Gender and Development Debates:A case Study of India

Abstract: Gendering in Public Policies in pre and post 1975 India has had a major bearing on the development debates that began with critique of trickle-down theory in the sixties, ‘Marginalisation of Women’ thesis in the seventies, (WID Approach), ‘integration of women’- WAD Approach in the eighties, Gender and Development Approach in the nineties and, ‘Empowerment of Women’ Approach in the millennium era. These theoretical positions reflected invisibility of women in the mainstream discourses-planning process, budgetary allocations, and analysis of new economic policy in the early nineties, reservation policy, environment policy, housing policy, anti-poverty programmes, disaster management policy, media policy, legal reforms and judicial activism. States in which women’s studies and women’s movements are influential and articulate, we find effective engendering of state policies. Inter-state comparison in the women empowerment discourse through Human Development Reports and in the publications of Department of Women and Child Development, Government of India has created urge among sensitive administrators, politicians and NGOs to make concerted efforts to improve women’s profile in the economic, social-cultural and political spheres.

Keywords: Women Empowerment, Gender-issues, WAD, WID, Gendering of Public Policies, women’s discrimination, women studies, women rights, Five Year Plan, women organisations, women empowerment programmes, housing rights, child development, gender audit, economic development, health policy, domestic violence

Overview: Gendering of Public Policies in pre and Post 1975 India

In the post independence India, in the first quarter, important documents that expressed gender awareness were in the Constitution of India and the Five Year Plan Documents. The former guaranteed fundamental rights such as Equality, Voting Rights with (Five Freedoms) to all Indian women irrespective of their class, caste, religious and ethnic backgrounds but also allowed differential treatment of women on the basis of the above mentioned factors, through means of personal laws and a number of customary laws. The laws were given by one hand of the State and taken by the other. The Planning Commission placed their faith in the ‘trickle-down theory’ and perspectives of viewing ‘Women as the Beneficiaries of the Economy’ and came up with welfare policies for women’s upliftment. In this framework the women’s agency was missing as the movement of concepts, policies, strategies, was carried out in a top-down approach. The period soon after Independence saw the earliest institutional structures for women’s advancement, set up by the State. They were the Central and State Social Welfare Boards situated outside the bureaucratic structure. Although imbued with the idea of welfare perspective vis-à –vis women, the Boards did foster women’s leadership and made the state accountable to them. This was achieved, to large extent under the vision and leadership of Dr. Durgabai Deshmukh. However over the years, The Boards carried out only funding and programmatic functions.

In 1972, as per the UN directive, the Committee on the Status of Women was constituted to prepare an in-depth report and within two years, Toward Equality Report1 was tabled in the Parliament. It was a landmark contribution of an interdisciplinary team of academics, researchers, bureaucrats and policy-makers who were influenced by ‘Women in Development’ approach popularised by Esther Boserup in her pioneering research of the African society2. For the first time, the report was brought out into the open and the fact that women were active producers in the households in the vast unorganised sectors of the economy and thus, contributed towards the building of the economy was made visible. The declaration of 1975 as the International Women’s Year and of the 1975-1985 as the International Decade of Women greatly impacted the social perspective of Women.

Visibility of Women in the Mainstream Discourses

During the decade, the Indian Association of Women’s Studies (IAWS) and Economists Interested in Women’s Issues Group (EIWIG) played a very important role in the process of policy formulations through their technical workshops, seminars, conferences and training programmes. They challenged gender-neutral and gender-biased concepts concerning ‘head of the household’ and provided realistic perspectives on ‘Female headed households’. Time allocation studies conducted by Institute for Social Studies Trust were useful in the netting of women’s unpaid work that augmented family resources3. They lobbied for visibility of women in statistics and indicators for effective formulation and implementation of policies, programmes and schemes concerning women. They transpired women’s issues in the mainstream developmental discourse and brought gender concerns in the development agenda. Visibility of women in statistics and indicators of Census Reports4, National Sample Surveys 5 and Economic Surveys6 of Government of India became ‘a must’ because of efforts of the scholars of IAWS and EIWIG. Original and academically rigorous papers discussed in their workshops were published in the edited volumes that were treated as major reference materials for engendering policies7. Scholarly contributions of women’s studies and women’s movement found their reflection in two extremely important policy documents Shran Shakti and National Perspective Plan for Women (1988-2000) NPPW that were widely debated in the late 1990s8. These policy documents are ideologically influenced by Women and Development approach that focuses or marginalisation hypothesis and suggests ways of integrating women in the mainstream economic development process.

The perspective about gender equality has traversed from a welfare perspective to the current one of empowerment. The Constitution of India guaranteed women equality in all areas of life and the absence of discrimination on the basis of sex as a fundamental right. It also entrusted the state with the responsibility of realising this equality by adopting various measures including positive discrimination in favour of women. Beginning with a welfare perspective, the thrust shifted to development of women from 1974-75, the Status of Women Committee Report, ‘Towards Equality’ was published and it revealed gross inequalities and discrimination suffered by women in all areas of life.

The International Women’s Conferences in Mexico, Copenhagen, Nairobi and Beijing between 1975 and 1999 were other international events that gave an increasingly radical thrust to the women’s problem and provided vision on gender in the state and national policy documents. The Platform for Action to realise women’s equality was announced in Beijing. This, along with the International of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1979, extensively influenced the National Policy for Empowerment of Women, 2001. In the meantime, the National Commission for Women was set up by 1990 in an Act of the Indian Parliament to provide all women their legal entitlements. The 73rd and 74th amendments to the Indian Constitution gave women 33% reservation in local self-governments, rural and urban areas.

Women’s Component Plan and Gender Budgeting

The planning Commission of India has always focused on women’s issues as per the perceptions of their members on women’s status within the economy. The Five Year Plan in the pre-1975 treated women as supplementary earners, not active economic agents.

The First Five Year Plan (1951-56) set up Central Social Welfare Board in 1953 to promote welfare work through voluntary organisations, charitable trusts and philanthropic agencies. India was the first country to introduce family planning programmes during the first five year plan. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India was a role model, encouraging men to take lead in birth control practices.

The Second Five Year Plan (1956-60) supported development of Mahila Mandals for grassroots work among women. It also introduced barrier methods of contraception for both women and men.

The Third, Fourth and Interims Plans (1961-74) made provision for women’s education, pre-natal and child health care services, supplementary feeding for children, nursing and expectant mothers. In this plan, women’s health needs were merged with children’s needs. Invasive methods of contraception and reversible (IUDs) and irreversible (sterilisation for men and women) methods were promoted.

The Fifth Plan (1974-78) marked a major shift in the approach towards women, from welfare to development. It acknowledged the fact of marginalisation of women from the economy and also accepted the need for special employment generation programmes for women in the poverty groups. In terms of population policy, this period, proved to be disastrous because forcible vasectomy of men during the Emergency rule of 18 months generated permanent erosion of faith in the top-down and bureaucratically managed population policy.

The Sixth Plan (1980-85) accepted women’s development as a separate economic agenda. It allotted a separate chapter to focus on women’s concerns in the economic development, the multidisciplinary approach with three-pronged thrust on health, education and employment. It introduced family welfare policy that targeted women for birth control. Promotion of male methods of contraception was found politically harmful by the ruling party. It also netted unpaid family work of women that augmented family resources due to women’s efforts of collection of fuel, fodder, water, kitchen, gardening, live stock rearing and work in the household enterprise.

The Seventh Plan (1985-1990) declared as its objective to bring women into the mainstream of national development. On the front of population control, clinical trials of long acting and hormone based oral and injectable contraceptives were targeted to women from marginalised communities.

The Eight Plan (1992-97) projected paradigm shift, from development and empowerment and promised to ensure flow of benefits to women in the core sectors of education, health and employment. Outlay for women rose from Rs. 4 crores in the 1st Plan to Rs. 2000 crores in the 8th Plan. Anti-pregnancy vaccines, E-P combinations, Depo-provera, Net-O-en were introduced with the blessing of USAID and WHO in the form of ‘Cafeteria Approach’ of birth control.

The Ninth Plan (1997-2002) stated that the Empowerment of women was its strategic objective. It accepted the concept of Women’s Component Plan to assure at least 30% of funds/benefits from all developmental sectors flow of women. Gender audit of budget during the 9th Plan period has revealed that the budgetary allocation for women specific schemes got additional Rs. 700 crores in the budget9 .

The Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-2009) has suggested specific strategies, policies and programmes for Empowerment of women. These are as follows:

  • Measurement of development has to go beyond achievement of GDP growth to indicators of distributive justice and their monitoring.
  • Women headed households have to be specifically identifying added disadvantages in the rural and urban locations with reference to different parameters of deprivation.
  • Formulation of Gender Development Indicators to measure Human Development and their use as a tool for monitoring development needs to be hastened.
  • The Component Plan approach, which did not address compartmentalisation of government functioning should be replaced with a mandated approach of convergence of services at all levels of governance, through inter-sectoral committees of all Ministries/Departments at the Centre and State with the specific responsibility given to the Panchayats and Municipalities to administer at the grassroots level.
  • The United Nations India has suggested that, to protect the gains of the past and ensure steady progress on indicators of social development and gender equality, and in order to give a fresh impetus to the process of women’s empowerment, the Tenth Plan needs to take some bold policy initiatives.
  • Earmarking of funds for women under all major poverty alleviation programmes and maintenance of gender disaggregated records of implementation of all poverty alleviation programmes.
  • Mandatory registration of all assets provided under government programmes (land, house, animals, production units) in the joint names of husband and wife.
  • Intensified focus on education rights and capacity-building interventions for women in all strategic sectors, including health and reproductive health, agriculture, natural resource management, technology (including information technology) and legal awareness.
  • Revision of regulatory framework to allow women’s collectives to access institutional credit, obtain medium-term leases for cultivation on wastelands and common lands, bid for contracts for collection and sale of minor forest produce and other collective activities that will ensure household food security while regenerating the natural resource base.

Women’s groups have demanded allocations for women-specific programmes of strategic nature to arrive at the desired goals in a shorter time span. They should target women of different age groups in terms of strategic interventions to take specific notice of adolescent girls, older gender audits, gender impact assessments, gender analysis and gender budgeting to monitor implementation and impacts must be developed. Gender audit of plans, policies and programmes of various Ministries with pro-women allocations, has to be part and parcel of monitoring process.

There is a need for provisions in the composite programmes under education, health and rural development sectors to target them specifically at girls/women as the principal beneficiaries and disaggregated within the total allocation. It may also be necessary to place restriction on their reappropriation for other purposes.

To effectively attain population stabilisation, policies and plans need to empower women, promote their reproductive rights and involve men in reproductive decision-making and household responsibilities. Particular attention should be given to improve women’s access to quality reproductive health services, including provisions of counseling for adolescent girls on reproductive health and sexuality issues.

The strategies of organising women in self-help groups, in the Ninth Plan period, have paid good dividends for expanding micro-credit. This should be extended not only for reaching larger numbers of women but also for increasing the awareness of and access to social development, apart from encouraging a process of convergence in the delivery of services in a decentralised set up.

It is important to empower women’s organisations and citizens groups to monitor enforcement of equal and minimum wages legislation by state governments, and the adherence to norms in poverty alleviation programmes.

Professional Organisations including Universities should be included for undertaking monitoring, evaluation and research studies and indentifying issues requiring special attention.

Gender Implications of New Economic Policy (NEP)

In 1991, at the behest of World Bank and International Monitory Fund, India adopted NEP that has intensified the processes purposed in the last decade and a half (mainly in the post-emergency period), as a result of a new international division of labour between the advanced capitalist economies and the post-colonial economies of Asia, Africa and Latin America. In the late 1970s, the transnational and multinational corporations in the USA and Europe realize that the best way to reduce the wage-bill and to enhance profit rates, was to move industrial plants to poorer countries like India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh…etc. thecheap labour of ‘docile’, ‘nimble fingered’ and ‘flexible’ Asian Women, was found to be the most attractive step to enhance profit margins. This policy was given the appealing title of ‘Integration of Women in Development.’ Systematic critique of this policy was made by IAWS and women economists prevailed upon the architect of NEP, Prof. Manmohan Singh to make a provision of safety net for women and children.

Gender Implications of Economic Policies in the Post-emergency Period

During the Indian Emergency rule in 1975, a major policy shift took place where the slogan of ‘import-substitution’ was replaced by the slogan ‘export-promotion.’ The ‘emergency rule’ provided politico-repressive instruments to push through a new economic strategy to restructure its industrial sector by introducing a higher degree of mechanisation and rationalisation on the one hand and on the other hand, the expansion of an extremely exploitative informal sector10. A 14-century Alternative Asian report on the Impact of the UN Decade for Women (1975-1985) at the Nairobi Conference stated, ‘The new strategy of “Integration of women into Development” meant in most cases getting women to work in some income-generating activities, integrating women into market oriented production and thus integrating into the world market economy’. It was not meant that women should expand their subsistence production and produce more for their consumption – for their own food and their clothes. Income-generation in this approach meant money income. Money income could be generated only if women could produce something, which could be sold. People who could buy these products live in western countries.

Women in the Electoral Policy

With amendments of Constitution in 1993 to decentralize political power as per 73rd and 74th Amendments, a provision had to be made for devolution of power and decision-making in favour of women. One third of all seats in the local self-government bodies have to be reserved for women. Rural India has already elected village panchayats with one third elective seats reserved for women i.e. India has one million elected representatives. Women elected representatives are taking active interest in using budgetary allocations for promotion of women’s education, safe drinking water and sanitation.

But, neither the people’s representatives at the center nor at the state level, wish to give up their powers over their constituencies and to share their power at the local level. Similarly the bureaucrats are not geared to play the role of facilitators. Giving up powers to representatives of the Panchayati Raj system is difficult for them. Voluntary organisations can play a major role in developing training programmes for all three groups- the politicians at the center and in the states and the bureaucrats in order to help develop new perspectives of their role11.

Elected representatives are facing innumerable problems. Shetkari Sangathana Mahila Aghadi in Maharashtra managed to win election for their all women panels in the last Gram Panchayat elections in spite of stiff opposition from the local vested interests. In spite of threats of rape and witch-hunting by rival political parties, several women in Dhulia district contested elections in Gram Panchayat. In South Gujarat, when a woman activist working for women’s rights contested election, the local vested interests, tried to divide votes by putting up a ‘rubberstamp’ woman candidate. When Vijayatai Chowk, a courageous woman’s rights activist of Dhule district applied for a Lok Sabha seat, she was refused the seat by the party’s authorities on the ground that while she would win the votes from the brides’ side, she will not from the bridegroom’s side because she had taken up a number of cases of dowry-murders in the past 15 years. The political comprises of principles and programmes in the policy resolutions, the increasing importance of ‘mafia’ politics and exorbitant money power required by the electoral politics act as a deterrent for women’s participation in the mainstream politics.

Yet Indian women have come on the political agenda of the country through various techniques- collective actions, programmes of consciousness raising, petitioning and lobbying. In addition they have produced well-researched documents and obtained, after great effort, some media visibility for women’s issues. This contradictory process must be kept in mind to evolve a proper political understanding of women’s political participation in India.

Recent Debate on 33% Reservation of Seats for Women in the Electoral Bodies

The last 14 years experience has revealed that the 73rd and 74th Amendment to the Constitution in 1990 has opened avenues for women’s empowerment. For example, in Kerala the state government has given Panchayat bodies power, authority and finance. Out of the state budget, 40% is devolved to the Panchayat and of this, 10% is mandated to be utilised for women’s programmes. Other states could emulate this pattern. This would enable women to develop their capabilities, to take control of the programmes in such a way that through interaction, criticism and continuous learning, they would develop self-confidence and greater self-esteem. In this context, the example of WDP from Rajasthan and Samakhya from Karnatake may be cited. For this to happen on a wider scale, the policy document ought to be a political document.

In the thirties, the women leaders of India involved in the nationalist struggles were pressing for universal adult franchise and now, sixty years later, the women leaders of the same political parties have agreed to support 33% seats for women. Is this mode one step forward of two steps backward? Those who regard it as one step forward are empowering women to do so because they think, ‘It will broaden the base of women’s political participation and will help to strengthen women’s faith in the political process which is otherwise dominated by men’. (Women and Medai Committee, Bombay). Those who are opposed to this move have consistently held this approach undesirable, right from pre-independence days. Moreover, reservation as such is unlikely to solve the main causes of limited political participation of women in furthering women’s cause, because given socio-political context where mass illiteracy prevails along with the style of politics that encourages growing violence, mafia politics, character assassination of candidates, prohibitive election expenses and opportunistic/debased politicking pursued to achieve very narrow and short term political goals. Where such influences are operative in the Indian politics in an overwhelming way, more reservation of seats has a limited value.

It is interesting, that the same national level male politicians who support 33% of the reserved seats for women in the Panchayat Raj institutions have expressed their outrage against the reservation of 33% seats for women in the Legislative Assembly and in the Parliament12. They are using the same arguments that our colonial masters used against the natives then, i.e. women are not able to govern, as they are inexperienced. Many corporators of Bombay Municipal Corporation have openly expressed their discontentment over this decision of the present government.

During the 1990s, sharp polorisation of political opinions took place around Women’s Reservation Bill. It was first tabled in parliament in 1996 and was mired in the conflict over the demand for special quotas for women on the other backward classes and minorities.

The autonomous women’s organisations’ doubts about 33% reservations have different reasons. They fear that by participating in the corrupt electoral process women’s rights activists will not be able to further the broader interests of women14. They feel that women activists have to make compromises in their principles, programmes and practices. Moreover, the talented women will be co-opted by the system. The 33% reservation has other dangers. It prepares the ground for opponent’s of the women’s rights movement (the mothers-in-law) to get elected in most places. These women are from the elite sections, mainly the kith and the kin of the male politicians. Women politicians in South Asia are not different from their male counterparts15.

Some scholars and women’s organisations do think that the entry of women in the electoral process will help the curbing of violence and corruption, in other words, female presence will moralise the system. Experiences of Karnataka and Kerala have proved the same16. This is the argument that women have often advanced as for example in the U.S.A.

National Commission for Women

Throughout the eighties, the National Commission for women has generated a lot of debate among the women’s groups. The Committee for the Status of Women (1974) had recommended the formation of such a commission to take up women’s problems. The Congress (1) government did not pay any attention to this demand. The report of the National Commission on Self-Employed Women (‘Shramshakti’) gave a comprehensive picture of women’s status and recommended many concrete steps for women in the informal sector. This too was not officially discussed in the parliament. In this climate of official apathy to do anything concretely for women, when the bill on the National Commission for Women was tabled in Lok Sabha on May 22, 1990 many welcomed it as a forward step but these early hopes were soon belied. The content was found less than satisfactory and invited a lot of criticism from women’s group as it lacks an autonomous status and has an inbuilt structure that provides far too much governmental interference. The Women’s Organisations have proposed to the government that it explicitly define the clauses to protect the autonomy and independence of the commission. Moreover, the reports of the commission should go straight to parliament via the president. It should be empowered to conduct enquiries concerning women even when the government officials or agencies themselves are involved in perpetuating violation of women’s rights. Alas, in spite of detailed recommendations given by the women’s groups, the present government has not included all of them in the Act. Now, State level women’s commissions are active in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala. They are executing state policies for women, promoting advocacy work on women’s problems, strengthening elected women representatives in the Panchayat Raj institutions and selectively taking up cases of violence against women. They are effective in the social sector of the economy as they take up women’s problems in the areas of education, employment, welfare and health- public health and reproductive rights.

There are thirteen states that had to set up women’s commissions. The relation between the National Commission and State Commissions for women, are not spelt out distinctly. The National Policy is silent on this, yet, a good and positive working relationship should be formalised between them for establishing a synergetic partnership for advancing the cause of women.

The unique feature of the commissions is that they have two faces- one looking at the political bureaucratic constellation that is the structure of the government and the other looking at the civil society- lobbies and the other interest groups representing women of India. One advantage the commissions enjoy is, that they have more flexibility to take initiative to link with women’s studies centres in different states and prepare indicators for the monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the Action Plan.

In this context, the National Policy for Empowerment of Women, 2001 does not contain any consistent or deep thought on the implementation mechanism. Against this background, the challenge before the National and State Commissions would be two-fold. The Action Plan must become a women’s document. They must own it. It was in the process of ownership that the commissions and women’s studies centre could identify meaningful roles for themselves. The constituencies of women outside the pale of states’ reach must be involved in the spheres of action, support, advocacy and monitoring. States must conceptualise the plans by involving local communities of women. The resource gap is another challenge to be faced and tackled by a judicious combination of the use of the Component (resources) of the Plan mechanism and the process of gender budgeting. In this context, the example of Kerala where the Panchayat Raj bodies had been given power, authority and finance is praise-worthy. Here 40% of the State budget was devolved to the panchayats and of this 10% was mandated to be utilised for women’s programmes exclusively. Other States ought to emulate this pattern. But, at the same time, we must know that several panchayats returned the funds as they did not have the capacity to spend huge funds for big development projects. Hence, the government policy documents are giving great emphasis to capacity, building efforts to execute the agenda more effectively.

The said Policy is the first policy that the Government of India framed for its women. The status of the Women Committee had demanded such a policy way back in 1974. While equality between men and women was a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution, there were many aspects that were still not spelt out in the Constitution. There was also the question of the interpretation of the concept of equality itself. Some used it to mean formal equality but it had limited application to the majority of India’s women. The formal equality concept did not consider the impact of culture, tradition and other inimical forces on women’s capability of availing the equality provision in the Constitution.

In contrast, there was a more equitable concept of ‘substantive equality’ that used the test of equality of outcomes rather than equality of treatment. The concept had been enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

In addition to this, there had to be an affirmative action that would enable women to free themselves from the cumulative negativities of centuries. The policy document referred to these twin objectives and also spoke of changing social attitudes through active participation and community involvement so that women could enjoy all human rights- dejure as well as defacto. In the keynote address delivered at the Round Table on the national Women Empowerment Policy, 2001, Dr. C.P. Sujaya 17 referred to a very important recommendation made in the policy with regard to Personal Laws pertaining to marriage, divorce, maintenance, ownership of property and inheritance…etc. (Section 2.2, 2.3). This had been the most contested area in relation to the status of women in India. Yet, the state diluted the strategy of implementation by making it conditional on the initiative of the community- meaning male community leaders and male religious leaders who had all along come in the way of abolition of gender-just personal laws. What was needed was women’s agency, she emphasised. Women had to wrest the initiative for legal and social change from the men who would not want to part with it.

Another prescription in the document (section 5.1) was bifurcation of the concept of empowerment into ‘economic empowerment’ and ‘social empowerment’. The compertamentalisation was artificial and weakened, the process of empowerment which was an intrinsically holistic transformational process affecting all aspects of women’s lives. For too long, women had been fixed in a social category. It was only from 1980s onwards (starting with the CSWI report in the mid-seventies) that women’s contribution to the economy, particularly of the labouring class, came public attention, uncovered by the Women’s Studies discipline in particular. Education and health along with nutrition, drinking water, sanitation, housing and shelter, environment, science and technology had been the major determinants of women’s capabilities to access economic resources. The concepts of Human Development, which was being increasingly used to measure progress of the nations, would be a more comprehensive category to gauge women’s advancement.

Another laudable feature of the Policy document was the prominent place given to the question of female foeticide. The declining sex ration was a matter of national concern. The document condemned it severely as a violation of the rights of a girl child. Drawing any action plan for women was an enormous task because of their multiple identities and manifold needs. Therefore, no single agency could shoulder this responsibility. Many Ministries, Departments, Agencies in civil society like Women’s Organisations, Women’s Movements, NGOs must be involved in conceptualising , planning, designing and formulating a plan for advancement of women.

Keeping in view the federal nature of our polity, the diversity of state milieu and the local self-governments in rural and urban areas a national plan should harmonise the state and local level plans. Involvement and in depth consultations with state level agencies would go a long way in rendering the plan acceptable at all levels.

National Education Policy, 1986 and backlash after SAP

The National Education policy, 1986 lamented over the high drop-out rates from educational institutions among girls. But now, its policy imperatives have been thrown into the vortex of history and the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) has become the source of inspiration of our policy makers. Privatisation in education promoted by GATS has increased the drop-out rates for girls. Mushrooming of thousands of unaided colleges and hundreds of Deemed to be Universities charging high capitation fees have furthered gender-based segregation of girls and boys. In higher education, girls are ghettoised into traditional streams such as Humanities, Arts and Commerce. At present, women constitute 43% of the total faculty enrolment in Arts and only 6% in Engineering. Reduction of government expenditure on higher education and encouragement of private colleges have reduced women’s opportunities for higher education as private sector colleges promote only the more lucrative professional and technical courses. In this context, the Department of Women and Child Development must grant special scholarships, fellowships and study finds for women and girls in universities, colleges and high schools18.

National Health Policy, 2002

Women’s health issues and needs have not received adequate attention in the National Health Policy, 2002. Women’s groups have demanded a comprehensive policy for women encompassing all stages of women’s life cycle, from womb to tomb. The Population policy should not target women of reproductive age groups, but overall physical and mental health needs of women must be addressed in the policy19. Gender equity must assume central role in terms of food intake, nutritious diet, the right to live a life free from violence (female infanticide, selective abortion of female fetuses, domestic violence, sexual harassment, so on and so forth). The policy must clearly spell out the measure for making the health delivery system more gender sensitive20. Occupational health and safety, gender-related health implications of environmental damage and gender related public health issues (safe drinking water, sanitation, smokeless chulla, pollution control) must be taken up by the National Health Policy. Mental Health Policy, 2001 of GoI has been severely criticised for its biomedical and drug-centred approach. Resurgence of lobbying in favour of Electro Convulsive Therapy21 (ECT), suggested by psychiatrists and human rights and women activists. They have demanded that the policy should promote community centred rehabilitative programmes, psychotherapy and counseling of mentally disturbed women22. Gendering of policy on HIV-AIDS is a need of a bour. At present, Lawyers Collective is working very hard to sensitise the government departments on the legal, economic and educational rights of HIV-AIDS affected women and girls23.

The World Health Report, 2001- Mental Health

The report advocates for the Public Health Approach to mental health. Its advances in neuroscience and behavioural medicine have shown that, like many physical illnesses, mental and behavioural disorders are the one result of a complex interaction between biological, psychological and social factors. The report gives special emphasis to the needs of women with mental disorders.

Theese are summarised as:

Medical-Early recognition, Information about illness and treatment, medical care, support, hospitilisation

Community-No stigma, no discrimination, social participation, human rights

Family-Skills for care, family, cohesion, networking, crisis support, financial support, respite care

Rehabilitation-Social support, education, vocational support, day care, long-term care, spiritual needs

WHO approach to deal with biological, psychological and social factors has components of Prevention-Treatment-Rehabilitation.

WHO recommends:

  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychological rehabilitation
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Housing process of de-institutionalisation and Psychiatric reform

Needs of Women with Mental Disorder

Women with mental disorders need support from the medical practitioners, community, family and institutions providing support to women in distress.

  • Medical-Early recognition, information about illness and treatment, medical care, support, hospitalisation
  • Community-No stigma. No discrimination, social participation, human rights
  • Family-Skills for care, family cohesion, networking, crisis support, financial support, respite care
  • Rehabilitation-Social support, education, vocational support, day care, long term care, spiritual needs

WHO Recommendations for Mental Health care include the following aspects:

  • Provide treatment in primary care
  • Make psychotropic drugs available
  • Give care in community
  • Educate the public
  • Involve communities, families and consumers
  • Establish national policies, programmes and legislations
  • Develop Human Resources
  • Link with other sectors
  • Monitor community mental health
  • Support more research

SAARC Policy on Girl Child

Declaration of SAARC has highlighted 3 main areas for strategic intervention to improve quality of life for girls. They are- survival and protection of the girl child and safe motherhood, overall development of the girl child and special protection or vulnerable girl children in difficult circumstances and belonging to special groups. The government of India has taken the following measures for capacity building among girl children:

  • Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act
  • Integrated Child Development Scheme
  • Establishment of Childline Service, a 24-hour service for girl children on the streets for proper counseling and information about shelter homes, NGOs, hospitals
  • National Commission for Children, special mandate for girls
  • National Nutrition Mission to provide supplements to adolescent girls and expectant motherst
  • Special scheme to target quality of life of adolescent girls
  • Policy on HIV/AIDS keeping pace with new forms of sexual exploitation of girls, child abuse, proliferation of drugs and trafficking of children

State governments have formulated State Plan of Action for Girl Child appropriate to the conditions prevailing in each state. Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Thailand and Goa have taken lead in this direction.

A Case Study of State Policy of Maharashtra for Women

It was in 1994 that the Maharashtra state declared a state policy for women. After the National Policy of Empowerment of Women 2001 was declared, the Maharashtra state too revised their policy the same year and this had been informed by the national and international conventions ratified by the Government of India.

The policy envisaged making justice available to women in economic, political, social and legal matters by focusing on situations where they experience discrimination and iniquitous treatment. The economic empowerment was sought to be achieved through mechanisms like MAVIM (Mahila Arthic Vikas Institute of Maharashtra), Self-Help groups and budgeting exercises. In the social sphere, emphasis has been put on improving the overall health status of women, reduction in maternal and infant mortality, nutrition and immunisation programmes.

In the legal sphere, the commission’s thrust had been on new legislation, rendering the approach of judges and officials dealing with legal matters, gender sensitive and on having fast track courts so that justice was dispersed without delay.

Arguing tht women ought to be involved in planning programmes for women in decision-making capacities, think-tank of the state government YASHADA (name of the training centre for the state government) had published GRs issued by the government from time to time. But the machinery for implementation being weak, only 9 out of 25 policies could be implemented. The rest remained only on paper and the funds allotted were also partly used. Later, at the Roundtable on Women Empowerment Policy, the Chairperson, the Maharashtra State Commission for Women, Adv. Nirmala Samant Prabhawalkar suggested that the state government should consult the commission as well as women’s organistaions in planning and executing the strategies of implementation24.

The state government of Maharshtra took major initiative to bring gender concerns on the social and political agenda of the state by preparing a policy document, ‘Policy for Women in Maharshtra’. As the document declares, the policy is an ‘attempt to identify immediate steps that the state can take to improve the position of women.’

Some important features of this policy are:

  • Statutory provision for reserving 10% of all income and land at the Gram Panchayat level under the control of women’s committee;
  • Government allotments and primary memberships of societies to be made in the joint names of husband and wife;
  • Amendments in the Hindu Law of Inheritance (1956) for ensuring equal share of the movable and immovable property of the husband;
  • Reservation of 30% of the government jobs for women;
  • Women would constitute 25% of the police force in the state of Maharashtra. The state should take steps to re-orient and retain police force and set up women headed police stations in metropolitan cities to safeguard women against violence and atrocities.

Gender Audit of Budgets

Understanding the relationship between macro-economic policies and the Union Budget, state budgets and the Panchayat Raj Institutions is a must as it impacts women’s lives in several ways. It is a good economic sense to make national budgets, gender-sensitive, as thus will enable more effective targeting of government expenditure to women specific activities and reduce inequitable consequences of previous fiscal policies. The Gender Budget Initiative is a policy framework, methodology and set of tools to assist governments to integrate a gender perspective into the budget as the main national plan of public expenditure. It also aims to facilitate attention to gender analysis in review of macro-economic performance, ministerial budget preparations, parliamentary debate and, mainstream media coverage. It directly promotes women’s development through allocation of budgetary funds for women’s programmes and reduces opportunities for empowerment of women through budgetary cuts. The process of gender budgeting has been a post-facto effort to dissect/analyse and thus offset any undesirable gender-specific consequences of the previous budget.

Structural adjustment programmes and globalisation policies have directly increased women’s unpaid work burden, thereby increased women-provided subsidy in the economy. Devaluation of income or the majority of masses as a result of new economic policy coupled with the price rise, erosion of public distribution system and reduction of services offered by the public health system have made women bear disproportionate share of burden, because in the patriarchal families women have to shoulder responsibility of providing meals and looking after the sick family members. Thus, women have high stakes in preventing an increase in the proportion of indirect taxes on essential commodities and in budgetary provisions to guarantee food security and health care. Hence, careful study of the working of PDS and local taxonomy on food security and impact on nutrition, health and health services of budgetary allocations is a must25.

Budgets garner resources through the taxation policies and allocate resources to different sections of the economy. The Budget is an important tool in the hands of the state for affirmative action for improvement of gender relations through reduction of gender gap in the development process. It can help to reduce economic inequalities between men and women as well as, between the rich and the poor26. Hence, the budgetary policies need to keep in consideration the gender dynamics operating in the economy and in the civil society. There is a need to highlight participatory approaches to pro-poor budgeting, green budgeting, local and global implications of pro-poor and pro-women budgeting, alternative macro scenarios emerging out of alternative budgets and inter-linkages between gender-sensitive budgeting and women’ empowerment. Serious examining of budget calls for greater transparency at the level of international economics to local processes of empowerment. There is a need to provide training and capacity building workshops for decision-makers in the government structures, gram sabhas, parliamentarians and audio-visual media.

Gender Issues in Environmental Policy

In the 1980s, governments and development agencies became much more aware of the need to consider gender issues in their environmental and natural resource managements programmes. This led to changes in project design and implementation. Eco-feminists have played a crucial role in evolution of new gender-sensitive approach among the policy makers27. But in actual practice, the economic vested interests have reigned supreme.

Policy makers first came to appreciate that women ‘play essential role in the management of natural resources, including soil, water, forests and energy…and often have a profound traditional and contemporary knowledge of the natural world around them’28. The exclusion of women from environmental projects- through outright neglect or belief in gender neutrality of projects- would thus be a recipe for a project failure.

Subsequently, donor agencies came to see women as especial vulnerable: ‘their responsibilities as day-today environmental managers… make women both victims of and contributors to the natural environment degradation and pollution.’

On the other hand, gradually awareness grew of many grassroots success stories of women fighting to conserve local resources- such as greening of deserts in Rajasthan, Appiko in Karnataka, Chipko in Tehri Garhwal and Junagarh in Gujarat, Narmada Bachao Andolan in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Gender Bias and Housing Policy

The gendered construct of social and economic relations within and outside the household and deeply entrenched patriarchal attitudes in the civil society discriminates against women in virtually every aspect of housing, be it policy development, entitlement in government projects, control over household resources, right of inheritance and ownership and even the construction of housing. Important questions concerning housing policies are:

  • Can we make policy makers and planners who are working at the state level understand the politics of built environment and gender rules?
  • What are the alternatives to the existing approach adopted by ‘Sight and Service Schemes’ (SSS) and ‘Slum Rehabilitation Schemes’ (SRS) ?
  • What interventions can we make in the city planning which involves physical, economic and social access?

Women’s Right To Housing (WRH)

WRH is linked with women’s rights in property, land and inheritance. As a primary user of housing, women’s stakes and requirements are the highest in housing. For women, beyond shelter, housing is a place for employment, social interaction, childcare and a place of refuge from social instability and sexual violence.

Special Needs of Women Headed Households (WHHs)

In the peaceful areas of India, 1/10th of the households are headed by divorced, deserted and single women. IN our country, in the conflict prone areas over 30% households are headed by women. In WHHs, women shoulder main economic responsibilities including house hunting. Even if they have money, they face hurdles while looking out for a rented place or a house on an ownership basis. Nearly one-third of households worldwide are now headed by women; in certain parts of Africa and Latin America, as many as 45% are FHH. The households headed by women tend to be poorer than male headed households. United Nations Centre For Human Settlements (UNCHS) (Habitat) estimates that at least 600 million people in the cities of developing countries live in shelters that are life-or health-threatening.

Women’s Rights to Stay in Parental and Matrimonial Homes

In the least 20 years, many women have filed petitions in the High Courts and the Supreme Court of India demanding wife’s right to live in the matrimonial home and daughter’s right to live in the ancestral home. As per Mitakshara laws applicable in the Hindu Code, only sons get coparcenary rights over ancestral property as they are considered Karta. Lata Mittal challenged Mitakshara laws applicable to Hindu daughters who are deprived of right to stya in the ancestral home.

Housing and Women’s Identity

Women’s identity is entwined with a house but housing’s identity as a capital investment and the largest outlay in the household budget lies with male head of the household. Whether women are or are not property owners, their place of sphere is considered to be within the house. Even thin cult of domesticity does not help women as it perpetuates low status of women. Market economy devalues domestic work and the mainstream planners and policy makers consider it ‘non-work’ and obscure women’s housing concerns.

Gender Bias and Housing Problems

The gendered constructs of social and economic relations within and outside the household and deeply entrenched patriarchal attitudes in the civil society discriminate against women in virtually every aspect of housing, be it policy development, entitlement in government projects, control over household resources, right of inheritance and ownership and even the construction of housing.

Emerging Issues

There is a need to focus on housing in terms of ‘personal meanings’ as well as affordability, women’s role and the housing industry. The state must take affirmative action o empower women in exercising their housing rights because men as property owners enjoy privileged position and control housing delivery system. Moreover general subordination of women is also reflected in women’s lack of representation in higher echelons political bodies. Societal restrictions reinforce women’s status as second-class engineers, architects and agents have to sub-serve the interests of male-dominated construction industry.

Gender Aware Approach

Gender-neutral approach in housing goes against women’s interest. Hence there is a need to introduce gender aware approach in housing that takes women’s strategic and practical needs, concerns and tights into consideration. For that, we will have to sensitise all stake groups in the housing industry i.e. land surveyors, builders, developers, designers, financiers, mortgage bankers, lawyers, credit unions, government officers, material suppliers, real estate brokers, appraisers, contractors, interior decorators, gardeners landscape architects and cooperative societies. In the language of economics, both, supply side-production, construction, management, maintenance, rehabilitation and the demand side community groups, consumer forum and cooperative societies should be sensitised about women’s housing rights.

Gender Audit of Syllabi for Engineering, Architecture and Interior Designing

Public-private split in the syllabi of the construction related academic disciplines needs to be questioned. The syllabus should emphasise that as a physical structure, the house is a site for multi-tasking- house work (cooking, cleaning, caring..), home-making and wage-labour for majority of women all over the world. A house layout influences and affects gender roles among household members and therefore mirrors change in society’s concept of the family. D aesigning of house should promote the ethos of shared housework by men and women members of the household.

International Human Rights Law on Security of Tenure

A person is said to have a secure tenure if he/she is protected from being removed arbitrarily and involuntarily from their homes and lands. Tenure is secure if it protected by legislation rather than protected merely through customs and traditions.

Threat to Women’s Security of Tenure (WST)

Some circumstances and conditions that threaten the WST are:

  • Gender biased laws: preventing women from owning, inheriting, purchasing, leasing, renting, bequeathing housing, land and property;
  • Judicial Interpretation of the Law: No explicit forbidding of WRH in gender-neutral laws, still hey create obstacles for WRH because of male-chauvinistic interpretation of the gender neutral laws. General statements are considered to be applicable to only men;
  • Land and Housing Systems: as they grant titles to private property to ‘Heads of Households’ who are often deemed to be men29 ;
  • Customary laws, Traditions, Attitudes: many cultures and customs do not grant women’s independent existence. In several cultures women staying alone without male protection are punished severely due to sexist attitudes. Customary laws are not codified. In polygamous and polyandrous communities, shared community values go against individual women leading independent life.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence challenges security of tenure of women by generating fear, tension, insecurity among women victims and their minor children. Violation of WRH can be both the cause and the consequence of violence against women, particularly in case of domestic violence.

Financial and Material Barriers

Major hurdles faced by women in the housing market are due to gender-biased policies in financing for housing, availability of services, material and infrastructure, affordability, habitability, accessibility, location and cultural adequacy to handle political economy of housing. Women face major difficulties in securing loans for purchase o good quality housing. It is not easy for single women or WHH to get rental housing. Even if they manage to get rented homes, they have to face harassment of various sorts. Unmarried single women are perceived as threats to sexual morality. In the absence of old age homes for women, the plight of women senior citizens is deplorable. Many destitute women start staying on the pavements of the railway platforms.

Indian NGOs and WRH

Two decades of Debate- Two positions

  • WRH independent of male ownership and control because women’s land-use priorities are different from that of men;
  • Joint titles- majority of poor masses hardly manage to have one house. Hence, separate house for women is a non-issue.

The Felt Need

Need for a training manual to deal with the modalities of attaining WRH.

Experiences of SEWA and SPARC

SEWA: inclusion of women’s names in the title to property before granting loans for housing. As monetary benefits accrue to the family, the husband/father and family members accept the proposal of joint titles to land/house.

SPARC: Supports Mahila Milan (MM), network of pavement dwellers, assists MM to get recognition and support from the settlement, skills and training, makes resources available for the low cost housing.

State and Civil Society Initiatives

Progressive states have empowered women by granting housing rights e.g. Building societies in Sweden and England.

Unions in Germany, Self-help Groups and cooperative enterprises in Canada, Central and Latin America, Africa and Asia.

The enlightened nation states accept societal responsibility for women’s housing and the rest live I tot individual women to fend for themselves.

Witch-hunting of Women Exercising the Right to Housing

Bhootali (Maharashtra), Dayeen (Bihar)- Widowed/divorcee Dalit/tribal women.

In the latest Koombha Mela 60,000 women were deserted by their family members.

Sarpanch, Talati and Tahasildars were taking advantage of illiterate women.

In Algeria and West African countries FFHs were burnt. International Committee of Women Living Under Muslim Laws.

Crucial Conventions for WRH:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948;

The elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), 1979;

The Housing Rights of Refugees, 1951;

The Housing Rights of Indigenous People (not yet adopted) are directed a governments.

The UN on Forced Eviction

Women… and other vulnerable individuals and groups suffer disproportionately from the practice of forced eviction. Women in all groups are especially vulnerable given the extent of statutory and other forms of discrimination which often apply in relation to property rights (including home ownership) or rights of access to property or accommodation, and their particular vulnerability to acts of violence and sexual abuse when they are rendered homeless.

(UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Sixteenth Session, 1997)

Displaced Population due to Natural as well as Man-made Disasters

Women are victims of natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and social disasters such as caste, communal, ethnic conflicts and war.

There are three approaches adopted by peole-oriented architects to handle the issue of shelter.

  • Legal approach: It deals with ownership rights and tenure, right to matrimonial property of married women, right to ancestral home for an unmarried daughter. Hema Dandekar’s study of Charcop’s Sight and Service Scheme reveals that in this scheme there is no bar against women owning a house. Loan facilities given for buying a flat depend upon the repaying capacity of women.
  • Social Approach: House as a unit is related to family structure. It gets reflected in a housing policy. Women and Shelter Group, Mumbai had done advocacy work in these regards. After 1993, some of us made interventions in changing the scenario. Feminist architect based in Mumbai shares her experiences in these words- ‘We took responsibility to reconstruct the destroyed homes in the riot-affected areas near Mahim utilizing Times of India funds. For this, we had to run from pillar to post. We had to face an extremely communal attitude of the entire bureaucracy. After three-four months, we managed to get a plot of land/pattas in Dindoshi. We had to meet the collector a couple of times to see to it that the pattas given to riot-affected people are in the name of women because women use these pattas for subsistence while men use them as commodity in the market.’
  • Physical planning of a house: Patriarchal values get reflected in the physical planning of a house. Rules and regulations by-law have been stipulate by the Urban Development Department. In BDD (Bombay District Development) chawls, all spaces allocated for community have been used by men where women feel constrained. In slum projects and sight and service projects, kitchen and toilets are clubbed together. ‘Kitchen and toilet’ are treated as isolated spaces while women beneficiaries of slum development projects do not like it. Architects from MHDA (Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority) do not listen to the women’s point of view. Ventilation is not considered to be at all important. A small study of slums and chawls in Bombay showed that women emphasised a separate space in the community that is exclusively used or washing clothes, making chapattis (Collective Kitchen). Nagari Nivara Trust headed by Mrunal Gore and Baburao Sawant, is dealing with a mass housing project for five thousand people. In this, we have made a provision for a space in the community, which is exclusively used for women’s activities. Even the ownership titles are made in the name of women. There is a need for a shelter home or women in distress and a crèche within each plot. SPARC (Society for Promotion of Area Research and Community Development), Bombay has managed to get bawaldi and community hall included in their project areas. As per the FSI (Floor Space Index) regulation, while zoning and city planning, ‘public’ is separated from ‘private’ but in actuality, women’s lives are not compartmentalised like this. We need to critique the existing housing policies, demystify technical language and conduct surveys to understand how women’s lives are affected by the urban development. To bring changes in the by-laws that are gender-sensitive and people-friendly, the lawyers and architects will have to work in unison. We need to raise consciousness among the students of architecture, of which, more than fifty percent are women. When I asked the students questions regarding home-based professions, they identify women home-based professionals as crèche facilities, dance teachers or beauticians. While, male home-based professionals are identified as engineers, doctors, chartered accountants and management consultants. Many women architects are going to be home-based professionals and they have to redisegn the existing patterns of houses, keeping in mind both house-work and professional duties. The same applies to their women clients who are shouldering double the burden. Advantages of keeping kitchen-space near drawing/living room are many:
    • Women don’t feel isolated from the rest of the happenings of the outside world
    • All members of the family start taking interest in kitchen duties
    • They get encouraged to share housework.
    • It ensures cleanliness of the kitchen area, as it is visible

Women’s housing needs must be understood from the point of view of women’s rights to dignified life. They should not face any discrimination in exercising their housing rights due to their caste, race, age, religion and ethnicity. State and civil society initiatives must facilitate the process of women’s empowerment through exercising WHRs. The local self-government bodies should reserve 10% of all houses/flats/industrial units/ shops in the market places for women. Schools of Architecture, Engineering Colleges and Institutions for Interior Designing should organize capacity building workshops and training programmes for women. Gender sensitisation of the decision-makers in the housing industry and the elected representatives of the mainstream political bodies should be given top priority. For formulation of gender-sensitive policies experts on the subject should be inducted in the apex bodies of urban, rural and tribal housing projects.

Developing Alternatives with Women

During the seventies WM was highlighting marginalisation of women in the economy30. This approach is known as ‘WID’- Women in Development. There major findings of Towards Equality (Status of Women in India) Report, 1974, which sensitised the decision-makers of our country were:

  • Continuously declining sex ration of women;
  • Declining work-participation of women;
  • High rate of mortality and morbidity among women.

During the eighties, women’s groups made an effort to integrate women in the economy. But the means of production, exchange and distribution being controlled by men allowed women very limited space to evolve a development alternative with women (DAWN)31. In this approach, articulate-urbane-highly educated and politically connected women got prominence as the spokesperson of women from the marginalised section. In this period, the Indian economy was most ferociously attacking the survival base of the mass of poor women in the rural tribal and urban areas32. While women employees in the white-collar occupations, women professionals such as lawyers, doctors, scientists, educationists, teachers, chartered accountants, women employees in the central and state government as well as in the corporate world and financial institutions managed to get some economic gains. This decade witnessed some of the most militant mass mobilisations of women on wide range of issues- water, drought, caste riots, communal tensions, police-brutality against forest people agriculture labourers, industrial workers, white-collar women employees problems about promotion and transfer, sexual harassment at workplace, harassment for dowry and bride price, witch-hunting, widow burning, sexual violence against women, coercion in the family planning programmes, selective abortion of female fetuses, female infanticide, child-care facilities, woes of women workers in the development schemes supported by the state and central governments as well as by international aid agencies and the voluntary organistaions33. Several alliances and, collabourative ventures of this period, engendered trust among different stake groups, dealing with these issues from different positions of power. This approach is known as WAD- Women and Development. This approach focused on a patriarchal control over women’s sexuality, fertility and labour. In this phase, women’s groups established rapport with pro-women individuals (men and women) in the government, the state apparatus, the criminal justice system, the legal system, the political parties and the professional bodies. Te decade of nineties is marked by an approach of Gender and Development (GAD). Here focus is on the power relations determined as a result of interplay of complex class, caste, ethnicity, religion, races and gender.

This is an era of partnership with gender-just men with a clear-cut understanding that women constitute half of the world population, 2/3rd of the world’s workforce and get only 1/10th of the world’s income and own only 1/100th of the world’s wealth34. With this resource-base the decision-makers will have to empower the mass of toiling women who are struggling to survive.

Engendering state and national policy documents is an ongoing and continuous process to further the cause of women’s economic and social empowerment.

Gendering Media Policy

After consistent monitoring and protests by women’s rights groups against stereotypical, negative and sexist portrayals of women in the print as well as audio-visual electronic media35, the government of India appointed P.C. Joshi Committee to recommend guidelines for the communication media. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has been looking at the issue from a bureaucratic perspective. The government of India agreed to adhere to a Statement of Commitment: Forward Looking Strategies (FLS) drawn up at the 1985 Nairobi Meet36. The government of India agreed to:

  • Eliminate discriminatory, stereotyped and degrading images of women in the media;
  • Launch comprehensive and sustained public campaign using media and traditional institutions of communications to challenge and abolish all discriminatory perceptions attitudes and practices by the year 2000;
  • Take steps to control pornography and portrayal of women as sex objects;
  • Involve women in making decisions about all the public information efforts;
  • Introduce measures to ensure that women participate in council and review bodies that regulate mass media including advertising;
  • Promote women’s cultural projects that change traditional images of women and men;
  • Mobilise mass media to ensure public consensus on the need for men to share child-rearing responsibilities;
  • Support the United Nations in carrying out studies on sex stereotyping in the mass media and in advertising;
  • To promote women’s information networks, the government of India agreed to;
  • Support groups that promote the role of women as active participants in development that set up effective information communication networks
  • Foster international co-operation related to women’s sharing of experience
  • Rely on information networks to publicize the FLS document and the goals of the decade of Women, as well as women’s programmes and activities
  • Increase availability of training for women in the use of audio-visual forms of information dissemination and in use of computers.

Judicial Activism for Gendering State and National Policies

Women’s groups and human rights organisations have been using Public Interest Litigations and judicial activism to engender legal system and to get new laws for women victims of violence such as rape, sexual harassment at workplace, domestic violence, trafficking of women and children, action against selective abortions of female fetuses through Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, appropriate use of government budgetary allocation and right to information. Draft bills on women related issues prepared by The Law Commission of India, the National Commission and the State Commissions for women are judiciously monitored by women’s groups and gender aware legal rights groups such as Lawyers Collective, Majlis, Women’s Research and Action Group, Human Rights and Law. They are making inputs from the point of view that Women’s Rights are Human Rights37.

States in which women’s studies and women’s movements are influential and articulate in including women’s needs, aspirations and demands on the decision-making agenda, we find effective engendering of state policies. The UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) has also taken lead in evolution of Gender Equity Policy of Gujarat state.

Maharashtra, Kerala, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have been pro-active states with regard to engendering their policy documents. Inter-state comparison in the women empowerment discourse through Human Development Reports and in the publications of Department of Women and Child Development Government of India have created an urge among sensitive administrators, politicians and NGOs to make concerted efforts to improve women’s profile in the economic, socio-cultural and political spheres.


1 Towards Equality, Committee on Status of Women in India, Government of India, New Delhi, 1974 and updated version published in 2001.

2 Boserup, Esther (1970), Women’s Role in Economic Development, Aberdeen George Allen and Unwin, London.

3 Jain, Devaki, ‘Valuing Women’s Work; Time as a Measure’, Economic and Political Weekly, vol XXXI, no. 43, October 26th 1996, WS-46-WS 57.

4 Census Reports, 1981, 1991 and 2001 on demographic profile, education and economic activities.

5 NSSO-Sarvekshan Reports, 38 round onwards.

6 Economic Survey, Government of India, 1985 onwards.

7 Pioneering work in this regard was based on research papers presented at the I and the II technical workshops of EIWG; some of them were included in Deaki Jain and Nirmala Banarjee (ed) Tyranny of Household, Vikas Publishing House, Delhi, 1985.

8 National Pespectives Plan for Women (1988-200 A.D.), Department of Women and Child Development, government of India, 1988.

9 See Chapter 5 ‘Budgetary Policies- A Gender Analysis’ in Vibhuti Patel Women’s Challenges in the New Millennium, Gyan Publications, New Delhi, 2002.

Also, Vibhuti Patel ‘Gender Budget- A Case Study of India’, Centre for Advanced Study in Economics, University of Mumbai, Working Paper UDE (CAS) 7(7)/2003.

10 Desai, Neera and Patel, Vibhuti, (1990), Indian Women- Change and Challenge, Popular Publications, Mumbai.

11 S. Desai, Armaity, ‘Challenges for the Voluntary Sector in India’.

12 Indian Association of Women’s Studies Newsletter ‘Indian Women in Political Process’, Special Issue, Women’s Studies Centre, University of Pune, January 2002.

13 Jain, Devaki (2000), The Vocabulary of Women’s Politics, Fredrich Ebert Stiftung Delhi.

Also see, an article by Women’s Mary John in Review of Women’s Studies, Economic and Political Weekly, Bombay, XXXV 43-44: 22-60.

14 Patel, Vibhuti (1993), ‘Getting foothold in Polictics’, Reading in Women’s Studies Series, Research Centre for Women’s studies, SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai.

15 Jahan, Rounaq, ‘Women in South Asian Politics’, Mainstream, Delhi, August 15, 1987: 35-44.

16 Prachar, Uma, A Resource Letter on Panchayat Raj, 8.4, December 2001.

17 Sujaya, C.P. ‘Women empowerment Policy, 2001’, Keynote address delivered at Roundtable Conference on WEP, 2001, jointly organised by Women Development Cell and Maharashtra State Commission for Women in Mumbai, November 28-29, 2003.

18 Patel, Vibhuti (2003), ‘Women in Economic Development’ in B.L. Mungekar (ed) The Economy Of Maharashtra- Changing Structure and Emerging Issues, Dr. Ambedkar Institute of Social and Economic change, Himalaya Publishing House, Mumbai.

19 Gopalan S. and Shiva, M (2000), National Profile on Women, Health and Development Country Profile-India, Voluntary Health Association of India and World Health Organisation.

20 Nair, V. Mohanam ‘Draft National Health Policy,2001: A Leap Forward in Assessment but Limping in Strategies’, The National Medical Journal of India, 15.4, 2002: 216-221.

21 Pathare, Soumitra, ‘Beyond ECT: Priorities in Mental Health Care in India’, Issues in Medical Ethics, XI. 1, January-March 2003: 11-12.

22 Davar, Bhargavi, ‘Women-centred Mental Health: Issues and Concerns’, Vikalpa- Alternatives, Special Issue, Gender and Transformation, IX. 1 and 2, 2001: 117-130.

23Positive Dialogue, Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit, Mumbai, Newsletter # 6, August 2000, p. 4.

24 Anantram, Shrayu and Vibhuti Patel. ‘National Policy for Empowerment of Women’, Urdhva Mula, An Interdisciplinary Journal focusing on Women and related Issues, Mumbai, Sophia Centre for Women’s Studies and Development, 2. 2, December 2003: 103-139.

25 Patel, Vibhuti. Gendering the Budget at State and National Level and Gender Audit of the Union Budget- A critical Approach’, Urdhva Mula, 1. 1, 2002: 30-57.

26 National Centre for Advocacy Studies Parliament Digest for the People, Pune, 2003.

27Shiva, Vandana. (1988), Staying Alive-Women, Ecology and Development, Zed Books, London.

28 World Development Report, World Bank, Oxford University Press, New York, 1991.

29 Unni, Jeemol. (1999), ‘Property Rights of Women: Case for Joint Titles to Agricultural Land and Urban Housing’, Economic and Political Weekly, May 22-28.

30 Pioneering work in these regards has been by Esther Boserup (1970), Women’s Role in Economic Development, Aberdeen George Allen and Unwin, London.

31 Sen,Geeta and Caren Grown. (1985), Development Alternative with Women, DAWN Network, Monthly Review Press, 1987.

32 Kudchetkar, Shirin and Sahba Al-Issa (eds.). (1998), Violence Against Women, Pencraft International, Delhi.

33 Documentary evidences f the mass mobilisations of women are available in the issues (1985 onwards) of Economic and Political Weekly, Social Action, Mainstream, Seminar, Manushi and Samya Shakti, Lokayan Bulletin.

34 This data is culled out from the country reports submitted during Women’s Decade (1975-1975) to the United Nations, INSTRAW and UNIFEM, New York, 1990. Conceptual basis of the same lies in the debate around paid and unpaid work, wage-work and housework (cooking, cleaning and caring), unpaid family labour of rural women which augments family resources such as collection of fuel, fodder and water, invisibilised work of women and girls who are working for family/households businesses among the artisans classes such as potters, weavers, handloom and powerloom owners, lacemakers, brassworkers, carpet industry, owner cultivators.

35 Balasubramanyan, Vimal. (1988), Mirror Image, A CED Publications, Mumbai.

36 International Women’s Tribunal Centre, New York, 37/38, 1986-87.

37 See The Lawyers Collective and Combat Law form Delhi and Mumbai, Majlis and WRAG publications from Mumbai.


VIBHUTI PATEL. Professor and Head of the Post Graduate Department of Economics, SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai. She has authored a book ‘Women’s Challenges of the New Millennium.’ Is founder member of various trusts and NGOs working towards the development of women.

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Professor and Head of the Post Graduate Department of Economics, SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai. She has authored a book ‘Women’s Challenges of the New Millennium.’ Is founder member of various trusts and NGOs working towards the development of women.

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