What is empowerment for women?
The last decades have witnessed some basic changes in the status and role of women in our society. There has been shift in policy approaches from the concept of 'welfare' and 'development' to 'empowerment' of women. The most common explanation of 'women's empowerment' is the ability to exercise full control over one's actions. Are women free to take her own decisions?
Present status of women
The Constitution of India grants equality to women in different fields of life. Yet a large number of women are either ill outfitted or not in a position to drive themselves out of their usually unsatisfactory socio-economic conditions. They are poor, uneducated and inadequately trained. They are often absorbed in the struggle to sustain the family physically and emotionally and as a rule are discouraged from taking interest in affairs outside home. Oppression and atrocities on women are still out of control. Female infanticide continues to be common. Statistics show that there is still a very high preference for a male child in states like Harayana, UP, MP, Punjab , Bihar and Rajsthan etc. The male to female ratio is very high in these states. Domestic violence is also widespread and is also associated with dowry. Leaving a meager number of urban and sub-urban women, Indian women are still crying for social justice. Women make up 5o% of our country's population. Hence there can be no progress unless their needs and interests are fully met. Empowerment would not hold any meaning unless they are made strong, alert and aware of their equal status in the society. Policies should be framed to bring them into the mainstream of society. It is important to educate the women. The need of the hour is to improve female literacy as education holds the key to development. Empowerment would become more relevant if women are educated, better informed and can take rational decisions. It is also necessary to sensitize the other sex towards women. A woman needs to be physically healthy so that she is able to take challenges of equality. But it is sadly lacking in a majority of women especially in the rural areas.
What actual achieved
In recent years there have been explicit moves to increase women's political participation. In the Panchayati Raj system, however, women have been given representation as a sign of political empowerment. There are many elected women representatives at the village council level. However their power is restricted, as it the men who wield all the authority. It is crucial to train and give real power to these women leaders so that they can catalyst change in their villages regarding women. All this shows that the process of gender equality and women's empowerment still has a long way to go. The reservation of 33 % seat in indian parliament for women will definitely empower the women in society in Social and economic factors.
The Women's Reservation Bill has been a political raw nerve for nearly a decade now. It has always triggered heated debates in Parliament and outside. Its advocates say the Bill is essential for active political participation of women. Opponents argue that reservation would only help women of elitist groups gain political power, aggravating the plight of the poor and deprived sections.
How did the Women's Reservation Bill originate?
The proposed legislation to reserve 33.3 percent seats in Parliament and state legislatures for women was drafted first by the H D Deve Gowda-led United Front government. The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on September 12, 1996. Though it has been introduced in Parliament several times since then, the Bill could not be passed because of lack of political consensus.
What does the Bill provide?
Reservation for women at each level of legislative decision-making, starting with the Lok Sabha,...