By Cake Staff:
A draft National Policy for Women was recently opened for public review and has received 344 comments. Some commended the documenting, and others submitted suggestions for improving it. But there was also a third class of decidedly negative responses.
One commenter refers to the “feminist wife” as “a type of social criminal [that] is harmful for our civilization & threat for our nation.” Another suggested that the policy would have “men and their families deprived of their basic rights of so called equality.” Yet another recommended that the policy should “define the duties of wife and duties of mother.” There were somewhere between 40 and 50 responses like these, the Deccan Herald has reported. The patriarchal attitudes behind these comments is jarring, and while they seems to be in the minority, they only further necessitate the policy.
The draft was released in May amid much praise, especially for its take on reproductive rights, and recognition of the vulnerability of single, deserted, separated, divorced and widowed women. Citing important precedents, such as the Indian Constitution, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, (CEDAW), the Beijing Conference, and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this 24-page document is rather thorough, ear-marking seven priority areas: health and food security, education, economy, governance and decision-making, violence against women, enabling environments, and climate change. It also recommends the formation of an Inter-Ministerial Committee, headed by the Minister for Women and Child Development, with sub-committees at every state and sector level.
The National Policy for the Empowerment of Women has existed since 2001, and the 2016 draft policy simply implies a renewed approach to yet unresolved issues of gender inequality. Among these, the lack of economic independence is a top concern. Despite government schemes, the workforce participation rate of women in rural areas is only 30%, and in urban areas it figures at an even lower 15%. But these realities count for little to those who oppose the policy.
The suggestion that empowering women disempowers men comes loaded with ultimatums, and tarnishes the idea that equality can be achieved. While many of the comments seek to draw attention to men’s issues, the choice to express these views on a forum about women seems to only reflect anxieties that many men have of losing monopoly over resources or institutional power. This monopoly has been passed off “Indian culture” time and again, in an attempt to discourage women from asserting their rights to join the workforce, to choose their partners, or have full ownership of their bodies.
Once put into effect, it is hoped that the National Policy for Women will remedy precisely these problems that are holding back roughly one half of Indian society.