The main objective behind this article is neither to favour the
prevalence of feminism nor to be criticizing about the chauvinism. The focal
point of this article is to promote equality. In Today’s scenario the
empowerment of women has become one of the most important concerns of 21st
But practically women empowerment is still an illusion of reality. We
observe in our day to day life how women become victimized by various social
evils. Women Empowerment is the vital instrument to expand women’s ability to
have resources and to make strategic life choices. Empowerment of women is
essentially the process of upliftment of economic, social and political status
of women, the traditionally underprivileged ones, in the society. It is the
process of guarding them against all forms of violence. Women empowerment is
giving legitimate power or authority to perform the tasks.
People of India used to say this country as Bharat-Mata however never realized
the true meaning of it. Bharat-Mata means a mother of every Indian whom we have
to save and respect. Women population is around 50% of the total population of
the world. Reflecting into the Vedas Purana of Indian culture, women is being
worshiped such as LAXMI MAA, goddess of wealth; SARSWATI MAA, for wisdom; DURGA
MAA for power.
Now-a-days, women are increasingly gaining control over their
lives and are actively taking their own decisions with regard to their
education, career, profession and lifestyle. Women have demanded equality with
men in matters of education, employment, inheritance, marriage, and politics and
recently in the field of religion also to serve as priest. Also, women need to
be given equal opportunities for education and employment without any sense of
What Is Women Empowerment?
Women empowerment implies the ability in women to take decisions with regard to
their life and work and giving equal rights to them in all spheres like:
personal, social, economic, political, legal and so on. We are living in an age
of women empowerment where Women are working shoulder to shoulder with men. A
woman also manages to balance between their commitment to their profession as
well as their home and family. They are playing multiple roles - at home as a
mother, daughter, sister, and wife and at working place as professionals with
remarkable simplicity and compatibility.
Women empowerment is essential for the
betterment of any country’s future as they play dual responsibilities of
managing their families while simultaneously juggling to earn to contribute in
fulfilling their family needs. No one can ever ignore the importance of the role
of a mother, sister, or a daughter in their families. At the same time, women
have also established themselves as equal contributors in managing the financial
requirements of their homes. On international level as well, women have
successfully created their unbeatable position, but they are just a handful in
comparison to their counterparts.
- Women empowerment is not limited to urban and even women in remote towns
and villages are now increasingly making their voices heard loud and clear
in society. While it is true that women, to a large extent, do not face
discrimination in society today, unfortunately, many of them face
exploitation and harassment which can be of diverse types: emotional,
physical, mental and sexual. They are often subjected to rape, abuse and
other forms of physical and intellectual violence.
- Women are now claiming the socio-political rights (right to work, right
to education, right to decide, etc) for them. The Parliament of India too
has passed various legislations to save women from various forms of
injustice and discrimination. To empower women there are some following laws
: Equal Remuneration Act-1976; Dowry Prohibition Act-1961; Immoral Traffic
(Prevention) Act-1956, Medical termination of Pregnancy Act-1971; Maternity
Benefit Act-1961; Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act-1987; Prohibition of
Child Marriage Act-2006; Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques
(Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act-1994; and Sexual Harassment of
Women at Work Place (Prevention, Protection and) Act-2013.
- More recently, in the wake of Nirbhaya case involving the rape and brutal
murder of paramedical student in Delhi, the government has passed the Juvenile
Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015. This Act makes a
significant departure from the earlier Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of
Children) Act, 2000, as the juvenile age inviting punishment for offence now
stands reduced from 18 to 16 years.
- The most famous pearl of wisdom said by the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is To
awaken the people, it is the women who must be awakened. Once she is on the
move, the family moves, the village moves, the nation moves. In India, to
empower the women, first it needs to kill all the demons killing women’s rights
and values in the society such as dowry system, illiteracy, sexual harassment,
inequality, female infanticide and domestic violence against women, rape,
prostitution, illegal trafficking and other issues. Gender discrimination in the
nation brings cultural, social, economic and educational differences which push
country back. The most effective remedy to kill such devils is making women
empowered by ensuring the Right to Equality mentioned in the Article 14,
Constitution of India.
- According to the provisions of the Constitution of India, it is a legal
point to grant equality to women in the society in all spheres just like
males have. The Women are given a top place in India from the ancient time
however they were not given empowerment to participate in all areas. They
need to be strong, aware and alert every moment for their growth and
development. Empowering women is the main motto of the development
department because an empowered mother with child makes the bright future of
Position And Status of Women
The position and status of women all over the world has risen extraordinarily in
the 20th century. We find that it has been very low in past centuries in India
and hence they were treated like ‘objects’ that can be bought and sold. For a
long time women in India remained within the four walls of their household. They
totally depend on menfolk.
In India, the customs of purdha (veil system), female infanticide, child
marriage, sati system (self-immolation by the women with their husbands), dowry
system and the state of permanent widowhood were totally removed.
It would help the innumerable women in the country who get neglected by their
husbands and have no means of proving their marital status. It would also help
check child marriages, bigamy and polygamy, enable women to seek maintenance and
custody of their children and widows can claim inheritance rights. The Act is
applicable on all women irrespective of caste, creed or religion. It truly helps
to empower Indian women to exercise their rights.
Benefits of Women Empowerment:
Women empowerment raises confidence of women in their ability to lead meaningful
and purposeful lives. It eliminates their dependence on others and makes them
individuals in their own right. They are able to lead their lives with dignity
and freedom which increase their self esteem and give them a unique identity.
They are able to gain recognition and form a meaningful contribution to the
well-being of society.
Women act as capable citizens to make the country achieve and boost Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) growth as they are financially independent they are able
to spend on all their needs and desires and they also get fair and equitable
access to resources of the country.
Necessity of Women’s Empowerment
Without women’s empowerment, we cannot remove injustice and gender bias and
inequalities. If women are not empowered, they deprived from enjoying security
and protection in life. It also provides them a secure working environment.
Empowerment acts as a powerful tool against exploitation and harassment of
women. It is a great means to get adequate legal protection for women.
If not socially and economically empowered, women cannot blossom their own
identity in society and if they are not employed, the global economy will be
adversely affected as women constitute a large extent of the world’s population.
As women are highly creative and intelligent this makes it mandatory to receive
their contributions in socio-economic activities. For a just and progressive
society, women need to be provided equal opportunities for work.
The challenges/ barriers of women empowerment are the following:
Because of the inherent dominance among the males, they often don’t allow their
female counter-part to rise as high as them. Women are bound to high level of
domestic responsibilities and they are also restricted to participate in social,
economic and religious activities. In our society, preference for male-child
still exist and priority for education and healthy diet given to the boy child
over girl child.
To overcome barriers
Education through mass communication is very important. Both women and men
should have aware of their responsibilities for promoting and practicing
Accumulate national data and identify the areas where occurrence of violence and
gender-inequality is on peak. This data can be used by the Government, NGOs and
field workers to increase the status of women.
The society should be made aware that both boy-child and girl-child are equally
treated, and they both should have equal access to available resources.
A person may be said as powerful, when he/she may have the right of particular
things and also have control on a large particular portion of power resources
such as knowledge, education, social status, capabilities of mobilization,
personal wealth, leadership training, etc.
Summit on women empowerment
The summit called Woman up! Organized by Siyahi, a literary agency commence in
Financial independence for women is not just about being a part of the
workforce. For women to be truly financially independent, it is extremely
imperative for men to be active allies and equitable partners in taking up the
responsibility of domestic and familiar affairs.
The Woman Up! Summit will reflect on such crucial yet often overlooked subjects
in the advancement of gender equality. Another theme that will be dwelt upon is
the need for science and entrepreneurship to work together as engines of
societal change. With several sessions in Hindi, the bilingual nature of the
summit makes it an inclusive platform for people from all walks of life to learn
and be inspired, Mita Kapur, Founder, curator and producer of Woman Up! Summit said.
In case of C.B. Muthumma v. Union of India
(1979) 4 SCC 260)44, a writ petition
was filed by Ms Muthamma, a senior member of the Indian Foreign Service,
complaining that she had been denied promotion to Grade I illegally and
unconstitutionally. She pointed out that several rules of the civil service were
discriminatory against women. At the very threshold she was advised by the
Chairman of the UPSC against joining the Foreign Service. At the time of joining
she was required to give an undertaking that if she married she would resign
Under Rule 18 of the Indian Foreign Service (Recruitment, Cadre,
Seniority and Promotion) Rules, 1961, it was provided that no married woman
shall be entitled as of right to be appointed to the service. Under Rule 8(2) of
the Indian Foreign Service (Conduct and Discipline) Rules, 1961, a woman member
of the service was required to obtain permission of the Government in writing
before her marriage was solemnised.
At any time after the marriage she could be
required to resign if the Government was confirmed that her family and domestic
commitments were likely to come in the way of the due and efficient discharge of
her duties as a member of the service. On numerous occasions the petitioner had
to face the consequences of being a woman and thus suffered discrimination,
though the Constitution specifically under Article 15 prohibits discrimination
on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth and Article 14
provides the principle of equality before law.
In case of Air India v. Nargesh Meerza
((1981) 4 SCC 335)45, Nargesh Meerza
filed a writ petition, In this case, the air-hostesses of the Air-India
International Corporation had approached the Supreme Court against, again,
discriminatory service conditions in the Regulations of Air-India. The
Regulations provided that an air-hostess could not get married before completing
four-years of service. Usually an air-hostess was recruited at the age of 19
years and the four-year bar against marriage meant that an air-hostess could not
get married until she reached the age of 23 years.
If she married earlier, she
had to resign and if after 23 years she got married, she could continue as a
married woman but had to resign on becoming pregnant. If an air hostess survived
both these filters, she continued to serve until she reached the age of 35
years. It was alleged on behalf of the air-hostesses that those provisions were
discriminatory on the ground of sex, as similar provisions did not apply to male
employees doing similar work.
The Supreme Court upheld the first requirement that an air-hostess should not
marry before the completion of four years of service.
The court held that:
was a sound and salutary provision. Apart from improving the health of the
employee it helps a great deal in the promotion and boosting up of our family
However, this argument given by the Court came in for
criticism that as the requirements of age and family planning were warranted by
the population policy of the State and once the State had fixed the age of
marriage, i.e. 18 years, the reasoning advanced for upholding the rule was a
camouflage for the real concern. The Supreme Court struck down the Air-India
Regulations relating to retirement and the pregnancy bar on the services of
Air-hostesses as unconstitutional on the ground that the conditions laid down
therein were entirely unreasonable and arbitrary.
The impugned Regulation 46
provided that an air hostess would retire from the service of the corporation
upon attaining the age of 35 years or on marriage, if it took place within 4
years of service, or on first pregnancy, whichever occurred earlier. Under
Regulation 7, the Managing Director was vested with absolute discretion to
extend the age of retirement prescribed at 45 years. Both these regulations were
struck down as violative of Article 14, which prohibits unreasonableness and
Legal And Constitutional Provisions For Women In India
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 State to
adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. Within the
framework of a democratic polity, our laws, development policies, Plans and
programmes have aimed at women’s advancement in different spheres. Gender
equality includes protection from sexual harassment and right to work with
dignity which is a universally recognized basic human right.
A. Legal Provisions
To uphold the Constitutional mandate, the State has enacted various legislative
measures intended to ensure equal rights, to counter social discrimination and
various forms of violence and atrocities and to provide support services
especially to working women. Although women may be victims of any of the crimes
such as Murder, Robbery, Cheating
etc, the crimes, which are
directed specifically against women, are characterized as Crime against Women
. These are broadly classified under two categories:
(1) The Crimes Identified Under the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
(2) The Crimes identified under the Special Laws (SLL)
- Rape (Sec.376 IPC)
- Kidnapping & Abduction for different purposes ( Sec. 363-373)
- Homicide for Dowry, Dowry Deaths or their attempts (Sec. 302/304-B IPC)
- Torture, both mental and physical (Sec. 498-A IPC)
- Molestation (Sec. 354 IPC)
- Sexual Harassment (Sec. 509 IPC)
- Importation of girls (up to21 years of age)
Although all laws are not gender specific, the provisions of law affecting women
significantly have been reviewed periodically and amendments carried out to keep
pace with the emerging requirements. Some acts which have special provisions to
safeguard women and their interests are:
B. Constitutional Provisions
- The Special Marriage Act, 1954
- The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
- The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (Amended in 1995)
- Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
- The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
- The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
- The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1983
- Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986
- Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987
- The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
The Constitution of India not only grants equality to women but also empowers
the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women for
neutralizing the cumulative socio economic, education and political
disadvantages faced by them. Fundamental Rights, among others, ensure equality
before the law and equal protection of law; prohibits discrimination against any
citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, and
guarantee equality of opportunity to all citizens in matters relating to
employment. Articles 14, 15, 15(3), 16, 39(a), 39(b), 39(c) and 42 of the
Constitution are of special importance in this regard.
C. Special Initiatives For Women
- (Article 14) Equality before law for women.
According to Article 14, The State shall not deny to any person equality
before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of
- (Article 15) Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion,
race, caste, sex or place of birth.
(Article 15(1))The State shall not discrimination against any citizen
on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth or any of them.
(Article 15(3)) The State to make any special provision in favour of
women and children.
- (Article 16) Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
(Article 16(1)) There shall be equality of opportunity for all
citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under
- (Article 19) Freedom Of Speech And Expression
(Article 19(1)(a)) states that, all citizens shall have the right to
freedom of speech and expression.
- ( Article 21) Protection of life and personal liberty.
No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to
procedure established by law.
- (Article 39) Directive Principles of State Policy
(Article 39(a)) The State to direct its policy towards securing for
men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood.
(Article 39(d)) directs the state to secure equal pay for equal work
for both men and women.
- (Article 39 A) To promote justice, on a basis of equal opportunity and
to provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or scheme or in any other
way to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any
citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.
- Article 42 of the Constitution incorporates a very important provision
for the benefit of women. It directs the State to make provision for
securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.
- (Article 51(A) (e)) is related to women. It states that;
It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to promote harmony and the
spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending
religion, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices
derogatory to the dignity of women.
- Article 243 D: Reservation of seats.
(Article 243 D(1)) Seats shall be reserved for –
(a) The Scheduled Castes; and
(b) The Scheduled Tribes,
(Article 243 D(2)) Not less than one-third of the total number of
seats reserved under clause (1) shall be reserved for women belonging to the
Scheduled Castes or, as the case may be, the Scheduled tribes .
(Article 243 D(3)) Not less than one-third (including the number of
seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled
Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every
Panchayat to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to
different constituencies in a Panchayat.
(Article 243 D (4)) Not less than one- third of the total number of
offices of Chairpersons in the Panchayat at each level to be reserved for women.
- Article 243 T: Reservation of seats
(Article 243 T (3)) Not less than one-third (including the number of
seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled
Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every
Municipality to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation
to different constituencies in a Municipality.
(Article 243 T (4)) Reservation of offices of Chairpersons in
Municipalities for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and women in such
manner as the legislature of a State may by law provide.
- National Commission for Women: In January 1992, the Government set-up this
statutory body with a specific mandate to study and monitor all matters relating
to the constitutional and legal safeguards provided for women, review the
existing legislation to suggest amendments wherever necessary, etc.
- Reservation for Women in Local Self-Government: The 73rd Constitutional
Amendment Acts passed in 1992 by Parliament ensure one-third of the total
seats for women in all elected offices in local bodies whether in rural
areas or urban areas.
- The National Plan of Action for the Girl Child (1991-2000): The plan of
Action is to ensure survival, protection and development of the girl child
with the ultimate objective of building up a better future for the girl
- National Policy for the Empowerment of Women, 2001: The Department of
Women & Child Development in the Ministry of Human Resource Development has
prepared a National Policy for the Empowerment of Women in the year 2001.
The goal of this policy is to bring about the advancement, development and
empowerment of women in socio-economic and politico–cultural aspects, by
creating in them awareness on various issues in relation to their
The National Commission for Women has in the last few years introduced several
new bills in the parliament from time to time towards eradication of many social
evils. Some of the significant enactments are mentioned here.
- Beti padao beti bacho yojana
- The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
- The Hindu Widow Re-Marriage Act of 1856: In the traditions at Hindu
society there was a ban on widow remarriage it was one of the most important
evils from which women in the traditional Hindu society suffered a lot. This
act allowed widow to remarry and section 5 of this Act ensured her to enjoy
all the rights, which a married woman did.
- The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929: The practice of child marriage
was another social evil from which women in traditional Hindu society
suffered a lot. Age at marriage for girls was 9 or 10 and after passing this
act the minimum marriageable age of women was fixed to 15 years. Later this
age was increased up to 18 years.
- The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955: This Act has recognized the equal rights
of men and women in the matters of marriage and divorce. Under the provision
of this Act either the man or woman[ii] can present a petition in a
court of law for divorce, wife has got equal right to divorce husband.
The Empowerment of Women has become one of the most important concerns of 21st
century not only at national level but also at the international level. Women
Empowerment helps to make the society and world a better place to live in and
march forward on way to inclusive participation. It means increase happiness for
the family and the organizations where women make a difference. Government
initiatives alone would not be sufficient to achieve this goal. Society must
take initiative to create a climate in which there is no gender discrimination
and women have full opportunities of self decision making and participating in
social, political and economic life of the country with a sense of equality.
Women empowerment will be real and effective only when they are endowed income
and property so that they may stand on their feet and build up their identity in
the society. Let us take the oath that we want an egalitarian society where
everybody whether men or women get the equal opportunity to express and uplift
one’s well being and well being of the society as whole. If we want to bring
about women empowerment in the true sense, there is a crying need for the
elimination of the male superiority and patriarchal mindset. Also, women need to
be given equal opportunities for education and employment without any sense of
- IOSR Journal of Business and Management - A Study on Issues and
Challenges of Women Empowerment in India – By Dr. (Smt.) Rajeshwari M.
- Indiacelebrating.com – Article on Women empowerment- Winds of change
- Times of India- By Mita Kapur, Founder, curator and producer of Woman
- Legal service India-Women empowerment: With Special Reference to
Constitutional Provisions- By aniketsmls
- Constitution of India – Gopal Sankaranarayanan
Written By: Anjali Chandel,
- Times of India- By Mita Kapur, Founder, curator and producer of Woman Up!
Student of 7th semester Mohan Lal
Sukhadiya University College of law.