Since the genesis of mankind, the woman has played a primordial role in the shaping up of humans right from birth. Her multi-tasking pivotal roles as mother, daughter, sister, home maker and so on come out unscathed. It is rightly said that no one has seen God, but if at all there is God, it is in the form of the mother (birth giver), and this takes the woman to the highest pedestal of divine virtues.
Despite such multifarious roles played by the woman, it is true that she has been subjected to untold violence, miseries, wide spread discrimination, exploitations, deprivations, penury, and malnutrition, and she is looked down upon in the patriarchal world of dominance.
However, with the advent of the industrial revolution in the 18th century and with growing nuclear family units, there has been an increasing need for empowerment of women all over the world. As a result, India has enacted 39 women-centric laws during the last two centuries so that women may live enlightened lives with freedom, self-dignity and individual honour, with full-bloom gender justice, and with equality with men.
The Constitution of India together with various laws enacted and rules framed thereunder provides for equality between man and woman without discrimination and with equality of opportunity in all walks of human activities.
Yet in practice, women are discriminated against vis-à-vis men despite gender sensitisation in all segments of public administration including education, health and other activities such as religious rituals. Soon after Independence in 1947, the Government of India set up a Social Welfare Division in the Ministry of Home Affairs to give nationally-focused attention to the all-around development of women and children, which later was elevated to a full-fledged Social Welfare Department that ultimately became the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
In 1993, the National Commission for Women was set up with the power of civil court to ensure human rights of women across the country. Yet all sorts of violence and crimes against women have gone up manifold so much so that the country has come to be known by the sobriquet as the worst place for women in the world.
Nevertheless, with the emergence of a rule-of-law-based system of democratic governance, women have marched ahead and are no longer subordinate to men as they are free from restrictions, control, or dictatorial influence, and are independent, at least on paper, i.e., in law books and the Constitution. However, patriarchal dominance is still there. For all practical purposes, there are fetters on women as daughters, sisters, wives, daughters in-law and so on.
India is traditionally perceived to be a Manuvadi country where the woman is looked down upon and objectified. The present NDA Union Government is a strong believer in the gospel truth of the Manusmirti. No wonder then that even the much touted Beti Bachao Beti Padhao
(Save girl child Educate daughter) introduced by the NDA Union Government with big fanfare has come a cropper. Two-thirds of the funds allocated for such a laudable programme have been spent on the publicity of the Prime Minister; so much for the concern shown by the government for the empowerment of women.
It is a matter of great concern for the people that despite the most stringent rape laws enacted in 2013 following a most horrific rape of a medical student in December 2012, incidents of rape and violence against women and girl children have gone up by more than three times. And the culprits go scot-free because of the lack of implementation of laws, the insensitivity of official machineries like that of the police with their unfair, biased and insensitive investigations, the judiciary not being fair and responsive to women, civil society being apathetic to the upliftment of women, and boys being preferred to girls. The result has been the continuing deprivation of and discrimination against women. Yet women have made a mark in all walks of life wherever they were afforded equal opportunities.
Still, it is a worrying sign that the NDA Government has drastically cut down the allocation for safety of women from Rupees 313.13 crore in 2017-18 to Rupees 81.75 crore, as the latest official data reveals. At the same time, Nirbhaya Fund, created in the wake of the horrendous rape incident of December 2012 for the safety of women, is not utilized properly to address rising crimes against women, a parliamentary report has revealed.
The allocation of Rupees 313.30 crores for Schemes of Safety of Women included 84.40 crores for an Emergency Response Support System (ERSS), 200 crores for Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children (CCPWC) and 28.90 crores for Schemes related to the Delhi Police, indicating decreased attention to the safety of women.
As for the Safe-city Projects for Women in eight cities of Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Lucknow and Ahmedabad launched at a cost of rupees 2919.55 crores in 2017-18, the utilisation certificates are yet to be received from States/Union Territories. So is the case of Rupees 200 crores for the Central Victim Compensation Fund (CVCF) as a one-time grant from the Nirbhaya Fund to States and Union Territories for compensating women victims of acid attacks, rape, trafficking etc.; no one knows how the allocated amount has been spent.
The Parliamentary report also reveals that the Nirbhaya Fund has been misutilised for building and construction purposes rather than for the actual safety of women. Such allocations defeat the very objective for which the Nirbhaya Fund was created.
The rise of fundamentalism, chauvinistic nationalism and macho leadership have made defending women’s rights harder. Nevertheless, it is a battle of gender equality in an era of machismo politics.
The fight for gender equality has to be fought at home, in educational institutions, in government establishments, and corporate offices to ultimately end discrimination against women and girls and change the mindsets of people worldwide to bring about meaningful respect for women and full gender justice. Government and law alone cannot be sufficient to tackle the menace of crimes against women.
One can understand the war cry of the people in the wake of the recent grisly rape and murder of a Hyderabad veterinarian and the government’s knee-jerk reactions to that. But all of us have to ponder and fight crimes against women, strive for gender justice at all levels and make all accountable to stem the rot!