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Women Empowerment in India Critique Essay

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cfm? abstract_id=1320071 WOMEN EMPOWERMENT IN INDIA Purusottam Nayak and Bidisha Mahanta Email: [email protected] co. in Web Address: www. pnayak. webs. com/ Abstract The present paper is an attempt to analyze the status of women empowerment in India using various indicators like women’s household decision making power, financial autonomy, freedom of movement, political participation, acceptance of unequal gender role, exposure to media, access to education, experience of domestic violence etc based on data from different sources.

The study reveals that women of India are relatively disempowered and they enjoy somewhat lower status than that of men in spite of many efforts undertaken by government. Gender gap exists regarding access to education and employment. Household decision making power and freedom of movement of women vary considerably with their age, education and employment status. It is found that acceptance of unequal gender norms by women are still prevailing in the society. More than half of the women believe wife beating to be justified for one reason or the other.

Fewer women have final say on how to spend their earnings. Control over cash earnings increases with age, education and with place of residence. Women’s exposure to media is also less relative to men. Rural women are more prone to domestic violence than that of urban women. A large gender gap exists in political participation too. The study concludes by an observation that access to education and employment are only the enabling factors to empowerment, achievement towards the goal, however, depends largely on the attitude of the people towards gender equality.

Introduction In the last five decades, the concept of women empowerment has undergone a sea change from welfare oriented approach to equity approach. It has been understood as the process by which the powerless gain greater control over the circumstances of their lives. Empowerment particularly includes control over resources and ideology. According to Sen and Batliwala (2000) it leads to a growing intrinsic capabilitygreater self confidence, and an inner transformation of one’s consciousness that enables one to overcome external barrier. This view mainly emphasizes on two important aspects.

Firstly, it is a power to achieve desired goals but not a power over others. Secondly, idea of empowerment is more applicable to those who are powerless- whether they are male or female, or group of individuals, class or caste. 1 Though concept of empowerment is not specific to women, yet it is unique in that and it cuts across all types of class and caste and also within families and households (Malhotra et al, 2002). Women empowerment is also defined as a change in the context of a women’s life, which enables her increased capacity for leading a fulfilling human life.

It gets reflected both in external qualities (viz. health, mobility, education and awareness, status in the family, participation in decision making, and also at the level of material security) and internal qualities (viz. self awareness and self confidence) [Human Development in South Asia (2000) as quoted by Mathew (2003)]. UNDP (1990) for the first time introduced the concept of Human Development Index (HDI) that evolved initially as a broader measure of socio-economic progress of a nation but it became popular as a measure of average achievements in human development for both the sexes.

Contrary to the general belief that development is gender neutral, statistics show that women lag behind men all over the world including India in almost all aspects of life. It is for this reason that the focus on human development has been to highlight the gender dimension and continuing inequalities confronting women since 1995 (UNDP 1995). The Report noted that without empowering women overall development of human beings is not possible. It further stressed that if development is not engendered, is endangered.

To bring out the facts and figures relating to deprivation of women two indices, namely, Gender related Development Index (GDI) and Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) were introduced. While GDI measures the achievements in the same dimensions and variables as the HDI, it also takes into account inequality in achievement between women and men (Anand and Sen, 1995). The greater the gender disparity in human development, the lower is country’s GDI compared to its HDI. The GDI is the HDI adjusted downwards for gender inequality.

On the other hand, GEM indicates whether women are able to actively participate in economic and political life. Theoretically, the index can take values between zero and infinity, with a value of unity reflecting an absolute equality in the respective attainments of males and females. A value higher than unity would imply that females have better attainments than males. 2 Construction of GDI As we know HDI is a composite index of three basic components of human development such as knowledge (Education Index), longevity (Health Index), and standard of living (Income Index) where: I1 ?

Education Index ? , I 2 ? Health Index ? are constructed by (1) & I 3 ? Income Index ? by (2) : (1)……………….. I j ? X ij ? Min( X ) Max( X i ) ? Min( X i ) Log ( X ij ) ? Log ? Min? X i ?? Log ? Max? X i ?? ? Log ? Min? X i ?? (2)……………… I 3 ? To construct GDI the following three steps are involved: Step-I: For each dimension of education and health, indices are constructed for males and females separately using the formula (1) and for income index by formula (2); Step-II: For each dimension, Equally Distributed Index (EDI) is constructed using the formula (3) as follows: ?

Male population Share Female Population Share ? (3)……………… EDI ? ? ? Dimension Index for Male ? Dimension Index for Female ? ? ? ? ? 1 Step-III: GDI is calculated by combining the three equally distributed indices in an un-weighted average using the formula (4): 1 (4)…………….. GDI j ? ( EDI1 ? EDI 2 ? EDI 3 ) 3 Construction of GEM Gender Empowerment Measure as we know focuses on women’s opportunity rather than their capabilities.

It captures gender inequality in three key areas such as (a) Political participation and decision making power as measured by women’s and men’s percentage shares of parliamentary seats; (b) Economic participation and decision making power as measured by two indicators: (1) Women and men’s percentage shares of position as legislators, senior officials and managers; and (2) Women and men’s percentage shares of professional and technical positions; and (c) 3 Power over economic resources as measured by women’s and men’s estimated earned income.

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For each of these three dimensions, an Equally Distributed Equivalent Percentage (EDEP) is calculated as a population weighted average according to the general formula (5): ? Female Popn. Share Male Popn. Share ? (5)……………… EDEP ? ? ? ? Male Index ? ? Female Index ?1 The EDEP for political participation and economic participation are each divided by 50 to construct the corresponding indexed EDEP whereas for economic resources simple EDEP is taken into consideration. All these three indices are averaged to construct the GEM.

Planning Commission (G. O. I. , 2002) used a third index, namely, Gender Equality Index (GEI) in the National Human Development Report. The methodology for construction of GEI is the same as that of HDI. The point of departure involves expressing the index as a proportion of attainment level for females to that of males. Secondly, in estimating the index, the economic attainments for males and females have been captured by taking the respective worker-population ratio, unlike the use of per-capita monthly expenditure as in the HDI.

This has been done, primarily, to avoid taking recourse to apportioning consumption or income, between males and females at the household or at an individual level, using criteria that could always be debated. Educational and health attainments have been captured using the same set of indicators as in the case of HDI. Besides these three indices, a number of other socioeconomic and political indicators are being widely used to measure women empowerment (G. O. I. , 2005-06). Review of Literature A number of studies have been undertaken on women empowerment at the global level and in India.

Some studies dealt on methodological issues and some on empirical analysis. Moser (1993) focused on the interrelationship between gender and development, the formulation of gender policy and the implementation of gender planning and practices. The work of Shields (1995) provided an exploratory 4 framework to understand and develop the concept of empowerment both from a theoretical and practical perspective with a particular focus on women’s perception of the meaning of empowerment in their lives. Anand and Sen (1995) tried to develop a measure of gender inequality.

Pillarisetti and Gillivray (1998) mainly emphasized on the methodology of construction, composition and determinant of GEM. Bardhan and Klasen (1999) criticized GEM as an inadequate index of measuring women empowerment at the aggregate level. Malhotra et al (2002) in their paper prepared for the World Bank highlighted methodological issues of measurement and analysis of women empowerment. Chattopadhyay and Duflo (2001) in their paper used a policy of political reservation for women adopted in India to study the impact of women’s leadership on policy decision.

They found that women were more likely to participate in policy making process if the leader of the village community was happened to be women. Mahanta (2002) sought to explain the question of women’s access to or deprivation of basic human rights as the right to health, education and work, legal rights, rights of working women’s, besides issues like domestic violence, all the while keeping the peculiar socio-cultural situation of the North East in mind.

A workshop organized in 2003 by the Institute of Social Sciences and South Asia Partnership, Canada addressed the issues like “Proxy Women” who after being elected to Panchayat bodies were merely puppets in the hands of their husbands, relatives and other male Panchayat members; and emphasized on training programme for their capacity building. Assam Human Development Report (Govt. of Assam, 2003) threw some light on inequality in the achievement between men and women of Assam in different spheres of life.

The report viewed that poverty, violence and lack of political participation were the main issues of concern for South Asian Women, and Assam was no exception. The study of Kishor and Gupta (2004) revealed that average women in India were disempowered relative to men, and there had been little change in her empowerment over time. Parashar (2004) examined how mother’s empowerment in India is linked with child nutrition and immunization and suggested women to be empowered simultaneously along several different dimensions if they and their children were to benefit across the whole spectrum of their health and survival needs.

Sridevi (2005) in her paper 5 provided a scientific method to measure empowerment. Study of Cote de Ivoire revealed that increased female share in household income leads to increased spending on human development enhancing items (as quoted by Ranis and Stewart, 2005). Blumberg (2005) viewed that economic empowerment of women was the key to gender equality and well being of a nation. This would not only enhance women’s capacity of decision making but also lead to reduction in corruption, armed conflict and violence against females in the long run.

Karat (2005) in her works discussed the issues of violence against women, their survival, political participation and emancipation. Panda and Agarwal (2005) focused on the factor like women’s property status in the context of her risk of marital violence and opined that if development means expansion of human capabilities, then freedom from domestic violence should be an integral part of any exercise for evaluating developmental progress. Desai and Thakkar (2007) in their work discussed women’s political participation, legal rights and education as tools for their empowerment.

Deepa Narayan (2007) made an attempt to measure women empowerment for different countries and regions by using self assessed points on a ten steps ladder of power and rights, where at the bottom of the ladder stood people who were completely powerless and without rights and on the top stood those who had a lot of power and rights. Figueras (2008) in her work studied the effect of female political representation in State legislature on public goods, policy and expenditure in the context of India and opined that politician’s gender and social position matters for policy. Barkat (www. goodgovernance. rg) while discussing the present status of women in Bangladesh opined that although women as mothers are held in high respect at the individual level, there was an unclear understanding of empowerment of women as a process of awareness and capacity building leading to greater participation in decision making and control over her own life. Thus, from the above review of literature it is evident that quite a number of studies have already been undertaken on women empowerment and related issues. Entire gamut of literature has centered mainly around conceptual and measurement issues and the constraints to women empowerment.

The present study in this respect is 6 an attempt to highlight the status and trend of women empowerment in India by taking into consideration various dimensions of it. The Case of India As far as India is concerned, the principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Constitution and finds a place in the Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles. The Constitution not only grants equality to women but also empowers the States to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. Historically the status of Indian women has been influenced by their past.

There is evidence to show that women in the Vedic age got most honored positions in the society (Seth, 2004). They had the right to education. They were free to remain unmarried and devote their whole life to the pursuit of knowledge and self realization. The married women performed all the works and sacrifices equally with their husbands. They were educated in various disciplines of knowledge such as astrology, geography, veterinary sciences and even in martial arts. There were instances of women taking part in wars and fights. They were highly respected within and outside home.

Gradually due to several socio-political changes, especially during the middle age, the glorious status of women declined. The urge for equality on the part of Indian women started getting momentum during the colonial times. Noted social reformers and national leaders like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Annie Besant, Sorojini Naidu and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar made selfless efforts to create awareness among women about their status and were quite successful in removing various social evils such as sati pratha, child marriage, and polygamy. They also encouraged widow remarriage and women education.

The reformers were successful in creating a base for development of women and theirs strive for equality. In course of time Indian society got transformed from traditional to a modern one. Consequently women became more liberal and aware of various ways of life. Since they are quite capable of breaking the traditional barriers imposed by the society are now challenging the patriarchal system though in a limited scale. Since independence, the Government of India has been making various efforts to empower women. In various plan periods, the issues regarding women empowerment has been given priority.

From fifth five year plan onwards there has 7 been a remarkable shift from welfare oriented approach of women empowerment to development approach. The National Commission for women was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1990 to safeguard the rights’ of women. The 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution of India provided opportunity to women to take part in active politics. The year 2001 was declared as the year of women’s empowerment for enhancing their status. To achieve the goal, the government introduced different programmes, identified strategies, established different institutions and made various legal provisions.

In spite of all these efforts and actions, women in India still lag behind the men. According to 2001 Census, female literacy rate in the country was 54. 2 per cent as against 75. 9 per cent in case of males (G. O. I. , 2001). The situation was much worse in the rural and remote areas of the country. In spite of women going for higher education they face exclusion from their male counterparts and are alienated in various positions in governance. The incidence like early marriage, female feticides and infanticide, dowry, bride burning, rape, molestation, kidnapping etc are very frequent.

In recent times, the record of crime against women indicates an increasing trend. The position of women in the country in the social, economic and political fields is by no means equal to that of their male counterparts. Besides low female literacy, there are many other factors that have contributed to gender biasness. Girl child is still given less priority in certain parts of India. Past studies indicate that it is the people’s perception in general that the birth of a girl child is less desirable and evokes less happiness than that of a boy child (Seth, 2005). It is ingrained in the Indian psyche, cutting across religion, caste and region.

Since her birth she is victimized in all spheres including education, employment, nutrition and social status. The World Economic Forum (2005), in its first gender gap study placed India at 53rd position among 58 nations, which shows a significant gap in male and female achievements. In the same study, the rank of India in terms of political empowerment was 24th at both primary and grassroots level. The National Population Policy 2000 specifically identified the low status of women in India as an important barrier to the achievement of goals towards maternal and child welfare (G. O. I. 2000). 8 Indicators F Life Expectancy Adult Literacy Gross Enrolment Seats Share in Parliament Share of Professional & Technical Persons Gender related Development Index Gender Empowerment Measure 1990 M NA 57 NA NA NA F 1995 M F 2000 M F 2005 M 2007-08 F M NA 29 NA NA NA 60. 4 60. 3 63. 3 62. 5 65. 0 61. 8 65. 3 62. 3 35. 2 63. 7 43. 5 67. 1 47. 8 73. 4 47. 8 73. 4 45. 8 63. 8 46. 0 61. 0 56. 0 64. 0 60. 0 68. 0 7. 3 92. 7 8. 9 91. 1 9. 3 NA 90. 7 NA 9. 8 NA 90. 2 NA 20. 5 79. 5 20. 5 79. 5 NA NA 0. 401 (R-99) 0. 226 (R- 101) Source: UNDP 0. 545 (R-108) NA 0. 586 (R-98) NA 0. 600 (R-113) NA

UNDP in its various Human Development Reports since 1990 till 2007-08 have placed India at a very low level of development regarding the position of women in terms of various indicators such as adult literacy, gross enrolment, share of seats in parliament and the professional and technical positions held by them (as shown in the box above). Though data are not provided for GEM indicator after 1995, GDI values reveals that women are consistently lagging behind. India has been placed in the 113th rank with a GDI value of 0. 600 as against a rank of 89 with GDI value of 0. 753 in case of Sri Lanka (UNDP, 2007-08).

The rank of India has also gone down from 99 in 1995 to 113 in 2007-08 and has been fluctuating from year to year National Human Development Report (G. O. I, 2002) brought out information on indices on GDI and GEM. GDI showed marginal improvement during the eighties. GEI increased from 62 per cent in the early eighties to 67. 6 per cent in the early nineties. This implies that on an average the attainments of women on human development indicators were only two-thirds of those of men. At the State level, gender equality was the highest for Kerala followed by Manipur, Meghalaya, 9 Himachal Pradesh and Nagaland in the eighties.

Goa and the Union Territories, except for Delhi, had gender equality higher than the national level. In the nineties, Himachal Pradesh had the highest equality, whereas Bihar was at the bottom and witnessed a decline in absolute terms over the earlier period. In general, women were better off in the Southern India than in the Indo-Gangetic plains comprising mainly the States of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. States like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in the south and Haryana and Jammu & Kashmir in the north made considerable progress in improving the status of women vis-a-vis men on the human development indicators.

States that did well in improving their female literacy levels are also the ones that substantially improved their gender equality. On the whole, gender disparities across the States declined over the period. NFHS-III (G. O. I. , 2005-06) collected information on large number of indicators of women empowerment such as relative earnings of wives over their husbands’, control over the use of these earnings, participation in household decision making, freedom of movement, gender role attitude, freedom from domestic violence, etc.

Data on some of these indicators of women empowerment are examined and findings are presented in the following paragraphs. Decision Making Power Decision making power of women in households is one of the important indicators of women empowerment. It is found that only 37 per cent of currently married women participate in making decisions either alone or jointly with their husband on their health care, large household purchases, purchases for daily household needs and on visiting their family members and relatives (Table 1).

Forty three per cent participate in some but not all decisions and 21 per cent do not participate in any of the decision. As high as in 32. 4 per cent cases the decision regarding the purchase of daily household needs is taken mainly by the respondents whereas the decisions like visit to her relatives are in most cases taken alone by husbands or jointly. Decision like major household purchases is taken jointly in most of the cases. A very less number of women alone take this type of decision. About 27 per cent of total respondents take their own health care decision alone. 10

Women’s participation rate on household decision making not only varies from rural to urban areas but also gets affected by their background characteristics like age, educational status, husband’s education, employment status etc (Table 2). Urban married women are observed to be more empowered than that of the rural women. Empowerment of women increases with the increase in their age. Women who are more educated and employed are relatively more empowered. About 46 per cent of total women in the age group 40-49 years participate in all the four decisions compared to 15 per cent belonging to the age group 15-19 years.

With higher spousal educational status women’s participation in decision making increases. About 21 per cent of women with no spousal education do not take part in any decision making at all as compared to 17 per cent of women with spousal education of 12 years or more. Employment also provides an advantage to women regarding their ability to decision making power. Employed women are more likely to participate in all decision makings. In urban setting and in nuclear type of family, women have more autonomy in household decision making. Freedom of Movement Free mobility of women is another indicator of women empowerment.

The data reveals that about half of women are allowed to go to the market or to the health facility alone (Table 3). Only 38 per cent are allowed to travel alone to places outside the village or community. While not all women are allowed to go to these places alone, only a minority are not allowed to go at all. Compared to urban women, rural women have less mobility. Women’s mobility is also affected by their background characteristics like age, education, marital status, type of family etc. Table 4 reveals that freedom of movement increases with age though it does not vary linearly with education.

Seventy per cent of the women of the highest education group are allowed to go alone to the market as against 49 per cent of women with no education. Employment is associated with greater freedom of movement. Only one in five never married women go to all of the three places compared with about one in three currently married women and two in three formerly married women. Nuclear residence and urban setting are also associated with greater freedom of movement. 11 Women of urban areas are freer than that of the rural women. Similarly as high as 37 per cent of women of nucleus families are freer regarding their movement as compared to 29. per cent in case of the non-nucleus families. Acceptance of Unequal Gender Role Women’s protest against unequal gender role in terms of their attitude towards preferences for son, wife beating etc. is another indicator of women empowerment. The data presented in Table 5 reveal that 54 per cent of women in India believe wife beating to be justified for any of the specific reasons. Similarly 35 per cent women believe it to be justified if they neglect their house or children. However, agreement with wife beating does not vary much by women’s age and household structure, but decline sharply with education.

It is to be noted that even among the most educated women, at least one in three agrees with one or more justifications for wife beating. In rural areas women are generally more agreeable to wife beating than in urban areas. Agreement is lower among never married women as compared to ever married women. Access to Education Women’s access to education which is one of the important sources of empowerment can be measured by gender gap in literacy rates and enrolment in different stages of school education. The literacy gap between men and women was as high as 21. 7 per cent in 2001 (Table 6).

Though the gap was fluctuating from 18. 3 per cent in 1951 to 23. 9 per cent in 1971, it has been showing a marginal declining trend since 1981. Table 7 shows enrolment by stages from 1951 to 2001-02. It is clear that participation of girls at all stages of education has been steadily increasing over time. However, the overall performance of participation has not been satisfactory as it had been below 50 per cent at all stages of education Access to Employment Table 8 shows the employment and cash earnings of currently married men and women. Data reveal that only 43 per cent of women in the age group of 15-49 2 years are employed as against 99 per cent of men in the same age group. It also reveals that gender inequality exist in the arena of employment. As compared to 51% women employed for cash only, the corresponding figure for that of the males is as high as 72. 5%. Similarly a very few males are employed for kind only (3. 4%) as compared to females engaged for kind (11. 6%). Twenty four per cent women are not paid at all for their work whereas this proportion is as low as 5% for men. For women earning cash is not likely to be a sufficient condition for financial empowerment.

Employment and cash earnings are more likely to empower women if women make decisions about their own earnings alone or jointly with their husband rather than their husband alone and if these earnings are perceived by both wives and husbands to be significant relative to those of the husbands. Table 9 in this connection shows the extent of women’s control over earnings on the basis of background characteristics like age, education, place of residence, household structure etc. It is seen that women’s control over cash earnings increases with age. In the age group 15 19 years only 17. per cent women alone take decision about the use of their cash earnings as compared to 28. 3 per cent in the age group 40-49 years. Similarly husband mainly takes such decision in case of 20 per cent women in the age group 15-19 years in comparison to 12. 7 per cent in the age group 40-49 years. Influence of other person in making such decision decreases with the increase in age of respondents. It varies from 18. 6 per cent in the age group 15-19 years to as low as 0. 4 per cent in 40-49 age groups. Place of residence also affects women’s control over their cash earnings.

Generally women in urban areas have more control over their earnings than that in rural areas. About thirty three per cent take decision alone about the use of their own earnings in urban areas as compared to 21 per cent in rural areas Education is one of the important factors that affects greatly in women’s control over earnings. About 23 per cent women with no education have more control over their earnings whereas it is 28. 6 per cent in case of women completed 12 or more years of education. Other persons’ influence on the decision about the use of earnings reduces significantly with education. It is as high as 8. 3 percent in the case of 3 respondent with no education as compared to 4. 9 per cent respondent with secondary level education. Household structure has an important role to play in affecting women’s financial empowerment. In non nuclear family structure, influence of others is more in making such decision. In case of 6. 4 per cent women in non nuclear family, the decision about the use of their own cash earnings are taken by others as compared to 0. 6 per cent women in nuclear family. Exposure to Media Table 10 which presents data on women’s exposure to media reveals that percentage of women not exposed to media is more than double that of men.

About 71 per cent of women are exposed to media as compared to 88 per cent in case of men. Twenty nine per cent of women do not have access to media regularly. Since it is an important source of empowerment, greater proportion of women without having access to media reflects the relatively disadvantageous position of women in relation to men with regards to empowerment. Domestic Violence Table 11 shows percentage of women who have experienced different forms and combinations of physical and sexual violence according to selected background characteristics.

It is observed that extent of violence is not lessened by age. In the age group of 15-19 years, 22. 5 per cent women experienced physical or sexual violence in India as compared to 39 per cent in the age group 40-49 years. Both types of violence are higher for ever married women than for never married women. Almost 40 per cent ever married women experienced physical or sexual violence as against 16. 9 per cent never married women. Extent of domestic violence is higher in rural areas as compared to urban areas.

About thirty eight per cent women in rural area faced either physical or sexual violence as compared to about 29 percent women in urban areas. Political Participation Women’s political participation is one of the important issues in the context of empowerment. In conventional analysis it means activities related to electoral politics 14 like voting, campaigning, holding party office and contesting election. But in broader sense it encompasses all voluntary actions intended to influence the making of public policies, the administration of public affairs and the choice of political leaders at all levels of government.

Political interventions by women of India today range from movement for peace and good governance to protest against dowry, rape, domestic violence, food adulteration, price rise etc. [Desai et at, 2007]. However in this section we discuss participation of women in formal politics by analyzing the indicators like women voters and women elected members in the first twelve general elections in India. The following Table 2. 12 shows the voting percentage of men and women in the first twelve elections of independent India. In the very first election the percentage of women voter was significantly low (37%).

Many women were left out as their names were not properly registered. The gender gap in voting though has been narrowing gradually significant gap between male and female voters still exists. Elected Women Members Many factors are responsible and decisive in the election of women candidates such as literacy, financial position, liberal family background, support of other members of the family, strong personality etc. Since most of the women lack access to these, few women get tickets and even fewer get elected from this handful of women candidates. Table 2. 13 shows the elected women Members in Lok Sabha.

From the table it is clear that percentage of women members to the total members has been consistently less than 10 per cent in each Lok Sabha starting from 1st to 12th one. This shows poor participation of women in political field. Thus it can be concluded with information provided by NFHS – III and others that women of India are disempowered relative to men in respect of decision making power, freedom of movement, education, employment, exposure to media, political participation etc and face domestic violence to a considerable degree and occupy the subordinate status both at home and in the society even in the 21 st century. 5 Constraints to Women Empowerment There are several constraints that check the process of women empowerment in India. Social norms and family structures in developing countries like India, manifests and perpetuate the subordinate status of women. One of such norms is the continuing preference for a son over the birth of a girl child, which is present in almost all societies and communities. The hold of this preference has strengthened rather than weakened and its most glaring evidence is in the falling sex ratio (Seth, 2004).

The society is more biased in favor of male child in respect of education, nutrition and other opportunities. The root cause of this type of attitude lies in the belief that male child inherits the clan in India with an exception in Meghalaya. Women often internalize the traditional concept of their role as natural, thus inflicting an injustice upon them. Poverty is the reality of life for the vast majority of women in India. It is another factor that poses challenge in realizing women’s empowerment.

In a poor family, girls are the main victims; they are malnourished and are denied the opportunity of better education and other facilities. But if they are financially independent or they have greater control over the resources then they exhibit greater autonomy both in the household and in public sphere and are no longer victims of poverty. Lack of awareness about legal and constitutional provisions and failure in realizing it, is another factor that hinders the process of empowerment. Most of the women are not aware of their legal rights. Even women who are aware lack the courage to take the legal step.

The legislation which affects women most is their situation in marriage and inheritance. As far as the rights of inheritance are concerned, women generally do not try to inherit land left by their parents if brothers are alive (Seth, 2005). The traditional belief that land should not go outside the patriarchal family operates. The provision of Act like (1) Child Marriage Resistance Act, 1930, (2) The Suppression of Immoral Trafficking of Women Act, 1987 and (3) The Indecent Exposure of Women Act, have not led to the suppression of practice indicated in them.

Of these three, the first one is by and large successful in restraining child marriage. The legislation almost failed in case of immoral trafficking and indecent exposure to 16 women. There are numerous incidence of indecent exposure of women in all forms of media with hardly any prosecution. Although the legal rights are in place to create an enabling atmosphere these have not been very successful in realizing women’s empowerment. Summery and Findings Various indicators of women empowerment are analyzed using the data from various sources while discussing women’s present status in India.

The main emphasis is given to the indicators like women’s household decision making power, financial autonomy, freedom of movement, women’s acceptance of unequal gender roles, exposure to media, access to education, women’s experience of domestic violence etc. Women’s political participation is also analyzed by using indicators like percentage of women voters and women MPs. After analyzing the data it is found that household decision making power and freedom of movement of women vary considerably with age, education and employment. Freedom of movement of widow or divorcee is more than ever married or never married women.

Similarly it is found that in the society the acceptance of unequal gender norms by women themselves are still prevailing. More than half of the women believe that wife beating is justified for any of the specific reasons like not cooking properly, not taking proper care of household and children, refuge to have sex with husband, showing disrespect to in-laws etc. However, this attitude is not varying much with age or household structure but decline sharply with education and places of residence. While studying women’s access to education and employment it is found that gender gap exist in both the situations.

A large gender gap in literacy exists and participation of girls at all stages of education is below 50%. Similarly less than 50% of women are employed and a significant portion of them are not paid for their work. However, having access to employment does not mean that women have full control over their earnings. Fewer women have final say on how to spend their earnings. Control over cash earnings increases with age and with place of residence in urban areas and education, but not vary significantly with household structure. Women’s exposure to media is also less relative to men.

Women’s experience of domestic violence shows that violence is not lessened by age. Rural women are more prone to domestic violence than urban women. Regarding women’s 17 political participation it is found that large gender gap exists in voting and less than ten per cent of total member in Lok Sabha are Women. This is because most of the women lack desired level of financial autonomy, literacy, strong personality, own decision making capacity, family support etc. Thus we see that these mutually interdependent factors reinforce each other and put women in a disadvantageous position relative to men.

Various constraints in achieving the desired level of empowerment are also identified. Important among them are poverty, social norms and family structure, lack of awareness about legal and constitutional provision etc. Generally speaking the women of India are relatively disempowered and they enjoy somewhat lower status than that of men. In spite of so many efforts undertaken by government and NGOs the picture at present is not satisfactory. Mere access to education and employment can only help in the process of empowerment.

These are the tools or the enabling factors through which the process gets speeded up. However, achievement towards this goal depends more on attitude. Unless the attitude towards the acceptance of unequal gender role by the society and even the women themselves changed women can not grab the opportunity provided to them through constitutional provision, law etc. Till then we can not say that women are empowered in India in its real sense. 18 References ? Anand, S. and A. Sen (1995): “Gender inequality in Human Development: Theories and Measurement”, in Fukuda Parr and A. K.

Shiv Kumar (eds. ) Readings in Human Development, OUP, New Delhi. Bardhan, K. and K. Stephan (1999): “UNDP’s Gender Related Indices: A Critical Review”, World Development, Vol. 27, No. 6. Barkat, A. (2008): “Women empowerment: A key to Human Development. , http://www. goodgovernance. org visited on 20th April 2008 at 4. 30p. m. Blumberg, R. L. (2005): “Women’s Economic Empowerment as the Magic Potion of Development? ” Paper presented at the 100th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Philadelphia Census of India (2001): Govt. of India, New Delhi. Chattopadhyay, R. nd E. Duflo (2001): “Women’s Leadership and Policy Decisions: Evidence from a Nationwide Randomized Experiment in India”, Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta and Department of Economics ,MIT, and NBER Desai, N. and U. Thakkar (2007): “Women and Political Participation in India”; Women in Indian Society, New Delhi, National Book Trust. Figueras, I. C. (2008): “Women in Politics: Evidence from the Indian States”, Department of Economics, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. G. O. I. (2000): National Population Policy, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, New Delhi. G. O. I. 2001): Census Report, Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, New Delhi. G. O. I. (2002): National Human Development Report, 2001, Planning Commission. G. O. I. (2005-06): National Family Health Survey – III, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, New Delhi. Govt. of Assam (2003): “Women: Striving in an Unequal World” in Assam Human Development Report, 2003. http://planassam. org/report/hdr2003/ HDR. html. Visited on 20th February, 2008, at 5pm. IFUW (2001): “Empowering Women”, http://www. ifuw. org/saap2001/ empowerment. htm. Visited on 10th February 2008 at 10 a. m. Karat, B. 2005): Survival and Emancipation: Notes from Indian Women’s Struggles, Three Essays Collective, Haryana Kishor, S. and K. Gupta (2004): “Women’s Empowerment in India and Its States: Evidence from the NFHS”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XXXIX, No. 7. Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Centre (2000): Human Development in South Asia 2000: The Gender Question, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Mahanta, A. (ed. ) (2002): Human Rights and Women of North East India, Centre for Women’s Studies, Dibrugarh University, Dibrugarh. ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? 19 ? Malhotra, A. , S. R. Schuler and C.

Boender (2002): “Measuring Women’s Empowerment as a Variable in International Development” Unpublished Paper for the World Bank. www. unicef. org/pubsgen/humanrights-children/index. html. Visited on 11th January, 2008, at 5 p. m. Mathew, G. (2003): Keynote address in the workshop on “A Decade of Women’s Empowerment through Local Governance” organized jointly by Institute of Social Sciences and South Asia Partnership, Canada sponsored by International Development Research Centre. Moser, Caroline O. (1993): Gender Planning and Development: Theory Practice and Training, available from Women, Ink. ? ? Narayan, D. (2007): Empowerment: A Missing Dimension of Human Development, Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) Conference, Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford. Panda, P. and B. Agarwal (2005): “Marital Violence, Human Development and Women’s Property Status in India”, World Development, Vol. 33, No. 5. Parasar, S. (2004): “A Multidimensional Approach to Women’s Empowerment and its Links to the Nutritional Status and Immunization of Children in India”. http://www. allacademic. com/meta/p109193index. html. Visited on 15th February, 2008 at 1 p. m.

Pillarisetti and Gillivray (1998): “Human Development and Gender Empowerment: Methodological and Measurement Issue” Development Policy Review, Vol. 16. Ranis, G. and F. Stewart (2005): “Dynamic Links between the Economy and Human Development”, DESA Working Paper No. 8. http://www. un. org/esa/desa/papers. Visited on 25th December, 2007 at 5 p. m. Sen and Batliwala (2000): “Empowering Women for Reproductive Rights”, in H. B. Presser and G. Sen (eds. ) Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Processes: Moving beyond Cairo, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 15-36.

Seth, Meera (2004): “Women and Development- The Indian Experience”, Sage Publication, New Delhi. Shields, Lourene E. (1995): “Women’s Experiences of the Meaning of Empowerment” Qualitative Health Research, Vol. 5, No. 1. Sridevi, T. O. (2005): “Empowerment of Women-A Systematic Analysis” IDF Discussion Paper. U. N. D. P. (1990, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2007-08): Human Development Report. World Economic Forum (2005): Women’s Empowerment: Measuring the Global Gender Gap. http:/in. rediff. com/money/2005/may/17wef. htm. Visited on 20th January, 2008 at 9. 30 a. m. ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? 20

Table – 1 Married Women’s Participation in Decision making, 2005-06 (Figures in per cent) Decision on/Decision by Mainly Wife Mainly Husband Urban Own Health Care Major household purchases Purchases of daily household needs Visits to her family &Relatives Own Health Care Major household purchases Purchases of daily household needs Visits to her family &Relatives Own Health Care Major household purchases Purchases of daily household needs Visits to her family &Relatives 29. 7 10. 4 39. 9 12. 2 26. 0 7. 6 29. 1 10. 0 27. 1 8. 5 32. 4 10. 7 39. 1 51. 5 28. 9 57. 3 Rural 33. 4 41. 2 27. 1 46. Total 35. 1 44. 4 27. 7 49. 8 30. 1 32. 2 24. 7 26. 8 6. 3 12. 0 12. 3 10. 4 1. 3 2. 8 2. 8 2. 2 0. 1 0. 1 0. 1 0. 1 31. 7 34. 6 26. 9 28. 9 7. 6 13. 5 13. 9 12. 1 1. 3 2. 9 2. 9 2. 9 0. 1 0. 1 0. 1 0. 1 26. 5 26. 8 19. 8 22. 0 3. 5 8. 7 8. 8 6. 6 1. 1 2. 5 2. 5 1. 8 0. 1 0. 1 0. 1 0. 1 Husband and Wife jointly Some one Else Other Missing Source: NFHS-3 21 Table – 2 Factors Affecting Women’s Participation in Decision making, 2005-06 (Figures in per cent) Background characteristics Own health care Making major househol d Purchase s 25. 1 39. 2 50. 7 60. 7 63. 6 61. 9 48. 9 51. 5 51. 4 50. 6 52. 56. 3 62. 6 53. 0 52. 3 52. 2 50. 1 51. 3 57. 3 55. 3 61. 0 45. 1 51. 1 62. 2 43. 0 Making purchase s for daily househol d needs 29. 1 44. 6 58. 7 6. 8 71. 2 68. 8 56. 2 59. 5 60. 1 58. 4 58. 3 61. 6 66. 3 61. 5 60. 5 60. 3 56. 8 58. 0 60. 2 63. 7 69. 5 53. 2 57. 4 70. 4 49. 2 Visits to her family or relative per cent who participat e in all four decisions 15. 1 25. 2 34. 3 42. 8 46. 3 45. 0 33. 0 34. 9 35. 2 35. 7 36. 2 40. 5 46. 1 36. 6 35. 7 36. 5 33. 7 36. 1 40. 6 38. 8 44. 3 29. 0 35. 1 44. 3 28. 7 per cent who particip ate in none 46. 1 31. 1 20. 4 14. 1 12. 8 13. 9 23. 4 22. 7 20. 21. 7 19. 7 16. 8 12. 1 21. 3 20. 3 20. 8 21. 8 21. 3 17. 3 19. 0 15. 0 26. 1 21. 6 13. 6 27. 7 Numbe r of women Age 15-19 20-24 25-29 30-39 40-49 Urban 40. 4 52. 5 62. 2 67. 7 69. 3 68. 8 59. 3 59. 4 61. 2 61. 0 63. 6 67. 2 73. 1 61. 6 61. 1 62. 0 59. 5 62. 5 66. 2 63. 0 67. 7 54. 6 61. 7 67. 7 56. 4 33. 5 47. 5 58. 9 67. 1 71. 6 69. 5 56. 5 57. 5 60. 4 59. 8 60. 7 65. 9 71. 6 59. 1 60. 9 59. 7 58. 3 60. 2 65. 2 69. 2 68. 0 53. 7 58. 7 68. 7 68. 7 6726 16782 18540 30952 20089 28604 64485 43931 7776 14018 10735 7704 8921 24918 8366 14793 14615 13144 17100 39835 25601 14234 53225 47851 45238

Residence Rural No education Less than 5 yrs 5-7 yrs 8-9 yrs 10-11yrs 12 or more yrs Education Husband ’s education No education Less than 5 yrs 5-7 yrs 8-9 yrs 10-11yrs 12 or more yrs Employed Employed for cash Employed not for cash Not employed Employment Household structure Nuclear Non nuclear Source: NFHS – 3 22 Table – 3 Freedom of Movement of Married Women in India, 2005-06 (Figures in per cent) Places Alone Urban 66. 2 60. 3 45. 5 Rural 44. 3 41. 5 34. 0 Total 51. 4 47. 7 37. 7 With somebody else 26. 8 36. 2 48. 0 40. 4 53. 0 56. 6 35. 9 47. 5 53. Not at all Total To the market To health facilities To outside the village/community To the market To health facilities To outside the village/community To the market To health facilities To outside the village/community 7. 0 3. 5 6. 6 15. 3 5. 5 9. 4 12. 6 4. 8 8. 5 100. 00 100. 00 100. 00 100. 00 100. 00 100. 00 100. 00 100. 00 100. 00 Source- NFHS- 3 Table – 4 Factors Affecting Freedom of Movement of Married Women, 2005-06 Percentage allowed to go alone to Market Background Characteristics 15-19 20-24 25-29 30-39 40-49 Urban Rural No education

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