07.03.2014

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Publicly elected women representatives in India ought to take advantage of their influence to defend women’s rights.

The Constitution of India guarantees all women equality [Article 14], no discrimination by the State [Article 15 (1)], equal opportunities [Article 16] and equal pay for equal work [Article 39(d)]. Furthermore, it stipulates that practices derogatory to the dignity of women be renounced [Article 51 (a) (c)]. The Constitution also allows the State to make special provisions in favour of women and children [Article 15(3)] and secure just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief [Article 42]. The Government of India declared 2001 the “Year of Women’s Empowerment”, and the National Policy for the Empowerment of Women came into force in that year 2001.

Ambitions and reality

So much for the official side. But in reality, things are very different, as the living conditions of women in rural areas show. For many centuries, rural women have been putting in unfathomable, unbearable and inadequately paid joyless drudgery to earn for their families’ livelihood and provide food security to the country’s 1.28 billion people.

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