Reforms proposed:

  • Amendment in definition of term ‘advertisement’ to include digital form or electronic form or hoardings, or through SMS, MMS etc.
  • Amendment in definition of ‘distribution’ to include publication, license or uploading using computer resource, or communication device.
  • Insertion of a new definition to define the term ‘publishes’.
  • Amendment in ‘Section 4’ to include that no person shall publish or distribute or cause to be published or cause to be distributed by any means any material which contains indecent representation of women in any form.
  • Penalty similar to that provided under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Creation of new authority:

Creation of a Centralised Authority under the aegis of National Commission of Women (NCW). This Authority will be headed by Member Secretary, NCW, having representatives from Advertising Standards Council of India, Press Council of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and one member having experience of working on women issues.

  • This Centralised Authority will be authorized to receive complaints or grievances regarding any programme or advertisement broadcasted or publication and investigate/examine all matters relating to the indecent representation of women.

What necessitated this?

Reforms have been proposed keeping in mind the recent technological advancements. The need was felt to widen the scope of the law so as to cover such forms of media on one hand and to strengthen the existing safeguards to prevent indecent representation of women through any media form on the other.

Provisions in the Indian Constitution for Women

The Constitution aims to make specific provisions for women in India.

Preamble

The Preamble to the Constitution of India assures justice, social, economic and political; equality of status and opportunity and dignity to the individual. Thus it treats both men and women equal.

Fundamental Rights

  • Article 14 ensures to women the right to equality.
  • Article 15(1) specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
  • Article 15(3) empowers the State to take affirmative actions in favour of women.
  • Article 16 provides for equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office.

Directive Principles of State Policy

  • Article 39 (a) provides that the state direct its policy towards securing for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood.
  • Article 39 (d) mandates equal pay for equal work for both men and women.
  • Article 42 provides that the state make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.

Important legislations for women

  • In 1983, Section 498A was introduced in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and for the first time made domestic violence to married women a criminal offences.
  • Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005) is a comprehensive legislation to protect women in India from all forms of domestic violence. It also covers women who have been/are in a relationship with the abuser and are subjected to violence of any kind—physical, sexual, mental, verbal or emotional.
  • Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (1956) is the premier legislation for prevention of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. In other words, it prevents trafficking in women and girls for the purpose of prostitution as an organised means of living.
  • Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (1986) prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner.
  • Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act (1987) provides for the more effective prevention of the commission of sati and its glorification on women.
  • Dowry Prohibition Act (1961) prohibits the giving or taking of dowry at or before or any time after the marriage from women.
  • Maternity Benefit Act (1961) regulates the employment of women in certain establishments for certain period before and after child-birth and provides for maternity benefit and certain other benefits.
  • Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1971) provides for the termination of certain pregnancies by registered medical practitioners on humanitarian and medical grounds.
  • Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (1994) prohibits sex selection before or after conception and prevents the misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for sex determination leading to female foeticide.
  • Equal Remuneration Act (1976) provides for payment of equal remuneration to both men and women workers for same work or work of a similar nature. It also prevents discrimination on the ground of sex, against women in recruitment and service conditions.

Important Schemes for women

  • Beti bachao Beti padhao – Prevention of sex selective elimination, ensuring survival & protection of the girl child, ensuring education and participation of the girl child.
  • UJJAWALA: A Scheme for Prevention of Trafficking and Rescue, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Victims of Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation.
  • SWADHAR Greh – A Scheme for Women in Difficult Circumstances.
  • Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) – It is a conditional maternity benefit scheme. It was revised in accordance with National Food Security Act, 2013
  • Nirbhaya Fund – with amount 1000 crore , for women safety in strategic areas of prevention, protection and rehabilitation
  • One Stop Centre Scheme – Such centres will be established across the country to provide integrated range of services including medical, legal, and psychological support and assistance under one roof to women affected by violence, both in private and public spaces. It will be funded by Nirbhaya Fund.
  • Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (RGSEAG) – ‘SABLA’: It is a Centrally-sponsored scheme approved by the Government to meet nutritional needs and to provide vocational training for girls above 16 years of age for their economic empowerment.
  • Rashtriya Mahila Kosh – (National Credit Fund for Women): The Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (National Credit Fund for Women) was set up in 1993 with a corpus of Rs. 31 crores, against the backdrop of socio-economic constraints faced by poor women to access micro – credit from the formal financial system in the country, especially those in the rural and in unorganized sectors.

Key features of the Draft National Policy for Women, 2016

  • The policy is roughly based on the Pam Rajput Committee report set up by the MWCD in 2012 which submitted its recommendations in 2016, including a suggested national policy for women and an action plan to end violence against women.
  • Maternal and prenatal mortality will remain a priority area, focusing on a coordinated referral transport system for safe deliveries and emergency obstetric care to be made available in difficult, remote and isolated areas.
  • It aims to implement “a gender transformative health strategy” which shifts the focus of family planning efforts from female sterilisation to male sterilisation.
  • It focuses on prioritising the nutrition of women of all ages and strengthening geriatric services to address women aged above 60, who form 8.4% of the population.
  • It tries to addresses the problem of navigating the distance from home to school by suggesting “innovative transportation models” such as “cluster pooling of minibuses.” to enrol more girls in secondary schools and retain current girl students.
  • The policy talks about engaging men and boys through advocacy, awareness generation programmes and community programmes to instil respect for women in men from a young age.
  • It also takes note of more women taking recourse to artificial reproductive techniques. It proposes efforts to ensure the rights of surrogate mothers, commissioning mothers along with those of the children born through surrogacy.
  • It mentions designing “a comprehensive social protection mechanism” to address the vulnerabilities of widows, single, deserted, separated and divorced women and create opportunities for them such as building a 1000-room shelter for widows and other vulnerable women in Vrindavan.
  • Another area of concern the policy focuses on is the trafficking of women. The draft policy features efforts to develop a compatible and comprehensive database on violence against women, strict monitoring of the response of (law) enforcement agencies to violence against women, the time-bound trial of heinous crimes against women, strengthening naari adalats and family courts, etc.
  • It also focuses on increased participation of women in workforce and politics (through need-based training), narrowing the gender-based wage gap, creating entrepreneurial opportunities for women (through schemes like E-haats), recognising women’s unpaid work (at home) in terms of economic and societal value, achieving gender equity in agriculture.
  • The policy aims at bettering security environments with initiatives, such as one stop centres, women helplines, Mahila police volunteers, reservation of women in the police force, creating immediate response mechanism through panic buttons in mobile phones, public and private transport and surveillance mechanisms in public places.

Problems and challenges

  • Decline in Child sex ratio (1911 according to 2011 census) CSR reflects both, pre-birth discrimination manifested through gender biased sex selection and post birth discrimination and Low Sex Ratio (940 according to 2011 census).
  • There are several discriminatory practices like Kanyadan (dowry), notion of a girl as paraya dhan(belonging to the other), obligation of a father to marry off his daughter; which govern the laws of marriage, divorce and matrimonial life. These practices seldom hold up to scrutiny.
  • Sacramental and societal aspects still dominate the social psyche in many aspects like marriage within the caste, sending the daughter back to in-laws rather than risking a divorce on their name, child marriages, forced marriages etc.
  • Underreporting of cases. Delhi has the highest rate of crimes against women overall, though Delhi has high population but one cannot take away the fact that here women are more aware and administration also acts better than other places in the country.
  • False cases – there are huge number of cases which are registered to harass the other party, increased cases of kidnapping against the boy in case the girl has eloped, false cases of rape charges.
  • The conversion of any issue on woman right into political controversy or infringement of right of minorities in India is a big challenge to overcome.

Probable Solutions

  • People across party lines agree that certain laws or customs followed since long or followed as part of a region needs change. What it needs is action on behalf of law makers rising above party lines.
  • Issues like Uniform Civil Code which is mostly about giving equal rights, if they have become so politicized then reformation could be brought within every religion. It is not about passing a law only in form of UCC but the urgency that many medieval practices are still followed in 21st century in India. Separate laws could be brought, which every woman citizen of this country is entitled to by the virtue of being a citizen of India.
  • Need to have discourse among people, politicians and law makers have a huge role to play in seeing that implementation is done. Only framing of laws is of no help.
  • Law against Dowry was passed in 1961, while the menace of dowry has only increased with the passage of time. All this points towards bigger issues attached to societal traditions which need more than just framing law.
  • Sex education, encouraging women to be financially independent, providing them reservation in legislature, increase in women’s participation in odd jobs like police, army etc. could be possible move forward.
  • Awareness among man and woman about rights of girl, respecting her choice and independence, celebrating birth of girl child, social condemnation of acts like honor killing are much needed steps which need more action on part of the society.

Conclusion

Though the policy aims at women empowerment and tries to take into consideration the interests of the women, it is silent about the issue of marital rape. In addition to more traditional women’s empowerment programmes, the policy claims to recognise complexities in gender roles brought about by “the new millennium, and the dynamics of a rapidly changing global and national scenario”. However, making legislations alone is not sufficient. There is a need for ushering in changes in the societal attitude towards women and usher in behavioural changes involving men and boys and institutions of family and women’s organizations. Only then, we can go ahead in the direction of making women have equal rights and provisions as men.