Tuesday, 1 February 2011

A grand step towards Gender Equality in India

India is a country which has been under servitude for approx 1000 years and can be considered a toddler as an independent country. Despite this, in terms of granting rights to women, it has definitely been at the forefront in the past and continues to do so.

The Constitution of India guarantees equality of sexes and in fact grants special favours to women. These can be found in three articles of the Constitution. Article 14 says that the government shall not deny to any person equality before law or the equal protection of the laws. Article 15 declares that government shall not discriminate against any citizen on the ground of sex. Article 15 (3) makes a special provision, enabling the State to make affirmative discriminations in favour of women.  Moreover, the government can pass special laws in favour of women... Above all, the Constitution imposes a fundamental duty on every citizen through Articles 15 (A) (e) to renounce the practices derogatory to the dignity of women. http://india.mapsofindia.com/india-forum/womens-in-india.html

We also have a National Policy for the Empowerment of Women. This was drafted as a follow up action to the commitments made by India during the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing during Sep. 1995, and after nation-wide consultations to enhance the status of women in all walks of life on par with men and actualize the constitutional guarantee of equality without discrimination on grounds of sex. http://www.sociologyguide.com/women-and-society/national-policy.php

The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles of State Policy. The Constitution not only guarantees equality to women, but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. Since the Fifth Five Year Plan (1974-78), India has been making a marked shift in its approach to women’s issues from welfare to development while keeping the empowerment of women as the central issue in determining their status in the society. The National Commission for Women was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1990 to safeguard the rights and legal entitlements of women. The 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution in 1993 have provided for reservation of seats in the local bodies of Panchayats and Municipalities for women, laying a strong foundation for their participation in decision-making at the local levels. India has also ratified various international conventions and human rights instruments committing to secure equal rights of women. Key among them is the ratification of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1993. http://indiacurrentaffairs.org/women-empowerment-equal-rights-equal-opportunities-smt-anita-patnaik/

A recent Act of the government of India is indeed noteworthy and indicative of this country’s sincerity and commitment towards giving equal rights to women.
The Personal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2010, notified very recently, has removed the gender discriminatory provisions from two different laws - the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 and Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956. The Guardians Act allowed a court to appoint either the father, or any other person in case the father was not alive, as the guardian of a minor child, thus diluting the mother's claim to be appointed guardian of her child in case of her husband's death.  But the latest amendment to the act has removed this anomaly and the courts will no longer be free to appoint any other person as guardian of the child, ignoring the mother's claim.

The Personal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2010 has also amended sections 8 and 9 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, giving women equal rights as men in matters of adopting children or giving her children in adoption to others.  http://indiagovernance.gov.in/news.php?id=295

The implications, as I see it, were that in the unfortunate situation of a young husband passing away, leaving his widow with minor children, the grand parents, say, could be made the natural guardians of the minor children. The widow, already grief stricken, would hardly be in a position to protest and might perforce, keep quiet. Once someone else was made a natural guardian of her children, she would at all times be under their domination.  Such a situation is easily visualised even with a economically independent woman.  

I have been a career woman all my life with tremendous support from my family, a generally similar position prevails in my circle of friends and relatives. My colleagues and I have gone through life, happily ignorant that such a sword of Damocles hung even above the heads of the liberated and well earning woman.

Kudos to our country, the sociologists, opinion makers, and the law-makers for coming up with this.


  1. However many laws the govt may make, it doesn’t affect the real situation of women.
    The rich, it doesn’t matter, as they do what they want by the sheer power of their money.
    And as for the poor, their situation is such that might is right.

  2. nice article anju. we shld continue this sort of thing.

  3. http://freethinking2day.blogspot.com/

    Essay on equality.

    Comment. Subscribe. Spread the word.

  4. Differentiation in genders is really a very big problem in India.THis results in bad practices against Indian women...