TCN special: Misra Commission report excerpts- Part 5

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    Chapter 5: Status of Women among Minorities

    The constitution of India not only grants equality to women but empowers the State to take special measures for protecting and advancing their interests in all walks of life and making necessary legal provisions to this effect.

    Yet at the level of reality, the promise of equality and dignity remains an unfinished agenda. There are gains in educational participation and literacy but the gender gaps are substantial. Women have higher longevity now but tremendously high MMR and higher female infant and child mortality persists in most parts of the country. Millions of girls and women are missing between each census. The child sex ratio (females per thousand males) in the age group 0-6 years, has touched an all time low and the entire north western region has turned out to be a major killer of females- born and unborn. Crimes against women are on the increase with more and more laws but negligible enforcement.

    Underdevelopment of rural areas and certain other regions are the principal factors for educational and social backwardness of the socially and economically weaker amongst Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and minorities in general and of women and girls in particular.

    Bulk of the higher, technical and professional educational institutions are located in the south and the west, with Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu accounting for the majority of these institutions. This uneven distribution of resources and opportunities between different regions gets reflected large inter and intra group disparities of gender, caste, ethnicity and religion between and among regions.

    Apartheid of gender continues to stare at us despite proactive policies and laws for girls and women. The lives of girls and women continue to be controlled by the patriarchal belief systems and structures which use prescriptions and proscriptions and even naked force to keep women in their place. All decisions are taken by men and all assets are owned by them. The process of gender discrimination begins even before birth and continues throughout the life of a female.

    Besides, women and girls do more work than males but get much less than their legitimate share in food, health, education and training.

    Religion acts as an important cultural factor, which reinforces the traditional perception of women as subordinate to males and under male control. This unequal position of women in the family is determined and reinforced by the dictates of the organised religion. None of the major religions- Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity ever conceded complete equality to women and have in fact institutionalized the secondary position of women versus men through written and oral interpretations by the male clergy.

    Women belonging to the same religion might yet have very different conditions of life, which are influenced by their earning capacity, employment, rural- urban setup, educational level, and so on.

    Constitutional Provisions Regarding Rights of Women

    Fundamental Rights and Duties

    Article 14 – confers on men and women equal rights and opportunities in the political, economic and social spheres.

    Article 15 – prohibits discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of religion, race, caste and sex.

    Article 15 (3) – makes a special provision enabling the State to make affirmative discrimination in favour of women.

    Article 16 – provides for equality of opportunities in matters of public appointment for all. Article 21 provides for protection of life and personal liberty.

    Article 21 A- (86th Constitutional Amendment Act 2002) makes education a fundamental right of all children of the age of 6-14 years.

    Article 23 – prohibits traffic in human beings and forced labour.

    Article 24 – prohibits employment of children in factories etc.

    Article 51 – makes it a fundamental duty of all Indian citizens to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional and sectional diversities, to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.

    Article 51 A – (k) in part IV-A makes it a duty of a parent or a guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, ward between the age of 6 and 14 years.

    Directive Principles of State Policy

    The Directive Principles of State Policy have been the guiding beacons for social policies and legislation.

    Article 39 (a) – states that the State shall direct its policy towards securing all citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood.

    Article 39 (d) – directs the State to ensure equal pay for equal work for men and women.

    Article 39 (e) – ensures that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused.

    Article 39 (f) – stipulates that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.

    Article 41 – deals with right to work, to education and to public assistance in certain cases.

    Article 42 – enjoins the State to ensure just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.

    Article 45 – (amended in 2002) gives a directive to the State to provide early childhood care and education for all children till they attain the age of six years.

    Through Article 47 – the State is further committed to raising the nutritional levels, health and living standard for the people.

    It may be seen from the above, India has one of the most impressive sets of laws for women and children/girls and yet little is known about them either by women themselves or by men.

    Laws in India by and large cover the women belonging to each and every religious community. However, there is one notable exception. This is in the realm of personal laws, that is the laws governing marriage, divorce, inheritance, child custody and maintenance etc.

    A Common Civil Code governing personal laws for all the communities has been mooted in the Directive Principles of State Policy (Article 44).

    Registration of all marriages is perhaps the very first step in ensuring justice to women who are at times not even able to establish the validity of a religious marriage.

    Institutional Arrangements to Safeguard the Interest of Women

    National Commission for Women

    The National Commission for Women (NCW), a statutory body set up in 1992, safeguards the rights and interests of women.

    Ministry of Women and Child Development

    The Ministry of Women and Child Development is the nodal agency for all maters pertaining to the welfare, development and empowerment of women and children in the country…

    Demographic Profile of Women among Minorities

    Among Muslim females, from 1971 onwards there is a trend of increasing percentage share in the total female population of minority groups. The share of Muslims females (within total population of females of minority groups) rose from 66.3 percent in 1971 to 71.1 percent in 2001.

    The increasing share of Muslim women (within total population of women of minority groups) could be attributable to the relatively high fertility rate among Muslims, as well as the better sex ratio in the Muslim community as compared to the sex ratio figures for ‘all religious communities’.

    Literacy Rate

    Community – Overall – Female

    All – 64.84 – 53.67
    Muslim – 59.13 – 50.09

    Community – Overall – Female
    All – 88.74 – 46.13
    Muslim – 52.73 – 42.66

    Community – Overall – Female
    All – 79.92 – 72.86
    Muslim – 70.07 – 63.17

    Education Level

    For women:

    Community – Primary level – Secondary level – Senior secondary
    All – 75.77 – 12.5 – 5.9
    Muslims- 87.97 – 9.53 – 3.85

    Work Participation Rate

    Community – Male – Female
    All – 51.7 – 25.6
    Muslims – 47.5 – 14.1

    Link: : The National Commission for Women