Women empowerment in India needs more teeth, says scholar

Prof. Nuzhat Parveen Khan

Saudi Gazette

Even though India has taken giant strides in women empowerment, a lot more needs to be done in this regard, a leading female scholar and legal luminary has said.

“Framers of our Constitution in their great wisdom realized the need to uplift the womenfolk and thus they ensured equal rights for women through Article 14. Subsequently, they also realized that in the medieval period women were suppressed a lot under the then prevalent patriarchal system. According to their considered opinion, merely granting equality to women would not have served the purpose. To really achieve the objective, they then framed Article 15, which ensured that there is no discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, color, religion and gender. Then in Article 15 Clause 3 they ensured equal opportunities for women,” said Prof. Nuzhat Parveen Khan, dean of the law faculty in the prestigious New Delhi-based Jamia Millia Islamia University.

Prof. Khan, who has to her credit several books, notably “Women and the Law” and “Child Rights and the Law,” was in the Kingdom recently on a private visit.

Talking exclusively to Saudi Gazette, Khan said Indian society consists of people belonging to almost all kinds of religious beliefs. “In every religion women are given a special place and every religion teaches us to treat women with respect and dignity. But somehow society has so developed that various types of ill practices, both physical and mental, against women have become a norm for ages. For instance, female infanticide, wife burning, sexual violence, sexual harassment at work place, domestic violence and other varied kinds of discriminatory practices; all such acts consist of a physical as well as mental element,” she said.

“These discriminatory practices continue to dominate our society and as such we see honor killings, dowry killings, female infanticide, domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, illegal trafficking, exploitation (pimping), gender discrimination, sex ratio issues, etc.,” she said.

If women participate actively in economic activities and are able to take independent decisions, it would greatly contribute toward the overall economic development.

“The empowerment of women would result in overall development of society both at micro and macro levels,” she said. “Empowering women will help restore balance in our society where women constitute almost half the population. This empowerment would take the nation on a path of greater development,” she said.

She said it was heartening to see that more and more female students are enrolling in professional courses in different universities of the country. “At the time I was pursuing masters in law (from Aligarh Muslim University) there were only three girls in a class of 68. The earlier perception of discouraging girls from pursuing higher studies has been done away with. Now more and more girl students can be found in almost all professional courses and they are being meticulously groomed to shoulder the responsibility of nation-building,” she said.

Commenting on the contentious government-sponsored “Triple Talaq” bill recently passed by the Lok Sabha (the lower house of parliament), the scholar said the aim of the bill is undoubtedly to remove the practice of pronouncing triple talaq in one go among Muslims. “But the issue is a social one and it is not prudent to put the practice in the criminal law bracket. The government should have started a consultation process with the Muslim community ensuring their support in creating awareness among the masses against the abhorrent practice. Ultimately it is the woman who suffers; she gets the divorce (the Supreme Court does not recognize it as such) and the husband goes to jail for three years. Now who will take care of her alimony?”

The bill is yet to be passed by the Rajya Sabha (the upper house) before it becomes a law. “There are certain loopholes in the bill which may not pass judicial scrutiny,” she said.