Women empowerment- status, challenges and prospect
Crime against women- Need of new paradigm
UNO and Women
What is empowerment
- Ability to make decision individually
- Ability to access information and resources for decision making
- Ability to consider range of options from which to choose
- Ability to exercise assertiveness in collective decision making
- Ability to learn and access skills for improving personal or collective circumstances
- Ability to decide and sort out right and wrong
- Increasing ones positive self image and overcoming stigma and having self esteem
Women empowerment– ability to access information and resources, consider range of option and make decision, to show assertiveness in collective decision making while overcoming stigma and having self esteem.
Empowerment is multifaceted and multidimentional concept. Women empowerment will encompass Political empowerment, Economic empowerment as well as Social empowerment with feeling of self worth. It manitest at Family, Community, Village/City, State, National and Global level.
The concept of women empowerment has evolved over the time. Our understanding of the issue have seen paradigm shift from women Protection to gender specific Development to women Empowerment.
Before discussing this issue it is important to understand the difference between Gender and Sex. Sex is biological in nature while gender is cultural concept. The culturally defined role of the biological phenomenon of sex is gender. Gender defines the role and functions of sex. It defines the ability to enforce subjugation of one sex over other based on cultural mileau. Thus the status of women is different in different cultural setting.
25 November – International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
Status of women
Gender equality is not only a basic human right, but its achievement has enormous socio-economic ramifications. Empowering women fuels thriving economies, spurring productivity and growth. Yet gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched in every society. Women lack access to decent work and face occupational segregation and gender wage gaps. They are too often denied access to basic education and health care. Women in all parts of the world suffer violence and discrimination. They are under-represented in political and economic decision-making processes.
The number of women in india far outnumber the total population of many countries put together. A nation is said to be prosperous and healthy only when its basic unit –mothers are not just safe and sound but empowered and free. India is home to largest number of elected women representative.
The three critical areas that are holding women back:
- violence against women- violence against women and girls is a manifestation of gender-based discrimination and a universal phenomenon which has tremendous costs for societies.
- Limited choices and capabilities for women- Women and men need equal opportunities, resources and responsibilities. Equal access to land, credit, natural resources, education, health services (including sexual and reproductive health), decent work and equal pay needs to be addressed urgently. Policies, such as child care and parental leave as well as improved access to infrastructure (such as water and energy), are essential to reduce women’s unpaid work so that everyone can enjoy equality at work and at home.
- Give women a voice within households and in public and private decision-making spheres. For meaningful and inclusive democracy, women’s voices should be heard in decision-making and in all spheres, such as public and private institutions, national and local parliaments, media, civil society, in the management of firms, families and communities
( 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment act major milestone in women empowerment.
1869- a British MP john Stuart mill pleaded in Westminster parliament for women’s right to vote.
Gender discrimination stages:
Preconception, Post conception, Infant, Adolescent, Adulthood, Old-age
- Promote gender equality and empower women
- Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015.
- Improve maternal health
- Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio.
Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
(i) Equality before law for women (Article 14)
(ii) The State not to discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them (Article 15 (i))
(iii) The State to make any special provision in favour of women and children (Article 15 (3))
(iv) Equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State (Article 16)
(v) The State to direct its policy towards securing for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood (Article 39(a)); and equal pay for equal work for both men and women (Article 39(d))
(vi) To promote justice, on a basis of equal opportunity and to provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or scheme or in any other way to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities (Article 39 A)
(vii) The State to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief (Article 42)
(viii) The State to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation (Article 46)
(ix) The State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people (Article 47)
(x) To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women (Article 51(A) (e))
(xi) Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Panchayat (Article 243 D(3))
(xii) Not less than one- third of the total number of offices of Chairpersons in the Panchayats at each level to be reserved for women (Article 243 D (4))
(xiii) Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality (Article 243 T (3))
(xiv) Reservation of offices of Chairpersons in Municipalities for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and women in such manner as the legislature of a State may by law provide (Article 243 T (4))
The crimes, which are directed specifically against women, are characterized as ‘Crime against Women’. These are broadly classified under two categories.
(1) The Crimes Identified Under the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
(i) Rape (Sec. 376 IPC)
(ii) Kidnapping & Abduction for different purposes ( Sec. 363-373)
(iii) Homicide for Dowry, Dowry Deaths or their attempts (Sec. 302/304-B IPC)
(iv) Torture, both mental and physical (Sec. 498-A IPC)
(v) Molestation (Sec. 354 IPC)
(vi) Sexual Harassment (Sec. 509 IPC)
(vii) Importation of girls (up to 21 years of age)
(2) The Crimes identified under the Special Laws (SLL)
Although all laws are not gender specific, the provisions of law affecting women significantly have been reviewed periodically and amendments carried out to keep pace with the emerging requirements. Some acts have special provisions to safeguard women and their interests like
- The Family Courts Act, 1954
- The Special Marriage Act, 1954
- The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
- Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (1986)
- The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 with amendment in 2005
- Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
- Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act (1987)
- The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (Amended in 1995)
- Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
- Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (1994)
- The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
- The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1976
- The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
- The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1983
- The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
- Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act (1939)
- Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act (1986)
- Family Courts Act (1984
- Indian Penal Code (1860) contains provisions to protect Indian women from dowry death, rape, kidnapping, cruelty and other offences.
- Code of Criminal Procedure (1973) has certain safeguards for women like obligation of a person to maintain his wife, arrest of woman by female police and so on.
- Indian Christian Marriage Act (1872)
- Legal Services Authorities Act (1987)
- Minimum Wages Act (1948)
- Mines Act (1952)and Factories Act (1948).
- The following other legislation’s also contain certain rights and safeguards for women:
- Employees’ State Insurance Act (1948)
- Plantation Labour Act (1951)
- Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act (1976)
- Legal Practitioners (Women) Act (1923)
- Indian Succession Act (1925)
- Indian Divorce Act (1869)
- Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act (1936)
- Special Marriage Act (1954)
- Foreign Marriage Act (1969)
- Indian Evidence Act (1872)
- Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (1956).
- National Commission for Women Act (1990)provided for the establishment of a National Commission for Women to study and monitor all matters relating to the constitutional and legal rights and safeguards of women.
- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal). Act (2013)
- Supreme court decision on Instant Triple talaq system.
UNO and Women
In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women which focused exclusively on gender equality and women’s empowerment:
- Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW)
- International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW)
- Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI)
- United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)
The United Nations has made significant progress in advancing gender equality, including through landmark agreements such as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
UN Women works globally to make the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals a reality for women and girls and stands behind women’s equal participation in all aspects of life, focusing on five priority areas:
- increasing women’s leadership and participation;
- ending violence against women;
- engaging women in all aspects of peace and security processes;
- enhancing women’s economic empowerment;
- and making gender equality central to national development planning and budgeting.
A. Economic empowerment
Benefits of economic empowerment
- An increase in female labour force participation—or a reduction in the gap between women’s and men’s labour force participation—results in faster economic growth
- Increasing the share of household income controlled by women, either through their own earnings or cash transfers, changes spending in ways that benefit children .
- Increasing women and girls’ education contributes to higher economic growth, decreased child mortality.
The world of work
- Women continue to participate in labour markets on an unequal basis with men
- Globally, women are paid less than men. Women in most countries earn on average only 60 to 75 per cent of men’s wages.
- women are more likely to engage in low-productivity activities and to work in the informal sector, with less mobility to the formal sector than men.
- Women bear disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care work.
- When paid and unpaid work are combined, women in developing countries work more than men, with less time for education, leisure, political participation and self-care .
- Women are more likely than men to work in informal employment.
- More women than men work in vulnerable, low-paid, or undervalued jobs .
- Women’s economic equality is good for business. Companies greatly benefit from increasing leadership opportunities for women, which is shown to increase organizational effectiveness. It is estimated that companies with three or more women in senior management functions score higher in all dimensions of organizational effectiveness.
Essential to agriculture
- Women comprise an average of 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, women make an essential contribution to agriculture across the developing world.
- Women farmers control less land than do men, and also have limited access to inputs, seeds, credits, and extension services . Less than 20 per cent of landholders are women. Gender differences in access to land and credit affect the relative ability of female and male farmers and entrepreneurs to invest, operate to scale, and benefit from new economic opportunities .
Global Norms and Standards: Economic Empowerment
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action’s commitments include to:
- Promote women’s economic independence, including employment, and eradicate the persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women by addressing the structural causes of poverty through changes in economic structures, ensuring equal access for all women, including those in rural areas, as vital development agents, to productive resources, opportunities and public services (Beijing Declaration).
- Ensure women’s equal access to economic resources, including land, credit science and technology, vocational training, information, communication and markets, as a means to further the advancement and empowerment of women and girls, including through the enhancement of their capacities to enjoy the benefits of equal access to these resources, inter alia, by means of international cooperation (Beijing Declaration).
- Develop gender-sensitive multisectoral programmes and strategies to end social subordination of women and girls and to ensure their social and economic empowerment and equality.
- The 2011 ILO Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers offers a historic set of international standards aimed at improving the working conditions of tens of millions of domestic workers worldwide, the vast majority of whom are women and girls. It calls for them to have the same basic labour rights as those available to other workers: reasonable hours of work, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, a limit on in-kind payment, clear information on terms and conditions of employment, as well as respect for fundamental principles and rights at work including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
- The 2012 ILO Recommendation Concerning National Floors of Social Protection confirms that social security is a right and a necessity for development, and an important tool in promoting gender equality.
- The four key ILO gender equality conventions are the Equal Remuneration Convention, Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention and Maternity Protection Convention.
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights upholds the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights set forth in it.
- Barefoot College in India has helped train illiterate older women from rural communities in various geographic regions, a particularly vulnerable group, on engineering skills. They learn to assemble and install solar lamp kits in their own and nearby villages, gaining an income while contributing to a cleaner environment.
- UN Women is part of the Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves, which advocates establishing a global market for clean and efficient household cooking devices. . Women using the stoves have reported immediate health benefits and time savings. Those operating small cooking businesses report they are more productive; incomes have increased.en.
Rural women are key agents for achieving the transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development. But limited access to credit, health care and education are among the many challenges they face, which are further aggravated by the global food and economic crises and climate change. Empowering them is key not only to the well-being of individuals, families and rural communities, but also to overall economic productivity, given women’s large presence in the agricultural workforce worldwide.
- In India, with support from UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality, the Dalit Women’s Livelihoods Accountability Initiative has helped women marginalized by the caste system engage in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme.
- In Zimbabwe, along one of the poorest stretches of the Zambezi River, new equipment and training offered by UN Women has helped women from the Tonga ethnic group break into the male-dominated fishing industry. Instead of selling fish purchased from men’s boats, they now market their own catch.
- Important partners in our work with rural women include the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme under the initiative “Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women.”
Employment and Migration
Women’s participation in the labour force varies around the world, but nowhere has it reached parity with men. Decent work is a distant dream, since they are marginalized in poorly paid, poorly protected jobs. While women are increasingly well-educated, labour markets still channel them disproportionately into work considered traditionally acceptable for women. Too few reach upper-level positions in management and leadership.
A record number of women are now migrating to seek work and better lives. For many, migration yields these benefits; for others, it carries dangerous risks, such as exploitation in domestic jobs, and vulnerability to violence. Migration policies and practices have been slow to recognize these risks and take steps to make the process safe for women.
- In Pakistan, working with the International Labour Organization (ILO), UN Women has mobilized women’s advocates to lobby for the country’s first Home-Based Workers Policy, designed to open women’s access to finance and markets, and ease the path to better work and incomes.
- After sustained advocacy on the rights of women migrant workers in Lao People’s Democratic Republic—they constitute 70 per cent of all migrant workers—the Government established a committee dedicated to addressing protection, employment and other issues.
B. Crime against women
Facts and figures: Ending violence against women
Various forms of violence
- physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner
- psychological violence
- victims of homicide almost half were killed by intimate partners or family members
- sexual harassment on public transportation
- Child marriage often results in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupts schooling, limits the girl’s opportunities and increases her risk of experiencing domestic violence.
- female genital mutilation
- human trafficking – for the purpose of sexual exploitation
- cyber-harassment including having received unwanted, offensive sexually explicit emails or SMS messages, or offensive, inappropriate advances on social networking sites.
- school-related violence – sexual violence, harassment and exploitation.
Measures to address violence
- most look to family and friends and very few look to formal institutions and mechanisms, such as police and health services
- laws on domestic violence laws and sexual harassment.
- Violence among vulnerable groups such as sexual orientation, disability status or ethnicity, and some contextual factors, such as humanitarian crises, including conflict and post-conflict situations, may increase women’s vulnerability to violence
Global norms and standards: Ending violence against women
- The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
- The 1993 World Conference on Human Rights recognized violence against women as a human rights violation and called for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on violence against women in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
- The 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women became the first international instrument explicitly addressing violence against women, providing a framework for national and international action. It defines violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
- The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development drew links between violence against women and reproductive health and rights. Its Programme of Action calls on Governments to take legal and policy measures to respond to and prevent violence against women and girls.
- The 1995 Beijing Platform for Action identifies specific actions for Governments to take to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. Ending violence is one of 12 areas for priority action. The platform includes an expansive definition of forms of violence.
- The 2011 Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence became the second legally binding regional instrument on violence against women and girls but, unlike other regional agreements, it can be signed and ratified by any State.
- The UN Human Rights Council adopts annual resolutions on accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women, the most recent being in 2012.
- In 2013, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) adopted, by consensus, Agreed Conclusions on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. This represents a historic outcome as there had been no agreed conclusions on this issue when it was last considered by CSW in 2003.
Passing and implementing effective laws and policies
Laws and policies can provide the foundation for a coordinated and comprehensive approach to violence against women (VAW). When brought into alignment with international human rights standards, such as those contained in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), laws and policies can often play a positive role in changing attitudes and behaviours in the long term, especially when they are accompanied by complementary strategies such as awareness-raising on ending violence. Once laws are in place, they convey a strong message that violence against women is not tolerated and that it is the right of every woman to live free of violence.
Services for all women
Although progress is being made globally, many women and girls who experience physical and sexual violence still lack access to quality multi-sectoral services. These services are essential as they provide much-needed support to survivors of violence, by keeping them safe, providing health care for their injuries, responding to their sexual and reproductive health needs, including provision of post-rape care and counselling, and facilitating their access to the police and justice system. Particularly vulnerable groups—such as migrants, women living with disabilities, indigenous women or women living in remote areas—have even more limited options and often lack access to basic services.
Increasing knowledge and awareness
Violence against women is rooted in discrimination and inequality, making it challenging to address. Men and women who have not had opportunities to question gender roles, attitudes and beliefs, cannot change them. Women who are unaware of their rights cannot claim them. Governments and organizations without access to standards, guidelines and tools cannot adequately address these issues. Once evidence accumulates and awareness grows, the potential for stopping all forms of violence does too.
Creating safe public spaces
Sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence in public spaces are an everyday occurrence for women and girls around the world—in urban and rural areas, in developed and developing countries. This reality reduces women’s and girls’ freedom of movement. It reduces their ability to participate in school, work and public life. It limits their access to essential services and their enjoyment of cultural and recreational opportunities. It also negatively impacts their health and well-being. UN Women’s Global Flagship Initiative, “Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces,” builds on its “Safe Cities Free of Violence against Women and Girls” Global Programme, first-ever global programme that develops, implements, and evaluates tools, policies and comprehensive approaches on the prevention of and response to sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls across different settings.
Focusing on prevention to stop the violence
Violence against women and girls is rooted in gender-based discrimination and social norms and gender stereotypes that perpetuate such violence. The best way to end violence against women and girls is to prevent it from happening in the first place by addressing its root and structural causes.
Prevention should start early in life, by educating and working with young boys and girls promoting respectful relationships and gender equality. Working with youth is a “best bet” for faster, sustained progress on preventing and eradicating gender-based violence. While public policies and interventions often overlook this stage of life, it is a critical time when values and norms around gender equality are forged.
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) placed a strong focus on prevention through the promotion of gender equality, women’s empowerment and their enjoyment of human rights. It also means making the home and public spaces safer for women and girls, ensuring women’s economic autonomy and security, and increasing women’s participation and decision-making powers—in the home and relationships, as well as in public life and politics.Working with men and boys helps accelerate progress in preventing and ending violence against women and girls. They can begin to challenge the deeply rooted inequalities and social norms that perpetuate men’s control and power over women and reinforce tolerance for violence against women and girls. Awareness-raising and community mobilization, including through media and social media, is another important component of an effective prevention strategy.
Education for prevention
UN Women, in partnership with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) has developed a global non-formal education curriculum to engage young people in efforts to prevent and end violence against girls and women. A first of its kind, “Voices against Violence” is a co-educational curriculum designed for various age groups ranging from 5 to 25 years. It provides young people with tools and expertise to understand the root causes of violence in their communities, to educate and involve their peers and communities to prevent such violence, and to learn about where to access support if violence is experienced.
At a regional level, UN Women supports Partners for Prevention (P4P), a regional UN joint programme for Asia and the Pacific that provides new knowledge and technical support to prevent gender-based violence in the region. The Programme’s long-term goal is to reduce the prevalence of gender-based violence in the region through behaviour and attitudinal change among boys and men, increase institutional capacity and facilitate policy enhancements.
At a national level, UN Women supports a range of prevention activities, supporting research to get data on the attitudes, perceptions and behaviour of men and boys as well as young people related to various forms of violence; supporting advocacy, awareness-raising, community mobilization and educational programmes, as well as legal and policy reforms.
The UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, managed by UN Women, has proclaimed every 25th of the month as “Orange Day” – a day to take action to raise awareness and prevent violence against women and girls.
C. Political empowerment
Facts and figures: Leadership and political participation
Women in parliaments
- Only 22.8 per cent of all national parliamentarians were women as of June 2016, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995.
- As of October 2017, 11 women are serving as Head of State and 12 are serving as Head of Government.
- As of January 2017, only 18.3 per cent of government ministers were women; the most commonly held portfolio by women ministers is environment, natural resources, and energy, followed by social sectors, such as social affairs, education and the family.
- There is established and growing evidence that women’s leadership in political decision-making processes improves them. Women demonstrate political leadership by working across party lines through parliamentary women’s caucuses – even in the most politically combative environments – and by championing issues of gender equality, such as the elimination of gender-based violence, parental leave and childcare, pensions, gender-equality laws and electoral reform.
Global norms and standards: Leadership and political participation
A number of internationally agreed norms and standards relate to women’s leadership and political participation. Among the most prominent are:
1. The 2011 UN General Assembly resolution on women’s political participation stresses its critical importance in all contexts. It calls on UN Member States to take a variety of measures, including:
- To review the differential impact of their electoral systems on the political participation of women and their representation in elected bodies and to adjust or reform those systems where appropriate;
- To strongly encourage political parties to remove all barriers that directly or indirectly discriminate against the participation of women, to develop their capacity to analyse issues from a gender perspective, and to adopt policies, as appropriate, to promote the ability of women to participate fully at all levels of decision-making within those political parties;
- To promote awareness and recognition of the importance of women’s participation in the political process at the community, local, national and international levels;
- To investigate allegations of violence, assault or harassment of women elected officials and candidates for political office, create an environment of zero tolerance for such offences and, to ensure accountability, take all appropriate steps to prosecute those responsible; and
- To encourage greater involvement of women who may be marginalized, including indigenous women, women with disabilities, women from rural areas and women of any ethnic, cultural or religious minority, in decision-making at all levels, and address and counter the barriers faced by marginalized women in accessing and participating in politics and decision-making at all levels.
2. The 2003 UN General Assembly resolution on women’s political participation stipulates that Member States should take steps including to: monitor progress in the representation of women; ensure that measures to reconcile family and professional life apply equally to women and men; develop mechanisms and training programmes that encourage women to participate in the electoral process and improve women’s capacity to cast informed votes in free and fair elections; promote the participation of young people, especially women, in civil society organizations; and develop programmes to educate and train women and girls in using the media and information and communication technologies.
3. The UN Economic and Social Council resolution 1990/15 calls on governments, political parties, trade unions, and professional and other representative groups to adopt a 30 percent minimum proportion of women in leadership positions, with a view to achieving equal representation.
4. The Beijing Platform for Action reiterates resolution 1990/15 and calls for an increase in women’s representation in Strategic Objective G2.
5. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women includes commitments under Article 7 on political and public life, and Article 8 on representation.
Women’s movements have driven global and national action on gender equality.
Civil society groups are essential partners in implementing UN Women programmes, across all areas of our work by increasing their effectiveness, such as by sharing knowledge on women’s rights and successful advocacy practices. We provide support in building communication, leadership and other skills to influence political and governance processes, including those related to elections.
Parliaments and local governance
The percentage of women in national legislatures has become a standard measure of a country’s achievements in women’s political participation. Globally, the average has inched upward, but is still far from reflecting women’s share in society; disparities are also wide among local government bodies. The discrepancy directly infringes on women’s political rights, and can restrict rights in other areas, given the central role that national legislatures and local bodies have in formulating, implementing, and monitoring laws and budgets.
UN Women advocates for parliaments to increase the number of women leaders and representatives. We call for laws and budgets to promote gender equality, while helping legislators gain new knowledge of the value of gender equality and skills to advance it. Global partnerships, such as with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, are important to deepening collaboration with key parliamentary leaders and tailoring our work to the particularities of different legislatures.
Constitutions and legal reform
National constitutions are fundamental guides for organizing governance structures and establishing agreed legal principles. Over time, reforms or redrafting open opportunities for countries to embed or expand gender equality provisions. This is in line with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which calls on signatory states to embody the principle of gender equality in their constitutions. They should also act to realize this principle across all aspects of their legal systems, including by changing discriminatory laws, adopting statutes that advance gender equality and women’s empowerment, and ensuring that legal practices uphold women’s rights.
An important focus of UN Women’s work on constitutions and legal reform entails supporting national partners to integrate gender equality principles. To help foster consensus around implementing reforms so that they become a lived reality for women.
National and local elections can support women’s political participation in multiple ways, but specific measures may be required to overcome the barriers of gender discrimination. Women candidates may face gaps in capacities or resources that prevent them from competing effectively, for instance. If polling stations are located in remote or unsafe areas, women voters may be reluctant to use them. Sometimes electoral management bodies are unaware of hindrances to women’s participation because they do not have the knowledge, skills or data to analyse and correct these.
UN Women works on measures supporting women’s political participation across the electoral cycle, including through coordinated efforts with UN system partners. One major focus is the adoption and implementation of temporary special measures or quotas, a proven mechanism for increasing the number of women in politics.
We also advocate for and provide evidence to inform national electoral regulations. These should ensure that women have fair opportunities to campaign and register to vote, and are protected from election-related violence.
Other activities comprise training women as effective political candidates and leaders. Engagement with political parties encourages greater gender sensitivity, such as through internal regulations and practices to promote women’s leadership.
The media are potentially powerful channels of information in a society. The messages they transmit can change or reinforce social mores and behaviours, and mobilize citizens to take progressive actions. While, ideally, the media should strive for accuracy and impartiality, in reality there are often imbalances in coverage, including in terms of women and their perspectives. Women politicians, for example, may be under-represented in news before and after elections. There can be a strong preoccupation with women as mainly victims or celebrities.
D. Governance and National Planning
Facts and figures: Governance and National Planning
Domestic public finance
- Systems to track and make public resource allocations for gender equality are critical for strengthening accountability and developing transparent tracking systems for gender equality allocations
- At the national level, resources allocated to address gender equality are consistently low.
- The lack of investment in gender equality is costly both for realizing women’s political, economic and social rights and achieving inclusive economic growth.
International public finance
- The total volume of Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members’ aid commitments targeting gender equality and women’s empowerment more than quadrupled
- Funding for women’s organizations and private funding need to be enhanced.
Global norms and standards: Governance and national planning
A number of internationally agreed norms and standards relate to women and national plans and budgets. Among the most prominent are:
The 2011 UN General Assembly resolution on women in development:
- Urges the donor community, Member States, international organizations, including the United Nations, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, trade unions and other stakeholders to strengthen the focus and impact of development assistance targeting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls through gender mainstreaming, the funding of targeted activities and enhanced dialogue between donors and partners, and to also strengthen the mechanisms needed to measure effectively the resources allocated to incorporating gender perspectives in all areas of development assistance.
- Encourages Member States, the United Nations system and donor countries to strengthen gender-responsive planning and budgeting processes and to develop and strengthen methodologies and tools for this purpose as well as for the monitoring and evaluation of investments for gender-equality results, as appropriate, and encourages donors to mainstream a gender perspective in their practices, including joint coordination and accountability mechanisms.
- Urges multilateral donors, and invites international financial institutions, within their respective mandates, and regional development banks to review and implement policies that support national efforts to ensure that a higher proportion of resources reaches women, in particular in rural and remote areas.
- Stresses the importance of improving and systematizing the collection, analysis and dissemination of data disaggregated by sex and age, and of developing gender-sensitive indicators that are specific and relevant with respect to supporting policymaking and national systems for monitoring and reporting on progress and impact, and in that regard encourages developed countries and relevant entities of the United Nations system to provide support and assistance to developing countries, upon their request, with respect to establishing, developing and strengthening their databases and information systems.
The 2012 UN General Assembly resolution on follow-up to the Beijing Platform for Action, encourages increased efforts by governments and the United Nations system to enhance accountability for the implementation of commitments to gender equality and the empowerment of women at the international, regional and national levels, including by improved monitoring and reporting on progress in relation to policies, strategies, resource allocations and programmes and by achieving gender balance.
At its 52nd session in 2008, the Commission on the Status of Women issued agreed conclusions on financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment. They identified actions by various actors to guarantee financing for gender equality. The UN Secretary-General’s report for the session defined financing for gender equality as the process of “ensuring adequate resource allocations to translate commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment into action, including financing of critical stakeholders within national women’s mechanisms, and women’s organizations.” In 2012, the Commission reviewed implementation of the 2008 agreement and highlighted progress in integrating gender in national budgets, development cooperation and the United Nations.
The Beijing Platform for Action: inspiration then and now
An unprecedented 17,000 participants and 30,000 activists streamed into Beijing for the opening of the Fourth World Conference on Women in September 1995. They were remarkably diverse, coming from around the globe, but they had a single purpose in mind: gender equality and the empowerment of all women, everywhere.
Two weeks of political debate followed and representatives of 189 governments hammered out commitments that were historic in scope. Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights.
As a defining framework for change, the Platform for Action made comprehensive commitments under 12 critical areas of concern. Even 23 years later, it remains a powerful source of guidance and inspiration.
The Platform for Action imagines a world where each woman and girl can exercise her freedoms and choices, and realize all her rights, such as to live free from violence, to go to school, to participate in decisions and to earn equal pay for equal work.
The Beijing process unleashed remarkable political will and worldwide visibility. It connected and reinforced the activism of women’s movements on a global scale. Conference participants went home with great hope and clear agreement on how to achieve equality and empowerment.
Since then, governments, civil society and the public have translated the Platform for Action’s promises into concrete changes in individual countries. These have ushered in enormous improvements in women’s lives. More women and girls than at any previous point in time serve in political offices, are protected by laws against gender-based violence, and live under constitutions guaranteeing gender equality. Regular five-year reviews of progress on fulfilling Beijing commitments have sustained momentum.
Still, the Platform for Action envisioned gender equality in all dimensions of life—and no country has yet finished this agenda. Women earn less than men and are more likely to work in poor-quality jobs. A third suffer physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Gaps in reproductive rights and health care leave 800 women dying in childbirth each day.
Critical areas of concern
- Women and the environment
- Women in power and decision-making
- The girl child
- Women and the economy
- Women and poverty
- Violence against women
- Human rights of women
- Education and training of women
- Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women
- Women and health
- Women and the media
- Women and armed conflict
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
It was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is often described as an international bill of rights for women. Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, it defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.
The Convention defines discrimination against women as “…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”
By accepting the Convention, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including:
- to incorporate the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women;
- to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and
- to ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises.
The Convention provides the basis for realizing equality between women and men through ensuring women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life — including the right to vote and to stand for election — as well as education, health and employment. States parties agree to take all appropriate measures, including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Convention is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations. It affirms women’s rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality and the nationality of their children. States parties also agree to take appropriate measures against all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of women.
SPECIAL INITIATIVES FOR WOMEN
(i) National Commission for Women : In January 1992, the Government set-up this statutory body with a specific mandate to study and monitor all matters relating to the constitutional and legal safeguards provided for women, review the existing legislation to suggest amendments wherever necessary, etc.
(ii) Reservation for Women in Local Self -Government : The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Acts passed in 1992 by Parliament ensure one-third of the total seats for women in all elected offices in local bodies whether in rural areas or urban areas.
(iii) The National Plan of Action for the Girl Child (1991-2000) : The plan of Action is to ensure survival, protection and development of the girl child with the ultimate objective of building up a better future for the girl child. National Policy for Children-2013 was adopted by the Government of India on 26th April 2013. National Plan of Action for Children 2016 is in Draft Format.
(iv) National Policy for the Empowerment of Women, 2001 : The Department of Women & Child Development in the Ministry of Human Resource Development has prepared a “National Policy for the Empowerment of Women” in the year 2001. The goal of this policy is to bring about the advancement, development and empowerment of women.
National Policy for the Empowerment of Women, 2016 is under draft stage.
Amendment in IPC and CrPC in light of Nirbhaya Case
Women self help group
- Indira Gandhi
- Sumitra Mahajan
- Sushma Swaraj
- Nirmala sitaraman
- Kalpana Chawala
- Nikki Halley
- Pratibha Patil
- Sarojini naidu