Failure to pass the 33% Women Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha
In 2004, the UPA government includes it in the Common Minimum Programme, which said: “The UPA government will take the lead to introduce legislation for one-third reservations for women in Vidhan Sabhas and in the Lok Sabha.”
But the Bill till date has not been successfully tabled and faces widespread resistance from multiple directions including UPA ally – the Samajwadi Party.
Delhi Gang Rape – 16th December, 2012
THE most horrendous case of gang rape and the inhuman violent brutality in a moving bus in crowded areas of the country’s capital had shocked the conscience of the nation. The victim after continuing a prolonged struggle for life in the hospital in a very critical condition eventually passed away. An outraged people spontaneously rose in condemnation all across the country. This was echoed in both houses of parliament when they rose as one woman forcing the union home minister to assure prompt action against the culprits and strengthen the law and order apparatus in the capital which comes directly under the charge of the union home ministry. Such assurances, however, invoked little confidence and since then instances of rape have not shown a downward graph.
Between 2007 and 2011, incidents of rape increased by 9.7 per cent
Statistics compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau showed that between 1953 and 2011, the incidents of rape rose by 873 per cent or three times faster than all cognizable crimes put together and three and a half times faster than murder. The Guardian had noted: “Of all the G-20 nations, India has been labelled as the worst place to be a woman”. In a survey conducted by Thomson Reuters’ Trust Law Women, a hub of information and support for women’s rights, India ranks with Afghanistan, Congo and Somalia as one of the most dangerous places for women. In India, across the country, on average, one woman is kidnapped and raped every forty minutes and the Centre has not been able to do much to change these figures. Also according to the NCRB report, everyday 45 women are raped and 121 women are sexually harassed, age is no bar for these numbers.
No delivery of justice in cases of rape, setting up of Fast Track Courts
Worse is the fact that in three of the four cases of rape, the culprits went unpunished between 2002 and 2011 in Delhi. Out of the 5337 rape cases during the last decade (2002-2012), in 3860 the culprits were either acquitted or discharged by courts for lack of `proper’ evidence. The conviction rate for the country as a whole, on the average, between 2001 and 2010, in rape cases was 26 per cent only. This is significantly lower than the conviction rate for murder (35 per cent). Far from fearing a deterrent punishment, the criminals are not afraid of the law any longer; it appears, because of such abysmal record of delivery of justice in the country. After the ‘Nirbhaya’ case, the fast track courts that were set up to offer speedy justice to women, ironically are taking longer to dispose rape cases than when they were tried in normal courts.
Dismal ratio of policemen to population and that of judges to population
Judge-population ratio has not changed over the past 25 years and it must be raised for any hope of expeditiously trying those cases that have at least been investigated. Also, in light of the recent intervention by the Supreme Court in instructing the state governments to take measures to protect women, such as deploying women police officers in plain clothes, installing closed circuit cameras and setting up help lines, are most unconvincing given that India has one of the lowest ratio of policemen to population. Thus, it is also not surprising that there was no investigation in 36.6% of the recorded instances of rape in 2011.
Bleak Health and Nutrition Facilities for Women
A woman’s daily minimum calorie intake has been set at 2200 calories but they must satiate themselves with a meagre 1400 calories per day and go about their household responsibilities. In light of the above figures, it isn’t surprising that most women in India are anaemic.
A woman dies every seven minutes in India, said the UNICEF’s flagship report, State of the World's Children (2009). According to the report, 78,000 women die annually in India due to complications arising out of pregnancy and childbirth. These figures came up despite the apparent presence of government programmes guaranteeing free obstetric health care.
The Draft ART Bill 2013 pending with the central government does not do adequate justice to the concerns of women. Protection offered to egg donors and surrogates are completely inadequate, especially in terms of the medical risks that they undertake. There is no mention of “death” in the entire Draft Bill. A comprehensive, effective and enforceable law is essential to safeguard the interests of poor women who are the worst affected by the unscrupulous and unethical practices that are gaining ground as we saw recently with the untimely death of Yuma Sherpa in New Delhi.
Women’s Participation in the Labour Force
ILO’s new report expresses concern over the fall in labour force participation rate for women in India from just over 37 per cent in 2004-05 to 29 per cent in 2009-10, which ranks India 11th from the bottom, out of 131 countries. In the Himalayan region, it was found that on a one-hectare farm, a pair of bullocks works 1,064 hours, a man 1,212 hours and a woman 3,485 hours in a year. In Andhra Pradesh, the work day of a woman agricultural labourer during the agricultural season lasts for 15 hours, with an hour's rest in between, while men work for seven to eight hours. Another study on time and energy spent by men and women on agricultural work found that 53 percent of the total human hours per household are contributed by women as compared to 31 percent by men. And after this the woman must also take upon herself the responsibilities of the home and the hearth (which essentially categorised under non-productive work because it does not contribute to the country’s GDP). Also, the woman must be satisfied to toil away for wages lower than those of a man doing the same (or lesser) work.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
The Vishaka judgment came on 13.8.1997. Yet,15 years after the guidelines were laid down by the Supreme Court for the prevention and redressal of sexual harassment and their due compliance under Article 141 of the Constitution of India until such time appropriate legislation was enacted by the Parliament, many women still struggle to have their most basic rights protected at workplaces. The statutory law is not in place. The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Work Place Bill, 2010 is still pending in Parliament though Lok Sabha is said to have passed that Bill in the first week of September, 2012.