Orissa Review * January - 2006
Empowerment of Indian Women: A Challenge of 21st Century
Dr. Dasarathi Bhuyan
Women s empowerment is a new phrase in the vocabulary of gender literature. The phrase is used in two broad senses i.e. general and specific. In a general sense, it refers to empowering women to be self-dependent by providing them access to all the freedoms and opportunities, which they were denied in the past only because of their being women . In a specific sense, women empowerment refers to enhancing their position in the power structure of the society . The word women empowerment essentially means that the women have the power or capacity to regulate their day- to- day lives in the social, political and economic terms -a power which enables them to move from the periphery to the centre stage. The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution in its preamble, fundamental rights, fundamental duties and directive principles. The Constitution not only grants equality to women but also empowers the st ate to adopt measures, a position; indiscrimination in favour of women. Within the framework of democratic polity, our laws, developmental policies, plans and programmes are aimed at women s advancement in different spheres. India has also ratified various international conventions to secure rights of women. The women s movement and a widespread network 60
of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) having strong grass-root presence and deep insight into women s concerns have contributed in inspiring initiatives for the empowerment of women. Women today are trying to understand their position in the society. Women have become increasingly aware of sexual inequalities in every sphere of life and are seeking ways to fight them. The Indian women have cast of their ageold shackles of serfdom and male domination. She has come to her own and started scaling the ladders of social advance with proud and dignity. Women of India are now uplifted and emancipated and granted equal status with men in all walks of life-political, social, domestic and educational. They have a franchise, they are free to join any service or follow any profession. Free India has, besides her woman prime minister, women ambassadors, women cabinet ministers, women legislators, women governors, women scientists, engineers-doctors-space researchers-giant IT specialists, women Generals, women public officers, judiciary officers and in many more responsible positions. No distinction is now made in matters of education between boys and girls. Their voice is now as forceful and important as that of men. They are becoming equal partners in making or dismissing of a government.
Orissa Review * January - 2006
Hindu law has been changed and modified. Far-reaching changes have been introduced in the Hindu Marriage Act. Women have been given right to divorce in certain cases. Besides this, the Hindu Succession Act has given to the daughter; the right to the property of her parents. Our Constitution has given equal rights to women. No distinction has been made on the basis of caste, religion or sex. Their rights have thus been safeguarded. Thirdly, three percent reservation for women is apt to be enacted in the future. Women Empowerment- still an illusion of reality: Not-withstanding the remarkable changes in the position of women in free India, there is still a great divergence between the constitutional position and stark reality of deprivation and degradation. Whatever whiff of emancipation has blown in Indian society, has been inhaled and enjoyed by the urban women, their population belonging to the rural areas are still totally untouched by the wind of changes. They still have been living in miserable conditions, steeped in poverty, ignorance, superstition and slavery. There still exists a wide gulf between the goals enunciated in the Constitution, legislations, policies, plans, programmes and related mechanisms on the one hand...
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