Women’s Day and Reservation: Status of women in India

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By Kaushiki Sanyal

On March 8, the 100th anniversary of the International Women’s Day, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) intends to debate and put to vote a Bill which has been hanging fire in Parliament since May 6, 2008.  Introduced in the Rajya Sabha, the  controversial Bill seeks to reserve 33% seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies.  The Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice to which the Bill was referred submitted its report on December 17, 2009.  Various political parties, academics and activists have argued the pros and cons of the Bill threadbare. Some of these arguments have been laid down in our analysis of the Bill.

Whether reservation for women in Parliament is the right tool for empowerment may be debatable, it is certainly true that women of this country have a long way to go before they can achieve their potential.  They are hampered by low levels of education, lack of access to health care, lack of employment, and low social status which manifests in crimes such as female foeticide, dowry deaths and domestic violence.  We highlight some socio-economic and political indicators related to women in the following graphs.

 

 

Percentage of women MPs from 1st to 15th Lok Sabha

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§ Women constitute 11% of the newly elected House.

§ Of the larger states Madhya Pradesh has the highest percentage of women MPs (21%), followed by West Bengal (17%) and Uttar Pradesh (15%).

 

 

 

 

Females married before age 18

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§ In India the legal age for marriage is 18 years for females and 21 years for males. However about 44 percent of females, and 37 percent of males are married before the legal age.

§ There are areas in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bihar where the average female age at marriage continues to be below 16 years.

 

 

 

Literacy rate of women

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§ Census 2001 reveals that 54.2% women are literate.

§ The NSSO data shows huge disparity between urban and rural population. About 64% of rural males and 45% rural females were literate. The literacy rates among their urban counterparts were much higher at 81% and 69% respectively.

 

 

Incidents of crimes against women

Crimes

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Rape (IPC)

15,847

18,233

18,359

19,348

20,737

Dowry Death (IPC)

6208

7026

6787

7618

8093

Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

2684

3592

3204

4504

5623

Kidnapping & Abduction (Sec 363 to 373 IPC)

13,296

15,578

15,750

17,414

20,416

Torture (IPC 498A)

50,703

58,121

58,319

63,128

75,930

Molestation (Sec 354 IPC)

32,939

34,567

34,175

36,617

38,734

Sexual harassment (Sec 509 IPC)

12,325

10,001

9984

9966

10,950

Importation of Girls (Sec. 366-B IPC)

46

89

149

67

61

Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956

5510

5748

5908

4541

3568

Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986

1043

1378

2917

1562

1200