Following are my comments on Draft National Policy for Women, 2016:
1.6 Several paradoxical trends have been observed in the past few years. The growing acknowledgement of gender rights and equality is juxtaposed against increase in reporting of various forms of violence against women such as rape, trafficking, dowry etc.;
Above conclusion is given without any statistical data, to demonstrate if increase in rape, dowry etc are much higher than population growth.
1.8 The current status of women with respect to human development parameters, legal rights for women to life and freedom from violence, economic and social discrimination and their rights to equality and equity shows that a lot still remains to be done. It is necessary therefore, to reinforce the rights-based approach for creating an enabling environment in which women can enjoy their rights.
There are existing laws like PWDVA, 2005 which protect women from domestic violence, and give them several rights like right to protection, right to residence, maintenance, compensation etc. So rights-based laws and reliefs have been there for 10 years already now. What studies have been done to confirm that present framework of rights-based laws for women have not been enough, and where are the gaps?
1.9 In the coming years, India is expected to gain significantly from it’s ‘demographic dividend’ as the share of it’s potential productive workforce will increase in numbers as compared to the aging population of other countries. To what extent the country can seize this dividend and benefit from it will largely depend on how women exercise their rights and entitlements and contribute to the development process.
Above is a more of an opinion than a conclusion based on any data. Economies progress based on contribution by both men and women.
1.11 The re-scripting of women’s empowerment has been envisaged as a socially inclusive right based approach while reinforcing the rights and entitlements provided under the Constitution of India. The policy will enable sustainable socio economic, political empowerment of women to claim their rights and entitlements, control over resources and formulation of strategic choices in realisation of the principles of gender equality and justice.
A purely rights-based approach will fail if the misuse of rights-based laws like PWDVA is not stopped. In fact, it’s probably true that those who know how to (mis)use the law better will clog the courts/infrastructure and crowd out the other victims who need safeguarding of their rights.
5. I. iv) A gender transformative health strategy which recognises women’s reproductive rights with shifts such as family planning focus from female sterilisation to male sterilisation will be developed and implemented
There needs to be details based on studies as to why this is necessary, and how the proposed alternative will be better for whole of society.
5. I. viii) The National Mental Health Policy (2014) recognises that women have a greater risk of mental disorders due to various reasons primarily due to discrimination, violence and abuse. A systematic approach to provide requisite screening, care and treatment especially at primary level will be made.
Women have higher rates of anxiety or depression, but there is no clear-cut cause that it’s primarily due to discrimination, violence and abuse, as being stated in draft policy.
See research below:
The authors cited previous research that found women suffer more than men from depression, because “women ruminate more frequently than men, focusing repetitively on their negative emotions and problems rather than engaging in more active problem solving.”
The findings support gender-focused prevention and treatment efforts, the study said. “In women, treatment might focus on coping and cognitive skills to help prevent rumination from developing into clinically significant depression or anxiety,” said lead author Nicholas R. Eaton, MA, of the University of Minnesota. “In men, treatment for impulsive behaviors might focus on rewarding planned actions and shaping aggressive tendencies into non-destructive behavior.”
5. II. v) Continued efforts will be made for the gender sensitization of the faculty and curriculum, content and pedagogies for an understanding of concepts of masculinity and femininity and gender stereotypes. Gender champions in schools and colleges will be promoted to ensure gender sensitivity in the educational system.
Gender sensitization cannot be a one way track where men/boys are to be taught on how to ‘behave’, and so on. Both genders need to be taught appropriate behaviour within families, society, schools etc. The idea of gender champions in schools/colleges is either idealistic, or probably more akin to a communist dystopia where people will be programmed by state on what are the right modes of behaviour. There are broad influences on growing boys and girls from families, friends, society, media, movies, TV, and so on; and to imagine that an initiative like gender champion in schools/colleges can override all those influences is wishful thinking at best.
vii) Children of migrant families tend to get left out of the school system and existing schemes are not effectively coordinated or implemented. Innovative and accessible educational systems will be developed, especially in large construction sites, salt pan areas, plantations, and other manufacturing zones, which predominantly employ women labour.
Good initiatives like these need to be there for all migrant families, and not only for zones which predominantly employ women labour.
Poverty Women constitute majority of population affected by poverty. Efforts for assessment of the incidence of poverty by gender estimates will be done as household estimates do not provide gender poverty estimates.
It’s a superfluous and contradictory statement: if there is no data on poverty by gender, how is the conclusion made that women constitute majority of population affected by poverty?
ii) Gender wage gap across rural and urban, agricultural and non- agricultural jobs, regular and casual employment will be addressed. Ensuring pay parity, satisfactory conditions of work are critical subjects for insecurity for women particularly in the informal employment. This growing informalisation and casualization of women’s work / labour will also be adequately addressed. .
India should not fall to western feminist and media driven wage gap myth, because it is proven that there is no wage gap between genders if hours of work and other factors like overtime, odd hours of work etc are considered. Ministry should first publish a white paper on wage studies before undertaking any addressing of the ‘issue’.
iii) Fiscal and monetary policies will be analysed from gender perspective since they have impending impact on the lives of women. The gender affirmative role of direct taxation will be further enhanced through various incentives like reduction in stamp duties for women if assets are registered in their name, lowering of income tax slabs for women etc.
Such measures acknowledge women to be perennially weaker sex, dependent, and un-empowered. There is no need for such cosmetic and useless initiatives, because when we give women opportunities to educate, develop, and contribute to economy; giving stamp duty rebates or income tax rebates tends to tell them that they are not good enough. Further, such measures don’t discriminate among economic classes, and it will lead to a ridiculous scenario that rich women who can easily afford to buy property, will garner a lion share of such stamp duty rebates.
v) Recognising that trade agreements are not gender neutral and that differential impact of trade policies on gender exists, especially for women working in agriculture, food processing, textiles etc., A full review of all existing trade treaties and agreements from a gender equity dimension will be made. Future negotiations should be backed by Gender Trade Impact Assessment of policy and agreements on women’s wages, health and livelihood.
It’s a very short-sighted policy statement that trade agreements are not gender (women’s gender) neutral. A trade agreement impacting a particular sector of economy will affect people employed in that sector, and if more men are employed in that sector, then it’s the male gender which is at risk of negative impact. Maybe the policy statement should be revised to acknowledge that trade agreements can affect both genders negatively, and then mention that scope of national women’s policy is to mitigate possible negative impact of trade agreements only on women.
vi) Women undertake the bulk of unpaid care work such as looking after and educating children, looking after older family members, caring for the sick, preparing food, cleaning, and collecting water and fuel etc. This unequal burden of unpaid care undermines women’s participation in economy.
A value judgment is being made that paid work is better than unpaid work. This is possibly a dangerous conclusion, since for much of so called unpaid work, there is no value in terms of Rupees which can be placed, but it is highly valuable nevertheless. E.g. a child being taken care of by mother (or close relative) can’t be compared to the child being taken care of in a day creche. Similarly, devaluing of unpaid work can lead to negative consequences for children (and ultimately for society) if they don’t get adequate time with mothers, who are pressurized to go to paid work as soon as they can after birth of child. There are negative costs to society if children who are not raised properly grow up to be nutritionally deficient, or have psychological issues etc.
Further measures will be undertaken to free woman’s time for paid work through time-saving technologies, infrastructure, child/parental care services (Crèches) and child care/parental leave.
Studies need to be conducted to see if there are any ill-effects of children being left in day-care/creches. Parental leave should be for both parents.
Agriculture v) Regarding resource rights of women, efforts will be made to prioritize women in all government land redistribution, land purchase and land lease schemes to enable women to own and control land through issue of individual or joint land pattas. In the case of private land, joint registration of land with spouses or registration solely in the name of women will be encouraged along with measures such as concessions in registration fee and stamp duty etc. to incentivize land transfers to women.
Such measures should not deprive land from men who could have utilized that resource much more efficiently and productively. Again, the point about rebates in fees and stamp duty seems dis-empowering rather than empowering. If government thinks that higher stamp duty and fees are a deterrent to property transfers, then why shouldn’t they be reduced for everyone?
x) Wives of farmers who committed suicide on account of failure of crops or heavy indebtedness are highly vulnerable and are left behind to take care of their children and family. Special package for these women that contains comprehensive inputs of programs of various departments/Ministries like agriculture, rural development, KVIC, MWCD will be provided for alternative livelihood options.
It will be much better to focus on preventing male farmers’ suicide in the first place.
i) Women’s participation in the upcoming services such as information based industries, telecommunication, infrastructure, customized highly skilled business services, software- designs; computer programming and financial services (Banks and insurance) will be encouraged. Skills and work incentives for frontline workers which rely heavily on female labour in health and education will be strengthened.
ii) The service sector will encourage equal employment opportunity through jobs/enterprises for women especially in high paid jobs to post graduates and professionally qualified women.
This should be limited to creating opportunities and removing hurdles, but not venture into ideas like quotas for women employees etc.
IV. Governance and Decision Making i) Establish mechanisms to promote women’s presence in all the three branches of the government including the legislature, executive and judiciary. Women’s participation in the political arena will be ensured at all levels of local governments, state legislations and national parliament with at least 50% reservation for women in local bodies and 33% in state assemblies and parliament to provide more responsive, equitable and participatory development.
Such quota like measures can also be termed discriminatory since they will stop many qualified and meritorious men from taking up role in panchayat or as member of parliament. There is no clear study or conclusion that forcing of gender parity will lead to more development or equitable development.
ii) Increase the participation of women in civil services, judiciary and in corporate boardrooms through appropriate modules for guidance and counselling, coaching, provision of financial incentives and quotas.
Such quota measures will reduce competitiveness of industry, and dissuade meritorious people from contributing.
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Media i) Gender parity in the mass media i.e. print and electronic media, advertising world, film sector and new media will be promoted by increasing the presence of women in the decision making positions.
ii) Encourage the entry of women in media industry through promotion of journalism and mass media courses and ensuring adherence to equitable work conditions. Setting up women media centres to provide technical training and skill building will be encouraged.
One of Modi government’s mantras was: “Government has no business to be in business”. But policy statements indicate the opposite where government wants to control private businesses including media, advertising, films, journalism etc. Further, there are already many women in media and journalism, so it’s not clear what is the problem this policy is trying to solve?
v) To recognize special needs of single women including widows separated, divorced, never-married and deserted women. A comprehensive social protection mechanism will be designed to address their vulnerabilities, create opportunities and improve their overall conditions.
In line with feminist propaganda (though subtle), above only confirms that the WCD ministry thinks that women are always vulnerable or weak. Some of previous policy statements about preventing violence against women mention about need to protect women from violence in marriage. Above statement suggests that never married women are also vulnerable. So the underlying premise is that women are always vulnerable or weak or at threat of violence – whether they chose to stay single or got married. Maybe WCD ministry should first come up with some comprehensive and clear statement about what it considers to be ideal state for womanhood, because the idea being promoted is that women are always vulnerable and at threat, no matter what their marital status or other circumstances.
iv) Private/corporate sector have increasing presence in the economic growth of the country and gender balance in these enterprises is crucial. More employment and skill development opportunities for women will be promoted and adhering to laws and regulations relating to women will be ensured through systematic gender sensitization exercises. Companies will be encouraged to reserve a certain percentage of their CSR as gender component.
In line with quotas and other such mechanisms, such measures can easily devolve to reducing competitiveness and meritocracy in industry and society.
7.6. Gender Budgeting i) The gender focal points, gender desks, Gender Budgeting Cells set up in Ministries, state government Departments, Panchayats and urban local bodies with the broad mandate covering coordination and awareness raising, will be strengthened to conduct in-house gender audit of requisite policies, programs and schemes as well as their institutional mechanisms to suggest and/or take remedial action….
Policy should instead be re-worded from ‘gender budgeting’ to ‘women’s budgeting’ because that’s the only focus of this section, and not about budgets for both male and female genders. Surely there is no policy statement which says that remedial action will be taken if men were suffering in a particular area or budget, so to call it as gender budgeting is a serious misnomer.
7.7 vi) Conducting regular surveys on violence against women will not restrict to only information on prevalence of violence but also information regarding health consequences of violence including mental and physical consequences.
There is dire need to conduct right surveys which measure violence against women not in terms of cases registered (e.g. under PWDVA), but in terms of how many of these cases had violence proven (e.g. medically, in court order etc). A focus on number of cases will only result in bureaucrats or NGOs – which benefit from higher number of cases – trying to report higher numbers, so they can justify their jobs and get monetary and non-monetary incentives.