Gender and Stratification in India: Beyond Legal Measures to Empower Women



Critically examine the gender dimension of stratification system in Indian Society. Do you think legal measures are enough for women empowerment or we need to also invest in social awareness campaigns? (HPAS Mains Question Paper 2022 – GS 1, Q.21)

Gender stratification in Indian culture is a complicated subject with profound cultural, social, economic, and political roots. It refers to men and women’s uneven distribution of power, income, and social standing, as well as how gender impacts people’s experiences and opportunities in society.

The following are some significant characteristics of Indian society’s gender stratification system:

Patriarchal culture: Men are believed to be the primary providers and guardians of the family in Indian society, while women are supposed to assume domestic and caring tasks. This cultural norm perpetuates the perception that women are less than males, leading to gender-based discrimination and violence.

Economic disparities: Regarding access to education, employment, and property rights, women in India confront considerable economic inequities. Women are often paid less than males for the same work, and women are overrepresented in low-wage, insecure positions. The pay disparity between men and women reflects more profound gender inequities in the Indian economy.

Women’s access to education is restricted in many regions of India, limiting their capacity to engage in the economy and obtain higher-paying occupations. Women often cannot get well-paying employment and care for themselves and their families because of a lack of education.

Violence against women is a widespread issue in India, sometimes rationalised by cultural norms that encourage gender inequality. Domestic abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual assault are everyday experiences for women, and there are frequently significant hurdles to reporting and treating these concerns.

Women are underrepresented in political posts in India, limiting their capacity to influence decision-making and policy. The patriarchal structure of political institutions often results in policies that fail to satisfy women’s demands and concerns.

Legal provisions for women empowerment: 

1. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005) is a comprehensive legislation. It also covers women who have been/are in a relationship with the abuser and are subjected to violence of any kind—physical, sexual, mental, verbal or emotional.

2. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (1956) prevents the trafficking of women and girls for prostitution as an organised means of living.

3. The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (1986) prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner.

4. The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act (1987) provides for more effective prevention of the commission of sati and its glorification of women.

5. Dowry Prohibition Act (1961) prohibits the giving or taking of dowry at or before or any time after women’s marriage.

6. The Maternity Benefit Act (1961) protects the employment of women during the time of their maternity. It entitles them to a ‘maternity benefit’ – i.e. full paid absence from work – to take care of their child.

7. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1971) provides for the termination of certain pregnancies by registered medical practitioners on humanitarian and medical grounds.

8. Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (1994) prohibits sex selection. It prevents the misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for sex determination, leading to female foeticide.

9. Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal). Act (2013) protects women from sexual harassment at all workplaces, both in the public and private sector, whether organised or unorganised. The Vishaka Guidelines were a set of procedural guidelines for use in India in cases of sexual harassment. They were promulgated by the Indian Supreme Court in 1997 and were superseded in 2013 by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

10. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 defines child marriage as a marriage where the groom or the bride is underage; that is, the bride is under 18 years of age, or the boy is younger than 21.

These legal measures are vital but insufficient for women’s societal empowerment. Although legislation may offer a framework for dealing with gender-based discrimination and violence, they do not always modify cultural attitudes and social norms perpetuating gender inequities.

Investing in social awareness campaigns and other types of social intervention is critical for altering deeply rooted cultural attitudes that perpetuate gender inequality and discrimination. Social awareness campaigns may aid in challenging harmful cultural attitudes and practices, the promotion of women’s rights and empowerment, and the promotion of good role models for women in society.

Such social initiatives may also create a more welcoming climate for women to express their rights and take their proper societal position. Moreover, engaging in social interventions may allow women to form networks and have access to resources that can assist them in overcoming gender-based hurdles.

In short, while legal measures are essential for enabling a legal environment for women’s empowerment, social awareness campaigns and other social interventions are critical for establishing a more supportive and encouraging cultural environment that allows women to realise their full potential. As a result, legislative measures, as well as social awareness initiatives, are required to accomplish women’s empowerment in society.

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