88pc women in Delhi ignorant of laws: Study
New Delhi, Jan 29 : A month has gone "Nirbhaya" faced the agony on Dec 16, yet 88pc women in the national capital are unaware of the law's prevailing for them, according to a study brought out by ASSOCHAM Ladies League (ALL).
Releasing ASSOCHAM Ladies League report here on Tuesday on "Women's Safety: Reality Check and Recommendations", ALL President Harbeen Arora, fashion designer Ritu Beri, Alka Lamba, Chairperson, Go India Foundation, Kavita A. Sharma, Director, India International Centre, and Nidhi Sadana Sabharwal, Director, Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, talked about women's precarious status in society and the need to strengthen safety measures for them.
Harbeen Arora said, "In this report, we have ascertained the wide variety of undercurrents in society, mindsets, and institutional set-ups that give rise to the range of troubles in which women find themselves today. Based on our survey, we have offered extensive recommendations to address the crisis." She said: "The significance of women as an important human resource was recognized by the constitution of India which not only accorded equality of women but also empowered the state to adopt measures of positive discrimination in their favour." The survey in Delhi covered Delhi-NCR based 2,500 women, working, housewives and college going girls.
The statistics were shocking that there are over 20 constitutional provisions laid down, 88pc of women are not aware of them even in the national capital.
Ritu Beri also emphasized the need to volunteer professional services like that of doctors, lawyers, counselors, etc to help foster awareness among women and bolster their physical and mental strength. Alka Lamba urged companies and organizations to create safer workplace for women.
She also called for spreading education among the masses, and thereby creating a culture of respecting women from a young age.
Nidhi Sadana enumerated a host of problems that Dalit women face in particular due to social prejudices and lack of opportunities.
Quick Findings of the survey:
Around 53pc have migrated from various states of India to Delhi in search of work, education of children etc mainly from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and others, which is a positive change and the society is also accepting this change.
Almost 38pc of women do not have any knowledge about elections as they are not educated and motivated enough for such an important aspect of the economy. Another 43pc of women still do not vote despite knowing about elections and its importance.
Around 50pc of women irrespective of being employed or unemployed are unaware of the most important economic fact of minimum wages and are being exploited by their employers if employed.
"The notable women-specific and women-related legislations to protect women against social discrimination violence and authorities and also to provide for equal wages to men and women for equal work includes Equal Remuneration Act of 1976, Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, the marriage (amendment) Act 2001 the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956 and 1986 are more being followed up by the NGOs floated in this regard," said Harbeen Arora.
The recently notified Prevention of Domestic Violence Act is a landmark law in acting as a deterrent as well as providing legal recourse to women who are victims of any form of domestic violence. Apart from these, there are a number of laws which may not be gender specific but still have ramifications on women, said the survey.
Harbeen Arora further said that ASSOCHAM study, inter alia cover percentage of women migrants and reasons thereof, composition of marital status of women (divorces, married and widow) and awareness about legal age of marriage, mother and daughter schooling level, women age at the time of first born child, women literacy level, women and elections knowledge of minimum wages, sexual exploitation, support from family and knowledge about women cell and health.
Referring to few Articles (14, 15(1), 15(3) and 16) which clearly mention that men and women to have equal rights and opportunities in political, economic and social spheres, prohibits discrimination against any citizen on grounds of religion, race caste, sex etc., special provision enabling the State to make affirmative discriminations in favor of women and equality of opportunities in matter of public appointments for all citizens, it was found that awareness was missing.
ASSOCHAM RECOMMENDATIONS for government
Fear of Law: Rules regarding family planning, legal age of marriage, right to education for the girl child, laws against sexual harassment etc. are just known to the elite and educated. The underprivileged and illiterate sections of society do not follow these rules for lack of awareness and conviction. Thus they should be made aware of the need to adhere to the well-thought rules made in the interest of balance and harmony in society, and also be made aware of legal repercussions in case of lapse.
Sustained Awareness Campaigns: Just the way awareness has been substantially increased regarding adverse effects of smoking by way of visual and graphic anti-smoking campaigns shown across media platforms like television and cinema, public service billboards on bus stands etc., in the same way, government campaigns can depict the outcome of misguided individual actions and thus proactively protect the sensitive fabric of society.
Check on Migration: A large number of women migrate in search of work to cities and towns for better employment avenues, this has several consequences which are not very positive, especially for their safety, nutrition and child-care.
The employment avenues created through the SME's and the cottage industries fail largely due to various reasons and thus, they do not thrive in the long term. The shortcomings of these sectors should be identified and thereby rectified so that a check on migration can be kept.
Gender-sensitive Education Infrastructure: Education has several government policies to its name, but no audit is done for educational infrastructure available with reference to the specific needs of girls.
Only by addressing these issues can we reduce drop-out rate and increase the enrollment ratio of girls.
For instance, we need recruitment of more female teachers; provision of separate toilets for girl students; ensuring safety in transit to and fro from school as a lot of teenage girls drop out of school due to harassment by young boys en route; having flexible schedules so that girls can attend school as well as do household activities as that is often a reason in rural households for not sending their daughters to school; access to employment opportunities in the vicinity of the village or in public sector institutions so that there is an alternative to early marriage.
Mindset Change of seeing the Girl as an Asset: Most families, shockingly even among the educated, prefer male child over girl child, for perceived reasons of a son being an asset for the family, and a daughter being a drain on resources. We need a widespread mindset-change of seeing the girl-child as an asset rather than a liability.
The way toward this is job-oriented education and employment for girls. Surveys show that when girls get employment, they contribute to their family expenses and education of siblings.
They also also tend to marry once they have achieved a certain degree of financial independence and discharged what they believe to be their responsibility toward their family and relationships.
Further, an empowered girl also tends to marry with greater awareness and consideration of the mindset of the man she will marry. She often has a voice in the matter of her own marriage and is more aware of her rights and is less likely to be exploited and controlled by vested interests.
Job-oriented Courses and Higher Employability: Most of our women population is working in unorganized sector due to lack of education.
Government should offer job oriented courses to them so that they can move to organized sector and get fixed earning to improve their standard of living to some extent.
Laws for Guarding Women's Dignity: In cases of crime and violence against women, statements of women complainants should only be attended by women police constables. As far as possible, in judiciary too, their cases should be tried by women magistrates. To reduce stigma and harassment in public, evidence of women should be taken in-camera.
Mandatory Teaching of Women's Legal Rights in Schools and Colleges: Much can be achieved by making young women and young men aware of women's rights from a young age itself.
This will instill self-confidence in women and will increase the deterrent for young men to not take advantage of women, and not make the mistake of seeing them as the weaker sex.
When women are aware, they will stand up for their rights and be able to reach out to suitable institutions, with knowledge of their legal rights and provisions in law.