Women Empowerment # ME TOO Movement

“There is no tool for development more effective than the women empowerment”…it remains the most apt statement to define the role of women. Me too campaign is all about Women speaking up about Sexual harassment.

About:
The Me Too movement (or #MeToo movement), a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault, has quickly spread in India in recent times.

  • Case Study: MeToo Movement
    • The Me Too movement is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault against women especially in their workplace.
    • Recently, it started from America with allegations of sexual misconduct against a former film producer Harvey Weinstein and soon spread to other parts of the world through campaigns such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, #NotOneMore and #BalanceTonPorc.
    • In India too, women in different fields came forward and voiced their grievances against past sexual harassment at workplace.
    • At its peak, this movement shows that people at high profile places have compromised their morality, integrity and work ethics by sexually harassing their female colleagues.

Background:

Women Empowerment globally has taken place through several Waves of Feminism such as:

  • First-wave feminism: It took place in early 20th century (1900s to 1950s), focusing on women’s suffrage, property rights and political candidacy.
  • Second-wave feminism (1960s to 1980s): It focused on reducing inequalities in sex, family, the workplace, reproductive rights and official legal inequalities.
  • Third-wave feminism (1990s to 2008): It focused on embracing individualism and gender diversity.
  • Fourth-wave feminism: From 2008 to present-day, it is focusing on combating sexual harassment, assault and misogyny (for example, MeToo movement).

Women empowerment as a concept was put forward at
Nairobi at the International women Conference in 1985, which defined it as redistribution of social power and control of resources in favour of women.

• According to the ‘Country Report’ of the Government of India at Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995, “Empowerment means moving from a position of enforced powerlessness to one of power.

• Hence, Women Empowerment is an active, multi-dimensional process which could be described as a process in which women gain greater share of control over resources-material, human and intellectual like knowledge, information, ideas, and financial resources like money and control over decision making in the home, community, society and nation, and to ‘gain power’.

Challenges: Factors Inhibiting Women Empowerment:

Security Constraints:

  • Women Security at Workplace: Sexually suggestive remarks or innuendos; serious or repeated offensive remarks; inappropriate questions or remarks about a person’s sex life and unwelcome sexual advances compromises the occupational growth of women.

Social Constraints:

  • Patriarchal mindset in the society which believes in the gender superiority of men.
  • Traditional Rigidities: Caste identities, khap panchayats, honor killing, gender stereotypes and role specification for women are inhibiting rise for women.
  • Son Meta Preference: The Economic Survey 2017-18 has defined “son meta-preference,” as the behavioural pattern of Indian parents who prefer to have children “until the desired number of sons are born.”

Economic Constraints:

  • Low labor force participation rate: The Economic Survey 2017-18 revealed that women comprise only 24% of the Indian workforce. The reasons given for lower female labour force participation rate as per Economic Survey are:
    • On the supply side, increased incomes of men allow Indian women to withdraw from the labour force, thereby avoiding the stigma of working; higher education levels of women also allow them to pursue leisure and other non-work activities all of which reduce female labour force participation.
    • On the demand side, the Survey states, “the structural transformation of Indian agriculture due to farm mechanization results in a lower demand for female agricultural labourers.”
  • Skewed Employment: Economic participation of women is largely limited to agricultural activities, cottage industries etc. They are mostly restricted to child rearing and household chores.
  • Inheritance Rights: Civil laws give inheritance right to women but they are not implemented in letter and spirit.
  • Wage Parity: The 2018 Economic Survey had also stated that women workers make up for a significant section among the low-skilled informal worker category and are engaged in low-productivity and low-paying work.
    • As per the Monster Salary Index 2016, Women in India earn 25% less than men.
  • India ranked at 108th position on World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2017.

Legal Constraints:

  • The common civil laws such as laws related to inheritance, marriage, divorce, adoption, molestation, etc. are not favorable to women.
  • Criminal justice system is still not women friendly
  • Recent measures recommended by J S Verma committee are helpful in this regard.

Political Contraints:

  • ‘Missing Women’ in Indian politics: Of the 543 MPs elected in Lok Sabha elections, 2014, only 62 (11%) are women.
    • Reasons: The Economic Survey 2017-18 highlights that factors such as domestic responsibilities, prevailing cultural attitudes regarding roles of women in society and lack of support from family were among major reasons that prevented them from entering politics.

Biological Constraints:

  • Role Specification: Of child rearing and inadequate support by the male counterparts, puts extra burden on women.
  • Sabarimala Case: Travancore Devasom Board prohibited women aged between 10 and 50 years from entering the shrine. It claims that Lord Ayyappa, is a “NaisthikBrahmachari,” and that biological cycle of menstruation leads to impurity of the Lord and would affect the idol’s “celibacy” and “austerity”.

 

Various Ways of Empowerment of Women:
• Empowerment through provisions of Indian Constitution:  The Indian Constitution consists of many provisions to bring gender parity in India such as:

  • Article 15(1): The state shall not discriminate against any citizen of India on the ground of sex.
  • Article 15(3): The state is empowered to make any special provision for women, which means making an affirmative discrimination in favor of women.
  • Article 16(2): No citizen shall be discriminated against or be ineligible for any employment or office under the state on the ground of sex (#MeToo movement shows that this provision is getting directly violated).
  • Article 39: It directs State to ensure that women get adequate means of livelihood, equal wage parity with men, health and strength of women workers are not abused and so on.
  • Article 42: The state shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.
  • Article 51-A (e): It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
  • Article 243: There are many provisions under article 243 to give adequate representation to women in Panchayati Raj Institutions.

• The Recent Steps taken in the Light of #MeToo Campaign:

  • Establishment of Group of Ministers (GoM): The Centre has established a GoMs to recommend measures to effectively implement the law against sexual harassment at the workplace with an aim to strengthen the legal and institutional framework in response to the #MeToo campaign.
  • The government will set up a committee of judges and lawyers to examine the existing legal and institutional framework to deal with complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace.
  • Cine & TV Artists’ Association (CINTAA), at a recent press conference in Mumbai, announced several measures to counter and tackle the sexual harassment practice.
  • Dedicated e-mail address: The National Commission for Women has given a dedicated e-mail address ([email protected]) to report instances of sexual harassment at workplace.
  • Global Efforts: From 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is organized by
    UN Women under UniTE campaign. The theme for 2018 is: Orange the World: #HearMeToo.

Economic Empowerment: International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde said, India must continue with womencentric reforms because raising the women’s participation in the workforce to the level of men can boost Indian economy by 27%.

Examples of Growing Pay Equity in India:

  • For the first time in Indian Cinema, an actress was paid more than the male lead. In the Bollywood period film of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Deepika Padukone got a whopping INR 13 crore for her role in the movie.
  • Also, recently software giant Adobe India announced its achievement in attaining gender pay equality. The IT Company has also discontinued the practice of using a candidate’s prior remuneration to determine the starting salary offered, an important step to help counter the gender wage gap.

…there is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of the women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on one wing
—Swami Vivekanand

Steps taken by government to empower women:

  • MGNREGA and National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM): These flagship programmes have provided livelihood security, economic independence to thousands of rural women and also created rural assets.
  • Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK): It aims to attain the goal of economic mainstreaming of Indian women through goals like:
    • Socio-economic empowerment through multi-pronged effort such as providing micro-credit facilities,
    • Started Mahila E-Haat as a startup initiative for women entrepreneurs.
  • Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana: It provides financial literacy and accessibility to rural women.
  • Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (increasing skills and employability of women),
  • Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana: It is a small savings scheme launched under the Beti Padhao Beti Bachao initiative.
    More than one crore accounts has been opened under it.
  • Digital Gender Atlas for Advancing Girl’s Education in India: Developed with the support of UNICEF, it identifies low performing geographic pockets for girls.
  • Vigyan Jyoti Scheme: It is advanced by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), with a 2,000-crorerupee purse. It aims to help teenage girl students choose a career in science by conducting interaction women scientists and girl students between classes IX to XI.

Safety and Security provisions:

  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013: It aims to provide a safe environment for women at work.

Legal Provisions against Sexual Harrasment at Workplace in India

About:

• The Convention on the elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), an international treaty adopted by the UN general assembly in 1979, was ratified by India in 1993.

• Later in 1997, the Supreme Court in the Vishaka Case gave guidelines and norms to be observed to prevent sexual harassment of working women.

• The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (SHWWP) was passed in 2013 and superseded the earlier Vishaka Guidelines.

  • In its latest orders in August 2018, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has amended the Companies (Accounts) Rules, 2014 mandating the disclosure regarding implementation of the SHWWP Act in the Directors Report of every company.

Highlights of the SHWWP Act:

• The Bill defines sexual harassment at the work place and creates a mechanism for redressal of complaints. It also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges.

• The definition of “aggrieved woman”, who will get protection under the Act is extremely wide to cover all women, irrespective of her age or employment status, whether in the organised or unorganised sectors, public or private and covers clients, customers and domestic workers as well.

• Every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee at each office or branch with 10 or more employees. The District Officer is required to constitute a Local Complaints Committee at each district, and if required at the block level. The Complaints Committees have the powers of civil courts for gathering evidence.

• Penalties have been prescribed for employers. Noncompliance with the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with a fine of up to Rs 50,000.

• Repeated violations may lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.

Key Issues and Analysis:

• There could be feasibility issues in establishing an Internal Complaints Committee at every branch or office with 10 or more employees.

  • In fact, according to a FICCI-EY, only 36% of Indian companies and 25% among MNCs are not compliant with the Sexual Harassment Act, 2013

• Internal Complaints Committee has been given the powers of a civil court. However, it does not require members with a legal background nor are there any provisions for legal training.

• The Bill provides for action against the complainant in case of a false or malicious complaint. This may deter victims from filing complaints.

  • The National Advisory Council (NAC) has recommended that the entire clause be removed as it might deter victims from seeking protection of the proposed legislation.

• The Bill does not clearly demarcate the jurisdiction, composition and functions of ICC vis-à-vis the ‘Local Complaints Committee’.

• Cases of sexual harassment of domestic workers have been specifically excluded from the purview of the Bill.

• Bar on engagement in additional paid employment: No member of the Internal Committee is allowed to be appointed in any paid employment outside the duties of her office. This implies that even the external person in the Committee (who is with an NGO) may not hold any other part-time employment

• Unlike sexual harassment legislation in many other countries, this Bill does not provide protection to men.

Efforts in India taken against Gender Violence:

Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 (or Nirbhaya Act): It makes punishment more stringent for offences like rape and added new offences like acid attack, sexual harassment, voyeurism and stalking, disrobing a woman.

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005: For protection of the rights of women who are the victims of violence of any kind within the family.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015: It provides for proper care, protection and treatment to the child by catering to their development needs, and by adopting a child friendly approach.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012: To protect children from offences of sexual assault.

Way Forward:

Holistic Approach Needed: Empowerment of women has to be done at all levels and in all sections if it is to become strong and wide spread and make a difference.

Effective networking is required between grass-root level women activists, intermediary level activists, women in the government, media women, women politicians, women academics, women artists, women entrepreneurs, etc.

• We need education which will help women not only to read and understand the word but to read, understand and control our world and shape their destiny.

Women Empowerment remains a constant battle and it is not a battle which can progress without co-operation from the society as a whole.

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