Consider the following data:
- Of the 24 standing committees in the Parliament, not a single is headed by a woman MP
- More than one-tenth working women face sexual harassment at their workplaces. Most workplaces don’t have internal complaint committee against sexual harassment
- Women are unsafe in border districts of Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal due to sexual harassment, hooliganism, eve-teasing and human trafficking
- Trafficking of tribal women is prominent in almost all the states of India
- The unemployment rate is higher among women between 18 and 30 years
- Wide gender gap still exists in literacy rate and in wages
These are some of the alarming findings of a study titled – ‘Status of women in India’ – conducted and published by a Pune-based NGO, Drishti Stree Adhyayan Prabodhan Kendra.
The comprehensive study report, which was released by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat on Tuesday evening, highlights gender discrimination, gender gap, condition of women and threats women face in urban and rural India, besides conflict zones like Jammu and Kashmir and Naxal-affected Chhattisgarh.
“We can’t afford to keep women lagging behind, especially when the world needs India by its side. I appeal all men to study this report and the process of making women independent by empowering them must begin from home itself,” Bhagwat said after the launch of the report in New Delhi.
“Men can’t make decisions for women and shouldn’t think that they know better than women. They first need to awake and become aware. It’s the women who have the inherent strength to empower themselves and take decisions. The men can’t take that credit,” added Bhagwat, while quoting Swami Vivekananda.
The study was conducted by interviewing 74,095 women in 29 states and five Union territories, including 70 international border districts, and focusses on health, education, employment, socio-economic profile and politics.
The NGO is associated with the RSS.
Women in politics
With 33 percent reservation for women in place, while there has been a rise in participation of women in politics and a growth in the number of elected members in the Parliament, the report states that not a single woman MP heads any of the standing committees in the Parliament.
The 17th Lok Sabha has witnessed the highest number of women parliamentarians ever — 78 women MPs were elected in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. At present, there are 24 department-related standing committees in the Parliament — eight under the Rajya Sabha and 16 committees under Lok Sabha.
"Unfortunately, it’s observed that out of 24 department-related standing committees in both Houses of the Parliament, not a single committee is headed by a female MP, and 13 percent of women MPs are not members of any standing committees. The percentage of female MPs in a particular group of committees reveals the gender stereotypes being reinforced by committee membership,” the report mentioned.
Speaking on the occasion, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “Women need to come out of their comfort zones and participate more at the party and government levels, and utilise the opportunities they have before them. Women’s participation needs to be mandatory by law. They also need to accept challenges.”
“But the foremost factor is easy access to information, education, health and other facilities for women. We don’t need token participation of women, but genuine access for women to bring change,” she added.
Women at workplaces
The report also says that more than one-tenth of working women face sexual harassment at workplace. Most of the workplaces don’t have internal complaint committee (which is mandatory). Citing an example of medical professionals in Rajasthan, it mentions that 61.06 percent of these professionals reported during the survey that no sexual harassment redressal committee exists in the hospitals they work.
“Most of the working women aren’t aware of legal provisions which provide them security at the workplace. Despite making several amendments under the law, many women employees don’t get benefits of canteen and crèche facility at the workplace. The crèche facility is not available for women scientists at the workplace,” the report stated.
However, the majority of women school teachers were reported to have experienced a positive environment in their schools.
Women unsafe in border districts
The study covered 70 out of 170 districts in 18 states along international borders of India.
Focussing on Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal, whose districts, the report says that 78 percent women in border villages of Jammu and Kashmir expressed a feeling of insecurity in comparison to 39 percent in West Bengal. Nearly 79 percent of women living in the border villages of Jammu and Kashmir said that they are allowed to go outside their homes mostly in the morning.
“Safety and security environment along the border area of West Bengal is not conducive to women. Nearly half of the women would like to move to other safe places,” the report claimed.
It also added that the women in these areas experience restrictions on their mobility and social interactions due to communal atrocities.
According to the study, the women in the bordering states surveyed by the NGO feel unsafe due to sexual harassment and exploitation, human trafficking, hooliganism and eve-teasing.
"Fear is so big that 90 percent of women in these areas prefer to remain inside their houses after evening,” the report said.
The study also mentions about trafficking of tribal women in almost all the states, including Naxal-affected Chhattisgarh. It said that in some places, the girls are being sold by their parents. The girls who are rescued and return home, are unacceptable in society.
The report also highlights gender discrimination in employment, wages and status in the society at large.
Though there has been an increase in female literacy, the gender gap in literacy hovers around 23.56 percent, it said.
There’s also a glaring disparity in wages between male and female workers in several cases. The unemployment rate is higher among women between 18 and 30 years, the report added.
According to National Sample Survey (NSS) report (2011-12), average wage or salary received per day is Rs 201.56 for female and Rs 322.28 for male in rural areas, whereas it's Rs 336.15 for female and Rs 469.87 for male in urban areas.
“Majority of women in the study are earning on an average of Rs 166.66 per day, which is less than the NSS figure. Exploitation in terms of monetary gain still exists at the workplace,” the report stated.
Project director of the NGO, Maneesha Kothekar said, “An interesting aspect we found in our survey is that the implementation of government schemes is more effective in conflict areas. And, the NGOs need to organise awareness programme for gender equality in the society and at the family level.”
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Updated Date: Sep 25, 2019 19:54:20 IST