstwomen by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women. VAW is one of thecrucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position comparedto men. VAW constitutes a violation of the rights and fundamental freedoms of women andimpairs or nullifies their enjoyment of those rights and freedoms. VAW prevents the fullimplementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discriminationagainst Women (CEDAW), a landmark international agreement that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women and girls initiated by the UN and adoptedby the member countries. According CEDAW, the term gender-based violence “GBV” in-cludes actual or threatened physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the fam-ily or community.VAW is understood as I. Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering,sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, widowburning, female infanticide, pre-birth elimination of girls, crimes against women and girls in thename of honour, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women,non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation; II. Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community,including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institu-tions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution; III. Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wher-ever it occurs. The PCPNDT Act, 2002: Adverse child sex ratio due to pre birth elimination of girls has posed a major threat tosurvival of girls and women in India (Patel, 2010). In this context strict implementation of Pre-conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act(2002) is mandatory. Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse)Act was enacted in 1994 by the Centre followed by similar Acts by several state governmentsand union territories of India during 1988 (after Maharahstra legislation to regulate prenatal sexdetermination tests), as a result of pressure created by Forum Against Sex-determination andSex–preselection. But there was a gross violation of this central legislation.As per the new guidelines declared by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govern-ment of India (2012) regarding IEC and publicity activities all citizens are requested to organizerallies and signature campaigns for ‘Save the Girl Child’. Communication media such as com-munity radio, mass electronic and print media and internet for information dissemination mustproactively educate public about PCPNDT Act as well as rights of girls and thro’ their channelsgive publicity to awareness program with the help of NGOs/ MNGOs etc like Public Melas(Fairs), public meetings, Jan Samvads (Public Dialogue), Jan Sunwa (Public Hearing). Youthcampaign against sex selection and local awareness activities such as nukkad natak (StreetTheatre), dramas, folk art, etc. are highlighted in the guidelines. Under Corporate Social Re-sponsibility publicity and information material on “Save the Girl Child” must be developed inregional language and public messages on ‘Empowerment of girls’ in the public places like busstands, railway stations, Airports, metro stations etc should be displayed. Involvement of printand electronic media to give wider publicity to the issue like advertisement on TV relating to Vibhuti Patel
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