India yet to honour commitments to women

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Mon Mar 20 07:31:34 PST 2000

13 March 2000

India yet to honour commitments to women By Anita Katyal The Times of India News Service NEW DELHI: It is now five years since India, along with other countries, participated in the Women's World Conference in Beijing. It was here that India pledged to improve the status of women through a series of policy decisions and actions. These commitments included an increase in the educational budget to six per cent of the GDP, appointment of a National Commissioner for Women to look into cases of atrocities on women, formulation of a national policy on women, constitution of a National Resource Centre and improvement in the development support and health care schemes for women and children. An exhaustive India country report on the implementation of the Beijing agenda, prepared by a task force of women's organisations and NGOs, indicates that ``not enough has changed for the better''. There are considerable positive changes over the past 25 years but if ``we look back only five years, we can see much that is terrible and disappointing,'' says the report, which seeks to reflect the opinions and assessments of women across the country. ``There is more violence, more discord, more disparity, more poverty, more indifference to the demands of economic justice,'' the report points out as it goes down the list of India's ``hits and misses'' on this front. Here's a brief checklist on India's performance on its promises: * The move to appoint a national commissioner has not succeeded. The proposal has been turned down by the home ministry. * The promise to raise the education budget has not been fulfilled to date. * A national policy for the empowerment of women was drafted in 1996 but is yet to be approved and adopted. * The plan to establish a national resource centre, envisaged as a nodal body to mainstream gender issues in polices and programmes, has not moved. * The emphasis in health investment is slanted towards reproductive health concerns while the government anounces plans to ``privatise'' many public health services. The cost of health care has gone up in the last five years. Drug policies have changed leading to a sharp increase in the prices of medicines while the quality of primary health care is bad. India's poor performance in implementing Beijing's Platform Action (PFA), according to the report, is attributed to the lack of political will in addressing women's issues. ``The degree of genuine political will is disappointing. The failure to adopt the National Policy for women's Empowerment, to get the women's reservation Bill passed and to implement the the major commitments made at Beijing are evidence of this,'' the report adds. Another indicator is the failure to control the rise of crime and violence targetting women while overall investment in social development has fallen with predictable negative fall-out on women. Women's organisations have bemoaned the fact that no one in government seems to feel accountable. While India's 1995 accceptance of the Beijing agenda was ``without reservations'' and the 1996 draft policy provides for a national monitoring mechanism, there is no movement on this front. While the women and child department in the human resource development (HRD) ministry is the nodal agency for monitoring these issues, two other wings of this ministry - the National Commission for Women (NCW) and the Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB) - are also promoting greater attention to women's rights and development. However, the NCW has not not been able to get government action on the 213 measures it has recommended while the CSWB is yet to move into an empowerment focus. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service
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