INDIA has the largest population of non-school going working girls. The Constitution guarantees free primary education for both boys and girls up to the age of 14. This goal has been repeatedly reiterated, but primary education is not universal.
Overall, the literacy rate for women is 39 per cent against 64 per cent for men.
Attendance rates from the 1981 census suggest that no more than one-third of all girls aged 5-14 attend school. Although substantial progress has been achieved since India gained independence in 1947 when less than 8 per cent of females were literate, the gains have however not been rapid enough to keep pace with the population growth.
The cause for the sad situation is the view of the parents that education of girls brings no returns to parents. However, in urban India the view is changing as more and more families are taking up family planning and treating their daughters no less than their sons. But rural India which constitutes around 70 per cent of the population, is still orthodox in its their approach.
The irony is that in spite of the fact that women contribute much to society, they work longer hours and their work is more arduous than mens. Yet men report that women, like children, eat and do nothing.
Many maintain that womens economic dependence on men impacts their power within the family. With increased participation in income-earning activities, not only will there be more income for the family, but gender inequality would be reduced. This issue is particularly salient in India because studies show a very low level of female participation in the labour force.
This under-reporting is attributed to the frequently held view that womens work is not economically productive. But sadly if all activities-including maintenance of kitchen gardens and poultry, grinding foodgrains, collecting water and firewood,etc are taken into account, 88 per cent of rural housewives and 66 per cent of urban housewives can be considered as economically productive.
Thats not all in recent years. There has been an alarming rise in atrocities against women in India. Every 26 minutes a woman is molested; every 34 minutes a rape takes place; every 42 minutes a sexual harassment incident occurs; every 43 minutes a woman is kidnapped and every 93 minutes a woman is burnt to death over dowry.
One-quarter of the reported rapes involve girls under the age of 16, but the vast majority are not reported. Although the penalty is severe, convictions are rare.
An overview of the situation shows that there remains lot to be desired in the field of women empowerment. The irony is that in spite of 2001 being the Year of Women Empowerment, the Women Bill which was introduced in Parliament in 1998 and seeks to reserve a certain percentage of seats in Parliament, still waits to see the light of dawn. Can we still call ourselves progressive? ANI