Unfortunately, women are suffering from a number of discriminations, inequalities and disabilities, even now in many parts of the world. They do not enjoy an equal status with men. Their opportunities to rise in life are next to nothing. In some countries women are kept in “purdah”. Their position is no better than slaves. They are denied a number of social and political rights in many countries in Asia and Africa.
In ancient India, Aryans had given freedom and equality to their women. Women in Aryan society enjoyed an honourable status. A “Yajna” was considered complete only if both husband and wife participated in it. Women and men studied together. Women could also study religious scriptures like the Vedas. However, in the medieval age, the Hindus apprehended that the invaders might kidnap their women. They therefore, started the “Purdah” system. They also started child marriages.
The women of U.S.A. and other western countries have launched a Women’s Liberation Movement. The women of these countries want parity with men in all matters. Some great women leaders of the modern world are Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, Mrs. Vijay Lakshmi Pandit, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Mrs. Golda Meir, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandarnaike, Mrs. Thatcher, etc.
The women of India have never lagged behind men. Some of the great women were Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, Chand Bibi, Ahilya Bai, Razia Sultana, •etc.
Women in India are coming up in all spheres of life. They are joining the universities and colleges in large numbers. They are entering into all kinds of professions like engineering, medicine, teaching etc.
In fact, the Indian Constitution has bestowed equal rights on women. They enjoy all social, political and economic rights. In India, women have been occupying high offices of President, Prime Minister, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Governors, Chief Ministers, Judges, etc. Mrs. Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India for about 15 years. She held this position till her death in 1984. Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil is the President of India since July 25, 2007. Smt. Meera Kumar is the speaker of India since June 3, 2009. The armed forces’ open its doors for women are also truly revolutionary.
I The National Commission for Women was set up on 31st January, 1992 in pursuance of the National Commission for Women Act, 1990. The functions lassigned to the Commission are wide and varied covering almost all facets of issues relating to safeguarding women’s rights and promotion. The Commission has a Chairman, five members and a Member-Secretary, all nominated by the Central Government. The Commission continues to pursue its mandated activities, namely, review of legislation, intervention in specific individual complaints of atrocities and denial of rights. Remedial action to safeguard the interest of women is suggested to the appropriate authorities.
The Commission lies accorded highest priority to securing speedy justice to women. Towards this end, the Commission is organising Parivarik Mahila LokAdalats, offering tounselling in family disputes and conducting training programmes for creating legal awareness among women.
Women, who number 498.7 million according to the 2001 census, represent 18.2 per cent of the country’s population of 1,027.01 million. The development of women has always been the central focus in development planning since Independence. Though there have been various shifts in policy approaches in the last 50 years from the concept of “welfare” in the 70s, to “development” in the 80s, and now to “empowerment” in the 90s, the Department of Women and Child Development since its inception has been implementing special programmes for holistic development and empowerment of women with major focus to improve the socio-economic status of women.
The year 2001 had also been declared as “Women’s Empowerment Year” to bring a special focus on programmes for them. The main thrust during the year was on launching of new programmes and legislative changes. Some achievements of the year included the presentation of Stree-Shdkti Puraskar to women, formulation of the National Policy for the Empowerment of Women; launching of an Integrated Women’s Empowerment Programme named Swayamsiddha, a Tele-conference between Parliamentarians and grass-root level women, issue of guidelines for operation allocation of district level committees on violence against women, and Help lines for women in distress.
Under the Indian Constitution, for equal work both men and women are eligible for equal wages. Women have also been given an equal share in the property of their father and husband. If the provisions of the Indian Constitution are observed in letter am” spirit, the future of women in India is quite bright.