//Human rights and gender justice in India

Human rights and gender justice in India

Gender injustice is a problem that is seen all over the world. But unless there are certain attitudinal changes, women will continue to get a raw deal. They need to be educated. Educated mothers take care of their children irrespective of the boys or girls.

It is well known fact that the education of a girl is the education of family continuing its impact on the future generations while the education of a boy is the education of a single person.  Women  has to be treated as equal partners in decision-making and implementation rather than as beneficiaries. The development of a nation depends upon GDI that is, Gender Development Index and HDI that is Human Development Index. Our country ranks 98 for the former and 127 for latter.

In these days of globalization, the global picture of women is most ignoble and inequitable. Women constitute 50 per cent of the world’s population, and account for 66 per cent of the work done, but they have only a share of 10 per cent in the world’s income and own one per cent of the world’s property.

Gender equity: Engendering all areas of public policy, elimination of adverse sex ratio, and provision of support services to working women, taking into account the multiple burden on a woman’s day to day life.


The psychology of industries in India weighs heavily against women. One of the reasons is that women in industry are to be given preferential welfare and social facilities and benefits. To avoid this, in the post-independence era, industries have preferred to reduce the number of women employees.
For gender in India see table1 given on next page.
Rajasthan  and Madhya Pradesh bar people with more than two children from contesting the panchayat elections. Apart from being unconstitutional, in terms of gender implications, Health Watch (1999) pointed out, ‘Do we really believe that the male would-be elected official, hungry for a seat, would not consider casting aside his current wife who has borne him more than the allowed number of children in favour of a new one with none or fewer? …The only people likely to be affected by an electoral restriction would in this case be the cast-off wife and the woman who cannot stand for office because it would mean abandoning her children.’

Further, it discriminates against women from backward areas, where the average total fertility rates (TFR) is above two and concentrated among the poorest and most disenfranchised of the Indian people, from staking their claim to elected bodies through the 33% reservations for women in the Panchayati Raj institutions. The TFR for Muslims, scheduled castes and tribes according to the latest NFHS-2 Survey is 3.6, 3.2, and 3.1 respectively.

In 1995, the UNDP introduced methods of calculating a gender-related development index (GDI) and a gender empowerment measure (GEM). In the Human Development Report 1997, a methodology was introduced for calculating a Human Poverty Index (HPI) based on deprivations in basic human needs. The Human Development Report 2001 has introduced indicators for measuring Technology Achievement (TAI). In HDI, GDI, GEM, HPI and TAI, India occupies a deplorably low position, although some marginal improvement has been noted in HDI in recent years. The major contribution of the human development reports is in sensitising nations on the need to accord greater priority to basic needs like nutrition, education, health, sustainable livelihoods and gender and social equity. As a result, political leaders in developing countries are now aspiring to work for a better rank for their countries in HDI. In India, this has resulted in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu developing State level human development reports. To this extent, measurement and ranking are exerting a beneficial impact on priorities in public policies and investment.

The development of a nation depends upon GDI that is, Gender Development Index and HDI that is Human Development Index. Our country ranks 98 for the former and 127 for latter.

There are many causes that add to gender in-justice, and almost each and every cause is the creation of human being. Whose main task is the protection of human rights of each and every human around him/her-all the humans present on this mother planet the Earth. The two main causes regarding the same are:
In different parts of the world, male chauvinism in different degrees has led to gender injustice. In some developed countries too, women were accorded the right to vote very late. They had to launch a determined struggle to secure the right of adult franchise. Even when women secured the right to vote, initially they did not receive in the legislatures the recognition they deserved on the basis of their merit and ability.

If the social-reform programme is to be pursued vigorously, certain attitudinal changes are urgently called for. These comprise change of context, change of relations and change of values. Without such a comprehensive change in the existing value judgments of the present consumerist culture, the battle for gender justice cannot be won.

In India, with a highly utilitarian approach, poor parents do not aspire for a female child for two selfish reasons. Firstly, because of the fabulous dowry to be paid on the daughter’s marriage, parents consider a daughter as a “financial liability”. And, secondly, because the daughter has to leave the parents’ house after marriage, she is no longer considered useful as an earning member of the family.

The instinctive urge, particularly of poor parents, is to prevent the birth of a female child. The most astounding statistics reveal that in a prominent hospital in Mumbai, the pre-sex determination tests revealed that during 1978-1982, nearly 8,000 pregnant women were expected to give birth to a female child. But to prevent this, 7,999 of them underwent abortions.

Article 21 of India’s Constitution on “Protection of life and personal liberty” states: “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” In the case of female children in the womb of expectant mothers, they are not only denied the right to live, but are robbed of their right even to be born, as revealed by the statistics mentioned earlier. This is the travesty of gender justice!

Human Deprivations In India or in other developing countries are largely due to the neglect of women. Human distresses in these countries could be minimized if adequate attention is paid to the empowerment of women
 the table shoes that nearly one quarter of our population is still below poverty line and about one fifth of the people are undernourished. There were 39% adult illiterates in 2003.

The commitment to gender equity is well entrenched at the highest policy making level- the constitution of India. A few important provisions for women are:

• Article  14    – equal rights and opportunities in political economics and social   spheres.
• Article  15    – prohibits determination on grounds of sex.
• Article 15(3) – enables affirmative discrimination in favour of women.
• Article 39     –   equal means of livelihood and equal pay for equal work.
• Article 42     –   just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.
• Article 51(A)(e)- fundamental duty to renounce practices, derogatory to the dignity of women.

Apart from the above mentioned provisions, the legislation has also made certain policies such as National Policy for empowerment of women 2001etc. In various five year plans such as- Seventh plan, Eighth plan(1992-97), Ninth plan(1997-2002) and the Tenth plan, various schemes and policies were introduced.
The battle for gender justice has been a long-drawn struggle. The sustained efforts of several social reformers, even in the face of resistance from social orthodoxy, have given impetus to the cause of gender justice. Constitutional prov
isions, various laws, and judgements of courts have made their own contribution to the cause of gender justice. However, more fundamental is the work and role of social reformers who sought to change the mind-set of orthodox tradition-bound society and usher in women’s reforms in the social, economic and educational fields.

Despite resistance from orthodoxy, women’s education gradually acquired greater acceptance. In the old orthodox society the Sati system of widows mounting the funeral pyre of their husbands was an atrocious practice. If this practice was gradually discarded, it was not only because of the Sati Prohibition Act in Bengal in 1829 at the behest of Bentinck, Governor-General, but mainly due to the social reform movement against the Sati system carried on by the eminent social reformer Raja Rammohan Roy. Though the Sati system is banned under law, in isolated cases it is still implemented in a clandestine way due both to remnants of orthodox beliefs, and to machinations by the relatives of the widow to garner her wealth and property by forcing her to mount the funeral pyre of her dead husband. Still, there are efforts to continue to build a halo of sanctity around the Sati system. This only amounts to a glorification of gender injustice and has to be resisted through an awakened public opinion.

Gender injustice is a problem that is seen all over the world. What ever the causes may be, it is our that, is the duty of humans to protect the human rights of those who are victims. Even though the government is trying to take care of this natural right by formulating various policies, enacting and formulating laws. This is not a one man’s job – entire humanity will have to join hands. As already mentioned above that development of a nation depends upon Human Development Index, how will we Indians be able to live in a developed nation? As again and again said by our Hon’ble President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam that India must be a developed nation by 2020.  The table1 shows gender inequalities in India , how will the statistics improve if we do not take care about it. Education is a need because the children of educated mothers  improve their capabilities and thereby enlarge their choices enjoying long and healthy life, educated environment and having access to better educated qualifications.  

*The writer is student of Rajiv Gandhi Law University at Patiala in Punjab

AMITOJ SINGH 20 December 2006