Pro-feminist Influences/Factors and its Philosophical Considerations with Reference to Global, Indian and Gujarati Perspectives

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Pro-feminist Influences/Factors for Women and their Impact:

The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929

          The Child Marrige Restraint came into force on April 1, 1930. It restrains the marriage of a child, though the marriage itself is not declared void. Accordingly, contracting, performing and facilitating the marriage of boys under eighteen and girls less than fourteen years of age were an offence. The age of girls was later on raised to fifteen years. The amendment made in 1978 further rose the age for boys to twenty-one years and for girls to eighteen years.
The violation of the Act prescribes penalty but the marriage itself remains valid. The offence under the Act is non-cognizable and provides punishment for the bridegroom, parent, guardian, and the priest, which are three months of simple imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs. 1000. No woman is, however, punishable with imprisonment under this Act.

The Hindu Marriage Validity Act, 1949

          Pratiloma (hypogamy) marriage among Hindus was invalid while anuloma (hypergamy) marriage was permitted till late 1940s. However there were judicial decisions against the validity of such marriage.  This Act also stands repealed after the 1955 Act. This Act came into force from May 18, 1955 and applies to whole of India, except Jammu and Kashmir. The word Hindu in the Act includes Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and the Scheduled Castes.

The Special Marriage Act, 1954

          This Act came into force on April 1, 1955. It repealed the Special Marriage Act, 1872 which provided a form of marriage for those who did not wish to conform to the existing forms. In 1923, an amendment was made in the Act under which each party was simply required to make a declaration that it professed one or other religion. The Act, thus, recognized inter-religion marriages.

The Hindu Widows Remarriage Act, 1856

          The 1856 Act removed all legal obstacles to the marriage of Hindu widows. The object was to promote good morals and public welfare. The Act declares that the remarriage of a widow whose husband is dead at the time of her second marriage is valid and no issue of such marriage will be illegitimate.

Rural women's Development and Employment Project

          The Rural Women's Development and Empowerment Project (now also being called "SWA-SAKTI Project" has been sanctioned on 16 October 1998 as a Centrally-sponsored project for five years at an estimated outlay of Rs. 186.21 crore. In addition, an amount of Rs. Five crore is to be provided, over the project period but outside the project outlay.
The objectives of the project are (i) Establishment of self-reliant women's self-help-groups (SHGs) between 7,400 and 12,000 having 15-20 members each, which will improve the quality of their lives, through greater access to and control over, resources; (i) Developing linkages between SHGs and leading institutions to ensure women's continued access to credit facilities for income generation activities; (ii) Enhancing women's access to resources for better quality of life, including those for drudgery reduction and time-saving devices; and (iii) Increased control of women, particularly poor women, over income and spending, through their involvement in income generating activities.
The implementing agencies will be the Women's Development Corporation of the concerned States of Bihar, Haryana, and Karnataka; Gujarat Women's Economic Development Corporation in Gujarat; M.P. Mahila Arthik Vikas Nigam in Madhya Pradesh and Mahila Kalyan Nigam in Uttar Pradesh, who will actively associate NGOs in the implementation tasks. The Government of India in the form of grant-in-aid will provide funds. At the Central level, the Department of Women and Child Development, assisted by the Central Project Support Unit (CPSU), handle the project. NIPCCD has been identified as the Lead Training Agency. National Commission for Women           The National Commission for Women was set up on 31 January 1992 in pursuance of the National Commission for Women Act 1990. The functions assigned to the Commission are wide and varied covering almost all facets of issues relating to safeguarding women's rights and promotion. The Commission has a Chairman, five members and a Member Secretary, all nominated by the Central government. The Commission has accorded highest priority to securing speedy justice to women. Towards this end, the Commission is organizing Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalats, offering counseling in family disputes and conducting training programmes for creating legal awareness among women. National Women Fund           In 1992-93 a National Women Fund was established to meet the loan requirements of the poor women. This fund was established in the form of a society under the Society Registration Act by a collected sum of 31 crore rupees. This fund has given help to more than 250 non-government organizations.

Mahila Samridhi Yojana

          With the objective of providing economic security to the rural women and to encourage, the saving habit among them, the Mahila Samridhi Yojna was started on 2 October 1993. Under this plan, the rural women of 18 years of above age can open their saving account in the rural post office of their own area with a minimum Rs. 4 or its multiplier. On the amount not withdrawn for 1 year, 25% of the deposited amount is given to the depositor by the government in the form of encouragement amount. Up to 31 March 1997 2.45 crore accounts were opened under this scheme with a total collection of Rs. 265.09 crore.

Short Stay Homes for Women and Girls

          The Government of India launched a programme in 1969 in the Central Sector called the Short Stay Homes for Women & Girls to protect and rehabilitate those women and girls who are facing social and moral danger due to family problems mental strains, social ostracism, exploitation or other causes. The services extended in these Homes include medical care; case work services; occupational therapy; education- cum- vocational training and recreational facilities.
The need for providing Short Stay Homes for Women and Girls has been due to the changing pattern of life, rapid urbanization and industrialization and the resulting migration from rural to urban areas. At present, 273 Short Stay Homes receive grants from the Department, covering approximately 8190 beneficiaries.

National Policy for the Empowerment of Women

          As a follow up action to the commitments made by India during the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing during Sep. 1995, the Department has drafted a National Policy for the Empowerment of Women after nation-wide consultations to enhance the status of women in all walks of life on par with men and actualize the constitutional guarantee of equality without discrimination on grounds of sex.
A meeting of the Secretaries of States dealing with women Development/Social Welfare Departments was held on 27.12.1995 to consider the draft National Policy for the Empowerment of Women. The draft National Policy was also discussed in a meeting of the committee of Secretaries in the meeting held on 7.3.1996. The reformulated National Policy was discussed in the Parliamentary consultative committee attached to the Ministry of Human Resource Development on 17.12.96 and 13.02.97.
In short, Women are still very much disturbed and worried about their present lot and want fundamental changes in their social, family and economic status. They want to contribute towards national progress, family welfare and social prosperity on equal footing. They feel that they are not able to pay their desired role to the maximum limit in the society only because there has not been any fundamental change in the attitude of men towards them. Their emancipation and empowerment are not real and concrete but only theoretical and imaginary. Their freedom and equality are still a cry in the wilderness. They have yet to struggle hard and overcome many roadblocks to have proper place and status in the society.
To my mind, there is no single package that could improve matters for the woman except that men change their attitude towards women. Unless men start regarding women as their equal partners, in the growth of humanity this differentiation between men and women shall continue unabated. No single item of achievement like education, profession, legal rights or even the mixture of all these will work out a solution – the only feasible solution is the change of mind, the change of attitude of the men towards women. Till this is done, no amount of teaching, preaching or bargaining will help the girl child. At this juncture when we talk of attitude, I must add that even women have to change their attitude towards the women. At least partly women are themselves responsible for their position. As women it is they who pamper their sons and husbands till they begin to believe that they are really superior beings. Let us all, men and women change our attitudes in this regard and, I am sure it will reap pleasant results.



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PROF. H.M. PATEL, Lecturer in English, Government Science College, Idar Taluka-Idar, Dist-Sabarkantha