Role of Women and Women’s Organization


“It is impossible to think about the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is impossible for a bird to fly on only one wing.” — Swami Vivekananda.

To prepare for INDIAN SOCIETY for any competitive exam, aspirants have to know about the Role of Women and Women’s Organization. It gives an idea of all the important topics for the IAS Exam and the Economy syllabus (GS-II.). Important Role of Women and Women’s Organization terms are important from Economy perspectives in the UPSC exam. IAS aspirants should thoroughly understand their meaning and application, as questions can be asked from this static portion of the IAS Syllabus in both the UPSC Prelims and the UPSC Mains exams.


  • India, a nation which had Mahatma Gandhi as its role model of rectitude became so unbelievably violent and corrupt that the women can no longer be safe within their bodies. Gandhi who defeated the whites to save the browns by relying on non-violence is considered as the father of the nation, but his values are being betrayed so easily that a woman is raped every twenty minutes in the world’s largest democracy and even children of five years are subjected to rape.
  • The status of women in India has been subject to many changes over the span of recorded Indian history.
  • With women participating in nationalist movements, to being pushed into the domestic household space, to their resurgence as super-women today, women in our country have seen it all.
  • The status of women might have raised under the law, in practice they continue to suffer from discrimination, harassment and humiliation.
  • Though mother nature has made women with an equally important role as men in the society, the latter have made them subordinate in many ways.


    • Early Vedic Age
    • Later Vedic period
    • Medieval Period
    • During British Raj
    • Post- Indepedence


During this period (1500 BC – 1000 BC) women were accorded high level of respect and dignityEarly Vedic Age:

  • They enjoyed complete freedom in every sphere and were placed as central to creation of all lives in the cosmos.


Later Vedic period:

  • During this period (1000 – 500 BC) a need for large army in turn gave more role and prestige to men
  • Women were considered as inferior and subordinate to men with denied political rights.


Medieval Period:

  • During the era of Muslim kings, the existing social evils became more prominent like female infanticide, no education to girls, child marriage etc.
  • However, with the rise of bhakti movement and Sufism, the status of women improved significantly across India.
  • Various popular figures like Shankaracharya, Ramanuja, Guru Nanak vociferously voiced against ill treatment and suppression of women irrespective of caste and religion.


During British Raj:


  • Status of women in politics can be defined as the degree of equality and freedom enjoyed by the women in shaping and sharing of power.
  • As of 2018- 2019, some women have served in various senior official positions in the Indian government, including that of the President of India, the Prime Minister of India, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
  • With only around 9 per cent women in the upper house and around 11 per cent in the lower house of parliament, India ranks 99th in the world in terms of female representation among MPs.
  • It includes exercising the right to vote, power sharing, membership of political parties, electoral campaigning, attending party meetings, holding party positions, contesting elections, co-decision making, co-policy making at all levels of governance of the state.
  • The social and cultural prejudices against the women restrict their participation in the decision-making process which can be seen in political arena as well. As per the Election Commission of India, 49% of the Indian electorate consists of women. Yet, only 14% of the 17th Lok Sabha members are women MPs, the highest since Independence.
  • Although, representation of women has increased only marginally since Independence – from 4.4 percent in 1951 to 11 percent in 2014 – way below the global average of 23.4 percent. At this rate, it would take another 180 years to reach the desired gender balance.


At Panchayat level:

  • 73rd & 74th amendments to the constitution have ensured the participation of women in PRIs with a reservation of 1/3rd for women. This was aimed at empowering women and ensuring their participation in the political process and decision making at grass root level.


Recent Development:

  • In this regard the Government of India introduced various acts and policies so as to empower the women in India politically.
  • Through 1/3rd reservation of seats for women in Panchayats and Nagar palikas, they have been able to make meaningful contributions and that the actual representation of women in Panchayati Raj institutions has gone upto 42.3% i.e., beyond the reservation percentage. This has led the Government to make 50 percent reservation for women in local bodies.


  • India has made significant economic progress in recent decades, however such economic growth, has not been matched by progress towards women’s equal economic participation.
  • Financial empowerment is central to the overall empowerment of women, and financial inclusion can play a major role in empowering of women.
  • According to the World Bank, India ranks 120 among 131 countries in Female Labor Force Participation Rates (FLFPR) and rates of gender-based violence remain unacceptably high.
  • At 17% of GDP, the economic contribution of Indian women is less than half the global average, and compares unfavorably to the 40% in China.

Current Situation in India:

Female Participation in the Labour Market –

  • Recently UNDP, in association with IKEA Foundation has brought out a report titled “Female work and labour force participation in India” which aim to understand the continuing problem of low female labour force participation in India despite massive investments in employment and skill-building initiatives.
  • Female participation in the labour market is 2 percent compared to 78.8 for men.
  • Rural women are leaving India’s workforce at a faster rate than urban women.
  • A McKinsey Global study in 2015 found that India could increase its GDP by 16-60% by 2025 by simply enabling women to participate in the economy at par with men.



Reasons for low labour force participation-

  • Increased income of men – As men in the family start earning more income, women tend to cut back their work in the formal economy to concentrate more on household activities.
  • Caste factor – In some communities, notably some upper castes, there may be a stigma attached to women working outside the home. It increases family and societal pressures to drop out if the men in the household are earning enough to foot the bills.
  • Safety issues & Harassment at the workplace – Women are more vulnerable to exploitation and harassment at work in developing countries like India. They are also unable to effectively fight against harassment.
  • The nature of economic growth in the country has meant that jobs were not created in large numbers in sectors that could readily absorb women, especially for those in rural areas.
  • Sexual Harassment at the Workplace: Around 31% of the firms are not compliant with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, which mandates “Internal Compliance Committees” (ICCs) and Local Complaint Committee (LCC) being constituted.
  • Deep-rooted social norms, lack of agency and gendering of occupations often leads to women having little choice in their employment and work decisions.
  • Policy failure and the policy-implementation gap is also a major reason for low labour force participation.
    • The rising incomes of Indian households have enabled Indian women to withdraw from the labor market and focus on their role in “status production”
    • Double burden or dual responsibility (family and work place)


Maternity Aspect:

§ Many women who join the workforce are unable to rejoin after having a child.

§ Maternity benefits Act 2016 increased cost for companies and may have discouraged them from hiring women. The estimated loss of female jobs was between 1.1 to 1.8 million for 2017-18, over and above the usual job loss due to attrition related to maternity.

§ The non – availability of quality day-care is one factor which inhibits women from returning to work after their maternity leave.

Education-Employment Trade-off:

§ For salaried work, the probability of being employed steadily increases as a woman’s education increases, whereas for casual wage labor and for work in family farms and businesses, women’s LFPR decreases with an increase in education. Once they attain moderate levels of education, women do not work in manual labor.

§ The decline in women’s LFPR with more education is greatest for agricultural and non-agricultural wage work, even more than for work in family enterprises. It is especially manual work outside the household that is perceived to be below one’s educational attainment.


Suggestions to improve FLFP:

  • By Modifying outcome metrics for labour market programmes by including enabling factors such as safety, aspiration alignment and so on.
  • Education ecosystem needs to go through a set of system strengthening initiatives, including the introduction of digital and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education in schools.
  • Using tax policies to incentivize women into the labour market on both the demand and supply side.By introducing tax incentives for enterprises that have internal complaint mechanisms, gender friendly transport services and so on.
  • By promoting large-scale social campaigns for changing social norms which break gender stereotypes, which includes women as well as redefining the role of men in households Support Services.
  • By providing support to women who migrate in search of work and jobs.
  • By providing arrangements for childcare at training centers, better stipends for travel, lodging, boarding and other expenses incurred during programme participation.
  • By developing forums for informal and formal mentorship and connections to female role models and women in leadership which is to be achieved not by tokenism but by increasing the ease of economic and political participation.


Gender Wage gap and Gender Inequality

  • Gender equality is when women and men enjoy the same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including economic participation and decision-making.
  • However due to unequal treatment, society’s gender norms, the economic status, and financial literacy among women shows a downward trend.
  • Gender inequality is a major factor curbing potential candidates from performing where they ought to.


Global Gender Gap Report 2020

  • Global Gender Gap Report is published by the World Economic Forum (WEF). India has been ranked 112th out of 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index 2020
  • Gender gap was measured across four key pillars à economic participation and opportunity (42%), educational attainment (4.4%), health and survival (4.6%), and political empowerment (77%).


Reasons Behind Gender Pay Gap

§ Preference for male employees over female employees

§ Career breaks of women due to parenthood duties and other socio-cultural factors.

§ Lack of flexible work policies or extended leave

§ Lack of involvement of women in male dominated sectors for example armed forces.

§ “Glass ceiling effect” faced by women

§ The women are mostly deemed fit for “pink collar jobs’ ‘ only, such as teachers, nurses, receptionist, babysitter, lecturer etc. which have been stereotyped for women. This denies them opportunities in other fields.



Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017

  • The 2017 landmark amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 (MBA), effective as of the 1st of April, 2017, has been welcomed by employees and employers.
    1. It provides a maternity leave of 26 weeks which exceeds ILO’s minimum standard of 14 weeks.
    2. Recognition of the rights of an adopting mother and of a commissioning mother (using a surrogate to bear a child) for the first time, who may claim paid maternity leave for 12 weeks;
    3. A “work from home” option that may be of benefit after the maternity leave expires;
    4. Effective as of the 1st of July, 2017, mandatory crèche (day care) facilities for every establishment employing 50 or more employees, including the right of mothers to visit the crèche four times per day.
    5. The act will help the 18-lakh (1.8 million) women workforce in the organized sector.
    6. They also help women devote time to take care of their babies and enable an increase in the women’s labour force participation (WLFPR) rate in India.

  • The social and cultural Empowerment is the fundamental and the foundation block for the development of women empowerment. It includes a range of constituents such as discriminatory patriarchal norms against women, access to health and education services, caste and class and religious divides
  • Social status of women can be further classified based on following factors like health, education, violence against women which are discussed as below:


Status on Health:

  • Health and nutritional status of Indian women is becoming worse due to the prevailing culture and traditional practices in India.
  • Indian women are generally vulnerable to poor nutrition, especially during pregnancy and lactation.




Maternal Health:

  • Poor maternal health often affects a child’s health in adverse ways and also decreases a woman’s ability to participate in economic activities.
  • Therefore, national health programmes such as the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and the Family Welfare Programme have been created to address the maternal health care needs of women across India.


To reduce infant mortality (IMR) and stillbirth, various programmes and schemes under National Health Mission are implemented by States/ UTs as follows:

§ The promotion of Institutional deliveries through cash incentive under Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) and Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (JSSK) entitles all pregnant women (PW) delivering in public health institutions to free ante-natal check-ups, delivery including Caesarean section, postnatal care and treatment of sick infants till one year of age. Both JSY and JSSK were launched with the objective of increasing institutional deliveries.

§ Early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding for first six months

§ Universal Immunization Programme (UIP)

§ Mission Indradhanush and Intensified Mission Indradhanush

§ LaQshya (Labour Room quality improvement programme)

§ Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA)


Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA)

§ It has been launched by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India.

§ The program aims to provide assured, comprehensive and quality antenatal care, free of cost, universally to all pregnant women on the 9th of every month.

§ PMSMA guarantees a minimum package of antenatal care services to women in their 2nd / 3rd trimesters of pregnancy at designated government health facilities.

§ The programme follows a systematic approach for engagement with the private sector which includes motivating private practitioners to volunteer for the campaign developing strategies for generating awareness and appealing to the private sector to participate in the Abhiyan at government health facilities.



Reproductive rights and women health:

  • Women’s reproductive rights may include some or all of the following:
  • the right to legal and safe abortion;
  • the right to birth control;
  • freedom from coerced sterilization and contraception;
  • the right to education and access in order to make free and informed reproductive choices.
  • the right to access good-quality reproductive healthcare;

Nutrition plays a major role
in an individual’s overall health; psychologicaland physical health status is often dramatically impacted by the presence of malnutrition.Malnutrition and morbidity

  • India currently has one of the highest rates of malnourished women, adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating women in India, with repercussions for children’s health.


Various Government schemes and Programmes are being implemented in this regard such as:
Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojna PMMVY is a maternity Benefit Programme being implemented in all the districts of the country in accordance with the provision of the National Food Security Act, 2013.
Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation Programme Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation Programme to meet the challenge of high prevalence and incidence of anaemia amongst adolescent girls and boys.
National Health Mission (NHM)


– It was launched in 2013 to tackle Malnutrition. It subsumed the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and the National Urban Health Mission.

– It is being implemented by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. It was further extended in March 2018, to continue till March 2020.

Components: It include health system strengthening in rural and urban areas for – Reproductive-Maternal- Neonatal-Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A), and Communicable and Non-Communicable Diseases.

Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme


– It provides specific interventions targeted towards the vulnerable groups including children below 6 years and women.

– It is being implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

– It provides a package of six services namely supplementary nutrition, pre-school non-formal education, nutrition & health education, immunization, health check-up and referral services.

Mid-Day Meal Scheme

– It was launched in 1995 as a centrally sponsored scheme (CSS)

– It provides that every child in every Government and Government aided primary school within the age group of six to fourteen years studying in classes I to VIII who enrols and attends the school shall be provided with a hot cooked meal, free of charge every day with a minimum content of 300 calories of energy and 8-12 gram protein per day for a minimum of 200 days except on school holidays.

– The Scheme was further revised in April 2008 to extend the scheme to recognized as well as unrecognized Madrasa / Maqtabs supported under SSA.


Status of women in Literacy:

  • Literacy in India is a key for socio-economic There is a wide gender disparityin the literacy rate in India:
  • Today the female literacy rate is 65.46% where the male literacy rate is over 80%.
  • The differences in literacy rates among the states are also extreme.
  • Kerala has the highest female literacy rate. On the other hand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have low female literacy rates.
  • literacy in India is characterized by wide gaps between the urban and rural populations.
  • The rural population depends mainly on agriculture and the rate of illiteracy is high while the urban population is more of the employee class and also more educated.

Reasons for the low literacy rate of women:

§ Poor school environment for girls

§ Early marriage

§ Dowry system

§ Priority to son’s education compared to daughter’s education

§ Poverty and hunger

§ The lower enrolment and retention

Programmes undertaken by the Ministry of Human Resource Development

§ Operation Blackboard, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Non-Formal Education, District Primary Education Programme, National Literacy Mission, Navodaya Vidyalaya, and Vocational Education.



Status of women in Patriarchal society:

  • Patriarchy is a social system in which men hold primary power, predominate in the roles of political leadership, moral authority, special privilege and control of the property. They also hold power in the domain of the family, as fatherly figures.
  • Women are a victim of male domination in the respective sphere of life; especially in economic life, over decision making on resources, on the utilization of her earnings and her body.
  • Hence, a woman’s life lies between pleasures at one end and danger at another end.
  • Patriarchy leads to exploitation of women in the form of violence, economic exploitation, educational deprivation etc.



  • Though the status of women in their husbands’ home is improved a lot, women still face domestic violence for dowry or love marriage or inter caste marriage.
  • It creates a lot of emotional tensions in the family and society at large.
  • They are regarded as dependent beings which underline the preference for child marriage, especially among rural and backward communities.
  • In order to curb child marriages, dowry, domestic violence against women government has implemented various acts like Domestic Violence Act, 2005 so as to eliminate the loopholes in the current system.


Nature, Range and Patterns of Women’s Work


What is Women’s Work? § Defining the exact nature, scope and magnitude of women’s work remains a problem area because a good deal of women’s work is either invisible or is only partially accounted for in the data on workforce participation.

§ Components of women’s work include housework, paid and unpaid work related to home-based craft activities, family enterprise or business and paid work outside home.

§ You must have observed differential work participation of men, women and children within the family both in quantitative and qualitative terms.

§ The kind of work women do is determined by women’s position in the society and family’s location in the social hierarchy.

Unpaid Work

§ In rural areas the women from the poorer households engage in various activities such as cooking, processing of food for household consumption, storing grains, childcare, fetching fuelwood, fodder and water, collection of forest produce, preparation of cow dung cakes, care of livestock and cattle and house repair and maintenance.
Female Child Labour

§ Girls continue to provide free labour in home-based production systems.

§ Studies on rural girl child labour show that she works nine hours a day providing goods and services, which keep her out of school. She works on an average 318 days a year in the fields and at home providing free labour.

Paid Work

§ Women also work for wages in fields, forests, mines, factories, offices, small-scale and household industries. The nature and extent of such work differs according to the location of family in the social hierarchy.

§ In the rural sector the subsistence work burden falls heavily on women, while in higher castes and higher income groups ‘non-work’ of women is given more value.

Education, Paid Employment and Household Responsibilities

  • On one hand, illiteracy among the majority of women in the lower socio-economic group constitutes a major barrier to increasing and diversifying work and training opportunities.
  • On the other hand, pre-defined roles, ideology and labour market forces in a labour surplus economy effectively restrict women’s work opportunity among educated women of certain sectors.


Agricultural and Industrial Sectors

  • The proportion of female agricultural workers which was less than one-third of the total workforce in 1951 rose to more than fifty per cent, which means greater dependence on the agriculture sector.


Women in Services and Professions

  • Despite the impressive increase in the number of educated women in urban areas the gap between men and women in the services and professions is large. It can be attributed to the following factors:
  • Girls are generally specialized for their domestic roles
  • Less investment in the vocational and technical training of women
  • Higher concentration of girls is found in humanities and social sciences rather than vocational and technical courses.
  • There is less physical mobility among women after marriage


  • National Women’s Farmer’s Day (Rashtriya Mahila Kisan Diwas) is celebrated on October 15 for recognizing the multidimensional role of women at every stage in agriculture.

Current trends in feminization of Agriculture

  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women’s contribution to Indian agriculture is approximately 32%, while in some states (such as Hill states, Northeastern states, and Kerala) contribution of women in agriculture and rural economy are more than men.
  • According to the data of Economic Survey (2017-18), with growing rural to urban migration by men, there is ‘feminization’ of agriculture sector, with increasing number of women in multiple roles as cultivators, entrepreneurs, and labourers.
  • Out of total female main workers, 55% were agricultural labourers and 24% were cultivators (Census 2011).
  • As per the 10th Agriculture Census (2015-16), the percentage of female operational holdings in the country have increased from about 13% percent during 2010-11 to around 14% during 2015-16.
  • Others: Agrarian distress, male migration and poverty are prominent reasons for increasing feminization of agriculture.

Impact of feminization of agriculture:

  • According to the FAO, if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30%. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by up to 4% which would mean a dramatic reduction in hunger.
  • Research worldwide shows that women with access to secure land, formal credit and access to markets have greater propensity to invest in improving harvest, increasing productivity, and improving household food security and households.

Family Structure in India:

  • India’s family structure is unique as it accommodates both nuclear and joint families. In past time, joint households were the norm; however, migration and urbanization are rapidly changing family structures.
  • According to the 2011 census, out of 24.88 crore households, 12.97 crore or 52.1% were nuclear households.
  • The nuclear families are increasingly common, changing women’s relative position in a family and with respect to social security and care for the elderly.

Family structure and position of women

  • In nuclear households, Women enjoy greater decision-making power, greater freedom of movement outside the house premises and greater participation in jobs.
  • Women’s autonomy is differentiated by economic status, caste and household location.g. women in richer joint households have more autonomy in intra-household decision-making but less freedom of movement outside the home. For women in poorer joint households, women’s have greater freedom of movement outside the home but less autonomy in intra-household decision-making.
  • Geographic location of the household: Women in joint households in Northern India have less autonomy compared to their counterparts in southern India. In the south, the effects of family structure on women’s autonomy are weaker.
  • Division of labour on the basis of sex is a characteristic of traditional family life in India. A woman was supposed to do all sorts of domestic work such as cooking, cleaning utensils, washing clothes etc. besides she has to do motherly duties of looking after the children and the interests of all the members of the family.
  • In recent times with the increasing education levels and the economic opportunities in wake of Globalisation the socio-economic mobility of Indian women has increased.
  • In 1993-94, as many as 2 percent female workers were engaged in the primary sector, which includes agriculture and allied sectors such as forestry, livestock etc., in the rural areas.


The problem of women keeps changing from time to time with changing circumstances. Women faces the following problems:

Sexual Harassment:

  • It acts as a deterrent to women’s freedom and perpetuates the notion that women are the weaker sex. The NCRB data highlights that sexual harassment is a risk in all facets of life: in shelter homes, in the workplace, in the home, on public transport.
  • According to statistics recently released by the NCRB,of states, Uttar Pradesh recorded the most sexual harassment cases that year.


Marital Rape:

  • Marital rape is the act of sexual intercourse with one’s spouse without the consent of the other spouse.
  • Currently marital rape is not a ground for a divorce in Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Muslim Personal Law [Shariat] Application Act, 1937 and Special Marriage Act, 1954, it cannot be used as a ground for divorce and cruelty against husband.
  • Section 375 of the IPC holds that “sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape”

Why Criminalization of Marital Rape is necessary?

  • The report ‘Status of Women in India’, by the high-level Pam Rajput committee of the Ministry of Woman and Child Development, criticised the legislature for its failure to criminalize marital rape.
  • Exception under Section 375, violates Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of a woman.
  • The patriarchal nature of Indian society, ingrains it in the minds of men that women are expected to comply when their husbands demand sex.
  • The victim suffers physical abuse, and she also has to undergo mental trauma of her dignity being violated.

Child Rape:

  • National Crimes Record Bureau statistics state that a total of 48,338 child rape cases were recorded from 2001 to 2011.
  • India saw an increase of 336% of child rape cases from 2,113 cases in 2001 to 7,112 cases in 2011.
Why are Child rapes increasing?
A rise in reporting:

– Reporting of child abuse and rape cases have increased due to the lowering of the stigma attached.

– The rise of social media has created awareness about child abuse.

– Many instances of celebrities opening up about being abused in their childhood (for instance, the allegations of rape against Director Anurag Kashyap) have also motivated many parents to report.

New criminal laws:

– The introduction of POCSO in 2012 and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act in 2013 was instrumental in higher reporting of rape against children.

– The definition of rape now includes many more sexual actions than were earlier classified as sexual assault.

Age of consent for girls has been raised from 16 to 18 years. This means boys who have consensual sex can be charged with rape.

Sexual Harassment of women at workplace:

  • In order to effectively address the heinous crimes of sexual abuse various acts and policies are being implemented across the nation like:
  • Sexual Harassment of women at workplace (Prevention, prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 demands that any workplace with more than 10 employees need to create a mechanism for redressal of complaints against sexual harassment.
  • VISHAKA guidelines by the Supreme Court which provide measures to be taken by employers, SHE Box by Ministry of Women and Child Development for online complaints.


  • Dowry deaths are deaths of married women who are murdered or driven to suicide by continuous harassment and torture by their husbands and in-laws over a dispute about their dowry, making the women’s homes the most dangerous place for them to be.
  • According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data released recently, the highest number of dowry deaths during the last three years have been reported from the state of Uttar Pradesh followed by Bihar.
  • There are three laws in place in India that deal directly with domestic violence:
    • The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
    • The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, and
    • Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.

Domestic Violence Act, 2005:

  • Recently, the Supreme Court has ruled that under the domestic violence law, even a brother-in-law can be ordered to pay maintenance to a woman under the Domestic Violence Act if they had lived together under the same roof in a shared household as part of a joint family at any point of time.


Issues Involved:

  • The changing socio-economic relations particularly in urban areas such as more income of a working woman than her partner, abusing and neglecting in-laws, dowry demands etc.
  • Most often womens are cursed for their husband’s death and are deprived of proper food and clothing without often being given the opportunity for remarriage in most of the homes.
  • Patriarchal mindset– male domination and control over women, male privilege and women’s subordinate status, infertility or desire for male child.
  • Women are also more likely to experience intimate partner violence if they have low education, exposure to mothers being abused by a partner, abuse during childhood, and attitudes accepting violence, male privilege and women’s subordinate status.

Government Steps to prevent Domestic Violence:

  • The Act expanded the definition of domestic violence to include not just physical, but also verbal, emotional, sexual and economic
  • Domestic Violence is broad in its definition – “domestic relationship” includes married women, mothers, daughters and sisters.
  • This law not only protects women who are married but also protects women in live-in relationships, as well as family members including mothers, grandmothers, etc.
  • Under this law, women can seek protection against domestic violence, financial compensation and they can get maintenance from their abuser in case they are living apart.
  • It provides the Right to Secure Housinge. right to reside in the matrimonial or shared household, whether or not she has any title or rights in the household. This right is secured by a residence order, which is passed by a court.
  • It provides for breach of protection order or interim protection order by the respondent as a cognizable and non-bailable offence punishable with imprisonment.
  • It provides for appointment of protection officers and NGOs to provide assistance to the woman for medical examination, legal aid and safe Shelter.
  • PWDVA enshrines principles of the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which India ratified in 1993.

Issues with Domestic violence Act

  • Gender biased and not gender neutral: There have been an increasing number of false cases. Also, the domestic violence against men in India is not recognised by the law.
  • The Lack of awareness especially in rural areas where there is more need for such Acts.
  • Judicial system resorting to mediation and counselling even in cases of extreme abuse. Also, Insensitivity by male police officers, judicial magistrates during hearings, etc.
  • Absence of economic, psychological and support systems for victim women.
  • Insufficient budgetary allocation to States– the States could not assign ‘Protection Officers’ because of the already overburdened department.
  • Though most of these cases are reported from urban areas, innumerable cases of violence against women go unreported in India’s distant villages.

Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 § This is a criminal law that punishes the taking and giving of dowry. Under this law, if someone takes, gives or even demands dowry, they can be imprisoned for six months or they can be fined up to Rs 5,000.
Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code § This is a criminal law, which applies to husbands or relatives of husbands who are cruel to women. Recently, the Supreme Court restored an immediate arrest provision in the dreaded Section 498A, IPC.
Anti-dowry Movements

§ Dowry murders have witnessed a sustained campaign by several women’s organisations and civil rights groups.

§ In the 1980s several women’s and other progressive organisations formed a joint front in Delhi called “Dahej Virodhi Chetna Manch”.

§ After much deliberation, the Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 1984 was passed.

  • Harassment via e-Mails: It is very common type of harassment through sending letters, attachments of files & folders i.e. via e-mails; most common now in the form of using of social sitese. Facebook, Twitter etc.
  • Cyber-Stalking: It means expressed or implied physical threat that creates fear through the use of computer technology such as the internet, e-mail, phones, text messages, webcam, websites or videos.
  • Dissemination of Obscene Material: It includes Indecent exposure/ Pornography (basically child pornography), hosting of web site containing these prohibited materials.
  • E-Mail Spoofing: A spoofed email may be said to be one, which misrepresents its origin. It shows its origin to be different from which actually it originates. This method is often used by cyber criminals to extract personal information and private images from unsuspecting women, these images etc. are then used to blackmail those women.
  • Others: Cyber Pornography, Defamation, and image morphing.


Steps taken by the Government in Preventing Cyber Crimes Against Women

  • Cyber Crime Cells have been set up in States and Union Territories for reporting and investigation of Cyber Crime cases.
  • Government has set up cyber forensic training and investigation labs in the States of Kerala, Assam, Mizoram etc. for training of Law Enforcement and Judiciary in these States.
  • Programmes on Cyber Crime investigation – Various Law schools are engaged in conducting several awareness and training programmes on Cyber Laws and Cyber Crimes for judicial officers.
  • Training is imparted to Police Officers and Judicial officers in the Training Labs established by the Government.
  • The Scheme for Universalization of Women Helpline has been approved to provide a 24-hour emergency and non-emergency response to all women affected by violence.


  • A large number of women destitute or victims of rape who are disowned by family fall prey to prostitution forcibly.
  • Laws related to prostitution in India:
  • Suppression of Immoral Traffic in woman and girl act – 1956
  • Prevention of immoral traffic act – 1956
  • Immoral traffic prevention act – 1956


Steps that should be taken in order to fight with prostitution:

  • Normal education should be made available to those victims who are still within the school going age, while non-formal education should be made accessible to adults
  • The Central and State Governments in partnership with non-governmental organizations should provide gender sensitive market driven vocational training to all those rescued victims who are not interested in education.
  • Rehabilitation and reintegration of rescued victims should be done.
  • Awareness generation and legal literacy on economic rights, particularly for women and adolescent girls should be taken up.


  • Female foeticide refers to ‘aborting the female in the mother’s womb’; whereas female infanticide is ‘killing the girl child after her birth’.



  1. Nearly 10 million female fetuses have been aborted in the country over the past two decades
  2. The United Nations has reported that India’s female ratio between 0-6 years age group has fallen to 896 females per 1,000 males, the lowest ever in a decade for the world’s second most populous nation
  3. About three-fourths of the women in the suburban area know about the sex determination test, and female foeticide is favored both in rural and urban areas
  4. 1 out of every 6 girls does not live to see her 15th birthday. Of the 12 million girls born in India, one million do not see their first birthday.
  5. Seven thousand fewer girls are born in India each day than the global average would suggest.

Why Female Feticide?

  • Preference for son: The bias against females in India is grounded in cultural, economic and religious roots. Sons are expected to work in the fields; they provide greater income and look after parents in old age.
  • Dowry system: which is going on from past 50 years but today it has become worse, people demand so much money that girl families can’t fulfill it, and even there are some cases where brides are tortured to get money from their families. This system is more rigid in northern India.
  • Education: why one should spend so much money on the schools and colleges because she has to go to another family and what is the benefit of her knowledge to us, even if she starts earning then we don’t get any money from her.
  • Availability of latest technology: Various aspect like focus on family planning, availability of latest technology facilitating sex identification and abortion, failure in stringent application of PCPNDT act all have resulted into increased cases of female foeticide.
  • Others: Decline in the moral and ethical standards as individuals and families lead to more cases of female foeticide.
  • The Indian government has passed Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act(PCPNDT) in 1994 to ban and punish prenatal sex screening and female foeticide.



The Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994:

  • It was enacted to stop female foeticides and arrest the declining sex ratio in India which was amended in 2003, to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection.
  • The basic requirements of the act include the registration of clinics, written consent of the pregnant women, prohibition of communicating the sex of fetus, maintenance of records and creating awareness among the public at large by placing the board of prohibition on sex determination.


Rigid provisions in the Act:

  • Key to prevent female foeticide à The Supreme Court highlighted that non-maintenance of record by sonography and diagnostic centre is a springboard for the commission of the offence of female foeticide, which is what is intended by the Act and, it cannot be termed as a clerical error.
  • Sex selective abortions relegate the right to life of the girl child under Article 21 of the Constitution, to a mere formality. As per a United Nations Report, more than 6 lakh girls went missing at birth on an average annually during the period 2001-12.
  • Leads to a cycle of violence against women à A skewed sex- ratio is likely to lead to greater incidences of violence against women and increase in practices of trafficking, ‘bride­buying’ The rigorous implementation of the Act is an edifice on which rests the task of saving the girl child.
  • Responsibilities of a doctor: to know all such minute details like the form he is required to fill and the impact of medical findings and its consequences, which is virtually the prerequisite for undertaking a test. It is critical for a member of a noble medical profession to be educated about such details.


Pros of the act:

  • Due to stringent provisions in this Act lead to Increase in registrations of PCPNDT Clinics, Increase in sex ratio in some states, Check on advertisements for sex selection, Overall drop in child sex ratio etc.

Reason of failures:

  • Poor reporting under the law – Only 3,000 cases have been filed against violators of the act, since the passing of act, though half a billion medical crimes have been committed
  • Poor conviction rate – There are only 586 convictions out of 4202 cases registered even after 24 years of existence.


Way Forward

  • The Implementation of this Act requires a more systemic involvement of the State and enactment of legislation in this direction and the health departments of the states along with local bodies have to play a more crucial role.
  • Help of Anganwadi and ASHA workers can be sought to report any suspicious activity to determine the sex of a child. e.g. Better result was observed by implementing Government schemes such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao in Haryana state.


Women Movements

  • Pre-independence Women’s Movements
  • Post-independence Women’s Movements


“A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman.” – Melinda Gates


  • Women’s movements are among the most important crusades of modern social movements. It started off with the efforts of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar to fight for women’s rights due to inhumane practices like Sati.
  • The upper strata women faced these mostly, however, today Women of lower social strata belonging to lower castes, minority religion or economically backward regions continue to face hardships.


What instances led to Women Movements?

  • The position of women in India has varied in different periods and in different classes, religion and ethnic groups. By nineteenth century there were several evil social practices like Sati, child marriage, ban on widow remarriage, polygamy etc.
  • During the British rule the spread of English education and Western liberal ideology among Indians and spread of Christianity and missionary activities, resulted in a number of movements for social change and religious reform in the nineteenth century.


Broad Objectives of Women Movements

  • Caste reform,
  • Improvement in the status of women,
  • Promoting women’s education and
  • An attack on social practices whose roots lay in social and legal inequalities and religious traditions of different communities


Brahmo Samaj

  • It was founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in 1825 & attempted to abolish restrictions and prejudices against women, which included child marriage, polygamy, limited rights to inherit property.
  • Education was seen as the major factor to improve the position of women.


Prarthana Samaj

  • It was founded by MG Ranade & RG Bhandarkar in 1867. Its objectives were more or less similar to that of Brahmo Samaj but remained confined to western India.
  • Justice Ranade criticized child marriage, polygamy, restriction on remarriage of widows and non-access to education.


Arya Samaj:

  • It was founded by Dayanand Saraswati in 1875. Unlike the above two it was a religious revivalist movement, revitalizing the ancient Hindu traditions.
  • It advocated reform in the caste system, compulsory education for men and women, prohibition of child marriage by law, remarriage of child widows. It was opposed to divorce & widow remarriage in general.
  • Social reformers mentioned above eulogized the position of women in ancient India.
  • However, radicals like Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Jyotiba Phule and Gopal Hari Deshmukh (Lokhitwadi) accused the caste system responsible for the subjugation of women in society.
  • Similar movements began in Islamic community as well. Begum of Bhopal, Syed Ahmad Khan & Sheikh Abdullah in Aligarh and Karamat Hussain in Lucknow spearheaded a movement to improve women’s education.

The Women’s India Association (WIA) (1917)

  • The Women’s Indian Association (WIA)was founded at Adyar, Madras, in 1917 by Annie Besant, Margaret Cousins, Jeena Raja Dasa, and others to liberate women from the deplorable condition women suffered in socio-economic and political matters during the 19th and the early 20th century.
  • The Association later developed into a potent force to fight against illiteracy, child marriage, the Devadasi system and other, social ills


All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) (1926),

  • The All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) is a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Delhi. It was founded in 1927 by Margaret Cousinsin order to improve educational efforts for women and children and has expanded its scope to also tackle other women’s rights issues.
  • The organization is one of the oldest women’s groups in India and has branches throughout the country.


National Council for Women in India (NCWI) (1925)

  • Chaired by Durgabai Deshmukh the National Council of Women was established in 1958. The organisation is set up to ensure the equal rights of women in society.
  • This organisation primarily works to improve the condition of women all over the country. Their major emphasis so far has been on promoting women’s education in the country.

  • In the post-Independence period a series of institutional initiatives has been introduced for the emancipation of women in the society.
  • The most important of these pertain to the constitutional provisions and social legislation for women and planned economic development.
  • Women’s movement has been widely influenced by these broad socio-economic and political processes of this period.
  • Economic hardships faced by women in the Himalayan region due to cutting down of forests resulted in spontaneous mobilization of women. They hugged the trees to prevent the contractors from felling them. This is popularly known as the Chipko movement. This is why we find that women are even now in the forefront of these ecological agitations.
  • The earliest campaigns – the 2003 Blank Noise Project against eve-teasing, the 2009 Pink Chaddi (underwear) movement against moral policing and the 2011 Slut-Walk protest against victim-blaming – were limited in their scope but set the tone for this new mode of protest.
  • The Campaigns such the 2011 Why Loiter project on women’s right to public spaces, the 2015 Pinjra Tod (Break the Cage) movement against sexist curfew rules in student halls and the 2017 Bekhauf Azadi (Freedom without Fear) March resonated with a much larger number of women, turning this social media-led phenomenon into a true feminist movement.
  • In the post-Independence period, two important Organisations for rural women were set up:
    • Kasturba Memorial Trust and Bharatiya Grameen Mahila Sangh (Indian Rural Women’s Organisation). Their main objective was to assist the rural women in developing leadership potential.
    • The Department of women and Child development (1985) was opened under the Ministry of Human Resource Development with the sole purpose of assisting women and child development to develop into their full potential.


  • According to Gandhi, the role of women in the political, economic and social emancipation of the country was of overriding importance.
  • Gandhi had immense faith in the capability of women to carry on a non-violent crusade. Under his guidance and leadership, women shouldered critical responsibilities in India’s struggle for freedom.
  • Women held public meetings, organized picketing of shops selling foreign alcohol and articles, sold Khadi and actively participated in National Movements.
  • Women criticized their exclusion in the salt satyagraha led by Gandhi which subsequently led to Gandhi’s reconsideration of his view against women’s participation in 1930.
  • Women’s organisations such as Desh Sevika Sangh, Nari Satyagraha Samiti, Mahila Rashtriya Sangh, Ladies Picketing Board, Stri Swarajya Sangh and Swayam Sevika Sangh began mushrooming at this time to organise the mass boycott of foreign cloth and liquor
  • But the protest that women participated in was not always non-violent, although the ideas of individual freedom propagated by the reform and nationalist movements was accepted by women in their personal and organisational lives, they did meet with resistance from society and even their own families
  • However, in the social realm, Gandhi envisaged a critical role for women in doing away with the forces of communalism, caste system and untouchability.

  • The Indian Constitution has embodied within itself grounds for gender equality. The Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles together work towards shaping policies and putting safeguards not just for women empowerment in India but also protection.


Women’s Rights Under Indian Constitution
Article 21 States as follows: “No person except according to the procedure established by law shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty. Fundamental right under Article 21 of the object of personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law is to prevent encroachment on and loss of life.” – Anyone, including women, can seek protection under this.
Article 15(1) This Article guarantees Right to Equality, “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.”
Article 15(3)

According to Article 15(3) – State can make any special provision for women and children without any hurdles or obligations.
Article 16(2)

According to Article 16(2), No citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated in respect of employment or office under the State.
Article 19

States as follows: This gives the citizens (which include both women, men and third gender) the Right to Freedom, which among other things guarantees freedom of speech and expression, freedom of movement, freedom of practising trade and profession etc.
Article 23(1)

Prohibits the practice of human trafficking in India.
Article 32 This Article gives the right to us to seek constitutional remedies through the Supreme Court of India for violation of Fundamental Rights mainly.
Article 39(a) As per Article 39(a), men & women have the right to an adequate means to livelihood.


Constitutional Laws for women related to Panchayats & Municipality
Article 243D (3) Not less than one third of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat shall be reserved for women.
Article 243D (4) One-third of the total number of offices of chairpersons in the Panchayats at each level shall be reserved for women.
Article 243T (3) One-third of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality shall be reserved for women.
Article 243T (4) Offices of chairpersons in the Municipalities shall be reserved for women in such manner as the State Legislature may provide.


Legal safeguards to secure women’s rights
1. Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 (Women have a right to equal pay)
2. Sexual Harassment Of Women At Workplace Act, 2013 (Women have a right against harassment at work)
3. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005) (Women have a right against domestic violence)
4. Women have a right to anonymity for sexual assault victims
5. Legal Services Authorities Act (1987) (Women have a right to free legal aid)
6. Code of Criminal Procedure (1973) (Women have right not to be arrested at night)
7. Women have a right to register their complaint virtually here she can lodge a complaint via email or write her complaint and send to a police station from a registered postal address
8. Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (1986)



Abolition of Triple Talaq:

  • Triple Talaq goes against the constitutional principles of gender equality, secularism, right to life of dignity, etc.
  • It gave men the right to arbitrarily divorce their wives without any valid reason.
  • It has led to the subjugation of Muslim women even after 72 years of independence but its solution must come through coexistence rather than coercion.
  • It goes against Article 14 (Right to Equality) and Article 15(1) which states that there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the basis of gender, race, etc. and this kind of talaq is biased against the interests of women
  • Terming Triple Talaq as unconstitutional as a step towards establishing uniform civil code (Enshrined in Article 44 of directive principle of state policy), but criminalising it goes against the ethos of Fundamental rights i.e. article 25 and 26 the freedom of religion.


Women’s entry to Religious places:

Shani Shingnapur Bombay HC said that “No law prevents women from entering a place of worship and if men are allowed, then women too should be permitted
Sabarimala SC criticised the Travancore Devaswom Board (board, which manages the popular Sabarimala Ayyappa Hindu temple in Kerala) for being unfair and for their stand on banning entry of women of menstruating age inside the temple. It was of the view that places of worship that deny or restrict women’s entry undermine the fight for gender equality and have no constitutional right to do so.



The Supreme Court, in a recent judgement, allowed women, irrespective of their age, to enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.



  • The Supreme Court in Indian Young Lawyers’ Association v/s State of Kerala Case declared Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorization of Entry) Act of 1965, which authorizes restriction on women “of menstruating age”, as ultra vires the Constitution.
  • Supreme Court set aside a Kerala High Court judgment of 1991 that upheld the prohibition, pointing that the celibate nature of the deity was “a vital reason for imposing this restriction on young women”.


Arguments in favor of women’s entry into the temple:

  • Banning entry was derogatory for women – Morality must not be viewed narrowly from the perspective of an individual, a section or religious sect. Individual dignity of women could not be at the mercy of a mob.
  • Right to worship is equally available to men and women – Woman’s right to pray was not dependent on any law but it is a constitutional right. Religion cannot become a cover to exclude and deny this basic right to worship to women.
  • Patriarchy in religion cannot trump the freedom to practice religion.
  • Prohibition was not an essential practice of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution thus it was not covered under the right to freedom of religion.
  • The Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution recognizes the individuals as a basic unit. The argument that the right to preserve the celibacy of the deity is a protected constitutional right does not apply.


Arguments against women’s entry into the temple:

  • Religious denominations should decide what constitutes an essential religious practice and it should not be decided by judges on the basis of their personal viewpoints.
  • By determining whether a particular practice or custom is essential or integral to a religion, the court leaves the rational world of laws and constitutional rights and enters into the realm of theology, thus leading to judicial overreach.
  • It ignores the ground social realities of India and immense diversities. Also, judges must take special care while dealing with a sensitive issue like religion.
  • India being a pluralistic society with diverse faiths, constitutional morality gave freedom to practice even irrational or illogical customs and usages. Constitutional morality required harmonization of rights of all persons, religious denominations or sects, to ensure that the religious beliefs of none were undermined.
  • Ayappa devotees had attributes of a religious denomination such as distinct names, properties, etc. Also, Sabarimala temple was not funded out of the Consolidated Fund. Temple Management thus contends that they were allowed to frame rules for the shrine without State’s interference.
  • The pilgrimages require tough processes of penance to be carried out for 41 days which would be difficult for women.
  • In a pluralistic society composed of people with diverse faith, belief and traditions, to entertain PILs challenging religious practices followed by any group, sect or denominations, could cause serious damage to the constitutional and secular fabric of the country.

Way Forward

  • The ruling will have wider impacts on other similar customs and practices at other places of worship too. The Temple management must provide adequate amenities for women devotees to smoothly implement the SC order
  • Haji Ali: The Bombay High Court lifted the ban saying it contravenes the Constitution and women should be allowed entry “at par with men”. HC held that the Trust cannot enforce a ban “contrary to the fundamental rights” (i.e. Art 14, 15 and 25) enshrined in the Constitution.



  • The path towards gender empowerment is full of potholes. Over the year’s women have made great strides in many areas with notable progress in reducing gender gaps.
  • Today Indian women have excelled in each and every field being self – sufficient.
  • Amidst of all this the status of Indian women is still not satisfactory.
  • A need for transformation in the Thoughts of man and society as a whole has to be brought towards women and accept them as equal participants in the country’s progress.

“Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.” – Hillary Clinton

  • “Women’s movement in India has not addressed the issues of women of lower social strata. ‘Substantiate your view. (2018) – 15 Marks
  • Discuss the role of women in the freedom struggle especially during the Gandhian phase. (2016) 5 Marks
  • Women empowerment in India needs gender budgeting. What are the requirements and status of gender budgeting in the Indian context (2016) 5 Marks / GS – III
  • Discuss the positive and negative effects of globalization on women in India. (2015) 5 Marks
  • How do you explain the statistics that show that the sex ratio in Tribes in India is more favourable to women than the sex ratio among Scheduled Castes? (2015) 5 Marks
  • How does patriarchy impact the position of a middle class working woman in India? (2014) 10 Marks
  • Discuss the various economic and socio-cultural forces that are driving increasing feminization of
  • agriculture in India. (2014) 10 Marks
  • Why do some of the most prosperous regions of India have an adverse sex ratio for women? Give your arguments. (2014) 10 Marks
  • Male membership needs to be encouraged in order to make women’s organization free from gender bias. Comment. (2013) 10 Marks

  • Discuss the role of women in India’s Freedom Struggle.
  • Examine various initiatives taken by the Government of India in empowering women in the society. Discuss with recent happenings to justify your stand.
  • “The participation of women in the workforce in India is one of the lowest globally”. Comment and also suggest some measures to address this issue.
  • Give an account of present situation of women in the Indian Society






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