Women Safety : Important Topics for UPSC Exams
Violence against women is a worldwide phenomenon. Women across the world have to face various kind of acts of aggression like trafficking for sex tourism, kitchen accidents, sexual war crimes like rape, marital rape, honor killings and other kinds of brutality they face globally. According to World Health Organization (WHO), there are five stages of violence against women in the life cycle-- (i) Pre-birth, (ii) Infancy, (iii) Girlhood, (iv) Adolescence and adulthood and (v) Elderly.
Gender violence in India is an old issue, but consciousness among the people about the violence against women (VAW) has heightened, specially post Nirbhaya case of December 2012. Indian cities and villages are not regarded as safe places for women. The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data shows that the rate of crime against women stood at 52.2%.
It should be understood that gender violence is not just a legal crime but a violation of human rights directed against the female human population. This violence against women get compounded in areas where exposure and literacy rates among women are low. Due to this illiteracy, women do not become financially independent to break out of the dependence barrier to speak out against violence. Besides this economic barrier, presence of a relatively more conservative atmosphere about social and familial prestige attached to the crime against women. The issue of VAW in India, further being added by the lack of awareness among women, especially rural, of their rights.
The Gender vulnerability index, 2017 gives us a bad picture of vulnerability of Indian women in different states as shown in the given infographic--
Steps taken by the Government :
The state understand that empowerment of women cannot be done unless safer and violence free environment is to be provided to them. Therefore, several measures have been taken by the government--
The women helpline number is being universalized by implementing it through all states/ UTs. The helpline can be used in multiple ways like landlines, mobile, fax, SMS, emails, web portals, social networking etc.
The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) has notified the panic button and GPS in mobile phone handset rule, 2016. From 1January, 2018, no smartphone handset manufacturing company shall sell the new smart mobile phone handset in India without the facility of identifying the location through satellite-based GPS.
Every Gram Panchayat across the country would have one Mahile Police Volunteer (MPV)who would act as a link between rural women and the police. MPVs are being created with the view to balance curative and preventive aspect against women specific violence.
Some important duties that are provided to MPV are :
I. Create awareness through one stop centers, short stay homes, police helpline numbers—100, 1098, mobile applications like Himmat app for emergency.
II. Inform the police about any unpleasant or untoward incidents against women.
III. Mobilize and facilitate Mahila aur Sishu Rakshak Dal (MASRD).
To increase the representation of women in Police force of all UTs and Delhi police, 33% reservation of women in non-gazette posts is being done.
The landmark Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal) Act, 2013 makes it mandatory for employers to constitute an 'Internal Complaint Committee' if there are more than 10 employees, to handle the cases of sexual harassment at workplace.
The act laid down Vishakha guidelines as part of landmark case of Vishaka and others Vs. State of Rajasthan. However, even after these guidelines came into force, its implementation was not carried out as deftly. Some of the drawbacks in the act are :
I. The Internal committee is being given the power to decide differently.
II. The act does not cover agricultural workers and armed forces, nor recognizes sexual harassment faced by men in certain circumstances.
III. The provisions to penalize a woman in case of false complaint would also negatively affect those women who might not be able to sufficiently prove an instance of harassment for lack of evidence, even though the case might be genuine.
In 2013, the Supreme Court banned the sale of acid to public in order to curb the acid attacks, especially on women. However, the figures of number of victims, subjected to acid attacks goes on increasing.
Recognizing the horror of these kinds of crimes and related injuries, the Right of Persons with Disabilities act was passed by the parliament. The recognition of acid attack victims under this act would help them with education and occupational provisions and allow them to avail of 3% reservation for jobs earmarked for disabled.
Government of India come up with a comprehensive scheme named as UJJWALA for prevention of trafficking and rescue, rehabilitation and re-integration of victims trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
The initiative Women powerline 1090 is a good step in the direction of empowering women instead of just helping them. The 1090 works on following 5 guidelines--
I. The identity of victim is never disclosed.
II. The victim is never called to the police station.
III. The calls of the victims are necessarily taken by the women police officers alone.
IV. There will be one number across the state.
V. The officers will keep in touch with the victims until the resolution of the complaint and until 3 months after the resolution as well so as to instill a sense of confidence further.
Way Forward :
All the schemes that we talked about are aimed at empowering the women by preventing crimes against them. As we know that safety issue of women is pan-India problem. However, the approach of prevention should be dynamic as types of violence in rural and urban India with different cultural and social setup is different. Therefore, a single mechanism cannot work for the whole nation.
No doubt, government is trying hard to provide safer environment to the women, but the real change can come from within. Women should themselves be empowered by conducting awareness drive.
The approach of addressing VAW need to come in a holistic multi pronged way, designed by putting various arms of the governance mechanisms into a structural whole. It is required in order to address these associated concerns that inhibit women from speaking up.
:: MCQ’s ::
Q. Gender Champion Scheme is regarded as an innovative step in the direction of women empowerment. This scheme envisages--
Gender champions as responsible sarpanch of every village pan India.
Gender champions as responsible leaders who will facilitate an enabling environment within their schools/colleges/academic institutions.
Gender champion in the districts which have low female sex ratios.
Gender champions in government offices who spread awareness regarding working women's rights.
Q. women empowerment will remain incomplete unless a safe environment is to be provided to them. Discuss in light of recent government steps and schemes in this regard.