In particular, 20th century would go down in history as an epoch of promoting gender justice by internationalizing struggles for equality of women.
Introduction of universal franchise in almost all nations and efforts of U.N. are noteworthy in this regard. Such development has true implications in India also.
Position of Indian Women:
After a brief spell of equality of sexes in the vedic period, there began deterioration in status of women. During the medieval age purdah became a custom among Muslim and sati became prevalent among Hindus. Patriarchal norms were expressed through cultural metaphors.
British system of education together with liberal sentiments led to reformist movement. Organization and persons took cognizance of injustices meted out to women. Social legislation, viz.
Abolition of Sati (1829) Widow Remarriage Act (1856), Civil Marriage Act (1872) were important steps in this regard. The Nationalist Movement and Gandhiji’s call dragged women into the mainstream of Indian politics. All India women’s conference was organized in 1927. After independence a number of steps were taken to ensure equality and dignity of women and free them from the clutches of unjustified subjugation. These include:
Article 14: provides that the state shall not delay to any person equality before the law or equal protection of law. Article 15: prohibits discrimination on grounds such as caste, religion and sex.
Article 16: provides for equality of opportunity in matters relating to public employment. Article 16(4): empowers the state to make special provisions for women and children. These provisions are justifiable. Article 39(a): equal right to an adequate means of livelihood. Article 39(c): equal pay for equal work for both; men and women.
Article 42: make provisions for just and human conditions of work and maternity relief. 42 Amendment Part IV A Article 51A imposes a fundamental duty to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women. The 73rd and 74th Amendment Act heralded a new era by reserving 1/3 seats at all levels of rural and urban local self government for women.
Special Marriage Act 1954 Hindu Marriage Act 1955 Hindu Maintenance and Adoption Act 1956 Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 Equal Remuneration Act 1976 Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act 1978 Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act 1984 Judiciary has also been active as shown in the Shah Bano case (1982) The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 came into force on October 26, 2006.
Social Welfare Board was constituted in 1953 to grant aid, promote welfare and development services for women. In 1985 a separate department of women and child development was set up at the centre. In 1986 National Policy on Education outlined several features for women’s education. In 1987 programme of support to training cum employment for women was started. In 1990 Parliament enacted a law to create National Commission for women. It came into existence in 1992. In 1995 Indira Mahila Yojna was started with the aim of organizing women at grassroots level.
In 2001 National Policy for Empowerment of women was launched.