This article is authored by Nidhi Bajaj, of Guru Nanak Dev University, Punjab. The article seeks to outline the various government policies and other measures for achieving the goal of gender equality in India.

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

Table of Contents

Introduction 

‘Gender Equality’ is the 5th goal among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations. The Constitution of India also recognizes the principle of gender equality in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, and under the Directive Principles of State Policy. One of the most significant provisions in the Indian Constitution is Article 15(3) which empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. It is also notable that the National Commission for Women was set up in the year 1992 for dealing with complaints of women’s rights violation, to advise on the aspect of socio-economic development of women and to protect the legal rights of women, etc. 

In India, a number of legislations have been passed both at Central and state levels that address the issue of gender disparity and aim to secure equal rights for women in various spheres of social and personal life. These legislations are also called ‘women-oriented’ or ‘women-centric/specific’ legislations. Some examples of such legislations are the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005; the Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987; the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013; the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956; the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, etc.

At the international level, India has ratified and endorsed various conventions, instruments, initiatives, and strategies that aim to secure equal rights for women, the most significant among them being the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which was ratified by India in 1993.

In addition to the above-mentioned legislations and measures, the Indian government has undertaken numerous policy initiatives, such as ‘National Policy for Women Empowerment’ and schemes such as ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’, to secure a better, safe and equal place for women in society and to take care of their all-round interests including their socio-economic development. This article will focus on analyzing these policies and schemes in light of their role in fulfilling the goal of gender equality in India. 

Also, towards the end of the article, we will also discuss the various measures taken by the government for securing equal rights to persons belonging to the transgender community.

Gender Equality : Goal 5 in SDGs

new legal draft

Mission statement : Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Gender equality is a fundamental human right and a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. It is a proven fact that empowering women and girls fosters economic growth and development.

Goal targets

  • Ending all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
  • Elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
  • Eliminating all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation.
  • Recognising and valuing unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure, and social protection policies, and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate.
  • Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life.
  • Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.
  • Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance, and natural resources, in accordance with national laws.
  • Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.
  • Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls at all levels.

Goal 5 and India

India has been working hard to secure equal opportunities and status for women at all levels and in all spheres including in matters of pay, primary education, labour force, and other fields. As of June 2019, the proportion of seats held by women in Lok Sabha was merely 11% but 46% in the Panchayati Raj Institutions. In 2016, about 1/3rd of the total crimes reported against women was physical cruelty by husband or his relatives. While India is definitely on the path of achieving gender equality, there is still a lot of scope for improvement especially given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which has exacerbated existing inequalities.

Status of goal 5 as per SDG India Index & Dashboard 2020-21(Third Edition)

Disclaimer: All the stats mentioned below have been taken from https://www.niti.gov.in/writereaddata/files/SDG_3.0_Final_04.03.2021_Web_Spreads.pdf

WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP 
On average, 8.46% of total seats in legislative assemblies are held by women.Target number: 50% of seats each for men and women.The Legislative Assembly of Chhattisgarh has the highest representation of women at 14.44%, followed by West Bengal at 13.61%.Nagaland and Mizoram are the worst performers with no women representation.
FEMALE LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION 
As of 2018-19, the ratio of Female to Male LABOUR FORCE Participation Rate(LFPR) is 0.33.Target number: 1The ratio of female to male LFPR is the highest in Himachal Pradesh at 0.8, while it is the lowest in Bihar at 0.06.
SEX RATIO AT BIRTH (females per 1,000 males)As reported in SRS 2016-18, the sex ratio at birth in India is 899 females per 1000 males.Target number: At Least 950 females for 1000 males.Chattisgarh and Kerala have surpassed this target with a sex ratio at birth of 958 and 957, respectively.
FAMILY PLANNING
According to the National Family  Health Survey-4 (2015-16), 72% of married women have their demand for family planning met by modern methods.Andhra Pradesh among the States and Puducherry among the UTs were the best performers at 93.6 and 87.1 percent, respectively. 
CRIME AGAINST WOMEN 

For every 1,00,000 female population in India, about 62 cases of crime were reported in 2019. The highest rate of crime against women was witnessed in Assam at about 178, followed by the UT of Delhi at 144 crimes per 1,00,000 female population.The lowest rate of crimes against women was in Nagaland at about 4 crimes per 1,00,000 female population followed by the UT of Puducherry at 12 crimes per 1,00,000 female population.
Women experienced CRUELTY/physical violence by a spouse or his relatives for every 1,00,000 female population

As per the reports of the National Crime Bureau, for every 1,00,000 female population, 20 have experienced cruelty or physical violence by a husband or his relatives in 2019.Assam at 71, recorded the highest number of victims per 1,00,000 female population while among the UTs, Delhi at 41, recorded the highest number of victims.
WOMEN IN MANAGERIAL POSITIONS
For every 1000 persons in managerial positions, 190 are women.Target number: At least 245 women for every 1000 persons.The highest number of women in managerial positions was recorded in Puducherry with 615 women.The lowest number of women in managerial positions was recorded in Meghalaya(111) and J & K and Ladhak(100).
FEMALE OPERATIONAL  LANDHOLDERS 
As per the Agricultural Census (2015-16), the percentage share of female operational landholders has increased from 12.79 percent in 2010-11 to 13.96 percent in 2015-16, which is still far from desirable. The share of female operational landholders was the highest in Meghalaya at 34.32 percent and lowest in Punjab at 1.55 percent.
WAGE GAPFor the period April 2018-March 2019, the average wage/salary earned by females is only three-fourths of that of males among regular wage/salaried employees.Target: Equal pay for men and women.Uttar Pradesh has the highest female-to-male wage ratio of 0.94 while West Bengal has the lowest at 0.53. Among the UTs, Lakshadweep is the best performer.

Government policies for gender equality in India

National Policy for the Empowerment of Women, 2001

The National Policy for the Empowerment of Women was adopted in the year 2001 for the advancement, development, and empowerment of women. The Policy strives to achieve the following goals and objectives:

  1. Creation of an environment that fosters the overall development of women and enables them to achieve their full potential. This shall be done by adopting positive social and economic policies.
  2. De-jure and de-facto enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by women on an equal basis with men in all spheres.
  3. Ensuring equal access for women to participation and decision-making in the social, political, and economic life of the country.
  4. Equality of access to women in healthcare, quality education at all levels, career and vocational guidance, employment, equal remuneration, occupational health and safety, social security and public office, etc.
  5. Strengthening the legal systems aimed at elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
  6. Changing societal attitudes and community practices by active participation and involvement of both men and women.
  7. Mainstreaming a gender perspective in the development process.
  8. Elimination of discrimination and all forms of violence against women and the girl child.
  9. Building and strengthening partnerships with civil society, particularly women organisations.

Policy prescriptions

  • Judicial legal systems: The Policy prescribes that the legal and judicial system should be made more responsive to the needs of women. New laws will be enacted for ensuring quick justice to victims. The Policy encourages changes in personal laws relating to marriage, divorce and maintenance, property, etc. to eliminate discrimination against women and for securing them an equal status in society.
  • Decision-making: This involves undertaking measures to ensure active and full participation of women in decision-making bodies at all levels, including legislative, executive, judicial, corporate, committees, boards, trusts, etc. Reservations and quotas for women should be considered on a time-bound basis.
  • Mainstreaming a gender perspective in the development process: Women’s perspective to be mainstreamed in all developmental processes, as catalysts, participants, and recipients, through devising policies and programmes, as well as systems.
  • Economic empowerment of women: Steps will be taken for economic empowerment of women and this shall cover the following aspects:
    • Poverty eradication: Poverty eradication programs will be devised to address the needs and problems of the women population living below the poverty line.
    • Micro-credit: Existing micro-credit mechanisms will be established and existing mechanisms will be strengthened to enhance women’s access to credit for consumption and production.
    • Women and economy: Recognition and inclusion of women’s perspectives in framing and implementation of macro-economic and social policies through the institutionalisation of women participation in such processes. Appropriate policies and measures shall be undertaken for recognizing women’s contribution in various roles in the formal and informal sector and appropriate policies regarding employment and working conditions of women to be drawn up.
    • Globalisation: Strategies will be designed to enhance the capacity of women and empower them to deal with the negative social and economic consequences of the globalisation process.
    • Women and agriculture: Expansion of training programmes in social forestry, soil conservation, etc. to benefit women workers in the agricultural sector.
    • Women and industry: Suitable measures to be undertaken so that women can work night shifts in industries. This will include support services such as security and transportation.
    • Support services: Expansion of support services such as childcare facilities, creche at workplaces, and educational institutions.
  • Social empowerment of women: This includes:
    • Education: Equal access to women and girls in education and creation of a gender-sensitive educational system. Special measures to be undertaken such as universalisation of education, development of technical and vocational skills in women, special focus on girls belonging to backward communities, and introduction of a gender-sensitive curriculum at all levels of the educational system.
    • Health: Adoption of a holistic approach to women’s health including ensuring women’s access to comprehensive, affordable, and quality healthcare. Other measures such as compulsory registration of marriages, imparting of information regarding healthcare and nutrition, and resolving issues regarding infant and maternal mortality to be adopted.
    • Nutrition: Focus will be made on the fulfilment of the nutritional needs of women at all stages of life including infancy and childhood, adolescent, and reproductive phases.
    • Drinking water and sanitation: The needs of women in the provision of safe drinking water and sewage disposal, toilet facilities, and sanitation within acceptable reach of households will be given special attention.
    • Other aspects such as the inclusion of the perspective of women in housing policies, environmental policies, and ensuring increased participation of women in science and technology are also included in the policy.
    • The policy also recognizes the diversity of women’s situations and undertakes to provide special assistance to women in extreme poverty, women in conflict situations, disabled widows, elderly women, destitute women, single women in difficult circumstances and prostitutes, etc. 
  • Violence against women: All forms of violence perpetrated against women, whether physical or mental, whether at domestic or societal levels will be dealt with effectively with a view to eliminate its incidence. Mechanisms and schemes will be created for providing assistance and for prevention of violence including sexual harassment at the workplace, regressive customs such as dowry, and rehabilitation of the victims of violence.
  • Rights of the girl child: Strong measures shall be undertaken for eliminating all forms of discrimination against the girl child within and outside the family. Laws against prenatal sex selection and practices of female foeticide common female infanticide child abuse child marriage and child prostitution to be strictly enforced.
  • Mass media: The Policy strives to remove the traditional stereotypical representations of women that are insulting, denigrating, and unpleasant.

Operational strategies

  • Action plans: The Central and state ministries are responsible for converting the Policy into a set of concrete actions by drawing up time-bound action plans. For the said purpose, the Central/state departments of women and child development and National/state commissions for women shall be consulted. The action plans will include the identification and commitment of resources and shall incorporate a gender perspective in the budgeting process, etc. 
  • Institutional mechanisms: This includes:
    • Strengthening of institutional mechanisms to promote the advancement of women.
    • Formation of National and state councils to monitor the implementation of the policy on a regular basis.
    • National and State Resource Centres on women will be established with mandates for collection and dissemination of information, undertaking research work, conducting surveys, implementing training and awareness generation programmes, etc. These Centers will link up with Women’s Studies Centres and other research and academic institutions through suitable information networking systems.
    • Strengthening of institutions at the district level and helping women to organise and strengthen themselves into Self-Help groups at the village level. The government will help the women’s groups to institutionalise themselves into registered societies. 
  • Legislation: Existing laws shall be reviewed and new laws shall be enacted for implementing this Policy. For the implementation of laws in an effective manner, the involvement of civil society and the community will be encouraged. Laws such as the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 shall be strictly enforced. In order to eliminate violence and atrocities against women, the following measures shall be undertaken:
    • Expansion of women cells in police stations, encouraging women police stations, legal aid centres, family courts, and counselling centres.
    • Widespread dissemination of information relating to legal rights and human rights of women.
  • Gender sensitisation: This includes training of personnel of legislative, executive, and judicial wings of the state, promoting societal awareness to gender issues and human rights of women, reviewing educational curriculum to incorporate gender education and human rights issues, removal of references that are derogatory to the dignity of women from all public documents and legal instruments and using various kinds of mass media to disseminate social messages relating to equality and empowerment of women.
  • Panchayati Raj Institutions: The Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) will play an important role in enhancing women’s participation in public life. 
  • Partnership with the voluntary sector organisations: Participation of voluntary organisations including women organisations and NGOs to be ensured in the formation, implementation, monitoring, and review of policies and programmes affecting women.
  • International cooperation: The Policy aims at the implementation of international obligations and commitments in all sectors on women empowerment including CEDAW, Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD+5), etc.

Women Vocational Training Programme

The Women Vocational Training Programme under the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship was launched in 1997 to mainstream women into economic activities by giving vocational training. This programme was formulated with the assistance of the Swedish International Development Authority(SIDA) and the International Labour Organization(ILO).  The Programme offers:

  1. Industrial skill training under the Craftsmen Training Scheme(CTS)
  2. Instructor skill training under Craft Instructors Training Scheme(CITS)
  3. Demand-driven short-term courses
  4. Special programs for training the instructors of ITIs
  5. Tailor-made courses as per industry’s demand

This program was implemented through a network of 11 institutes which were later named as “National Skill Training Institutes for Women”. These institutes function directly under the control of the Central government. Also, new NSTIs have been established in addition to the existing 11 institutes.

GATI (Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions)

GATI is an initiative of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) that aims to promote gender equity in science and technology. It is an innovative project launched by the DST and is one of the three initiatives that was announced by the Hon’ble President of India on 28 February 2020, National Science Day. GATI aims to nudge higher educational institutions towards supporting diversity, inclusion, and the full spectrum of their success and progression. It aspires to create an enabling environment that encourages women to participate equally in Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine, and Mathematics (STEMM) disciplines at all levels. The Project is inspired by the Athena SWAN Gender Equality Charter and accreditation framework operated by Advance HE, the UK since 2005. 

Major initiatives, schemes, and measures taken by the government for achieving gender equality in India

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP)

The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme focuses on ensuring the protection, survival, and education of the girl child. This Scheme was introduced by the government for addressing the issue of declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR). The overall goal of the scheme is to Celebrate the ‘Girl  Child & Enable her Education’. The objectives of the Scheme are as follows:

  • Preventing gender-biased sex selective elimination  
  • To ensure survival & protection of the girl child  
  • To ensure education of the girl child

The official website of the Scheme is: http://www.bbbpindia.gov.in/

Mahila Shakti Kendra

Mahila Shakti Kendra Scheme (MSK) aims at empowering rural women by providing opportunities for skill development and employment. The Scheme was approved for a period of three years i.e. 2017-18 to 2019-20. It is a sub-scheme under the umbrella scheme of the Mission for Protection and Empowerment of Women.

Working Women Hostel (WWH) 

The Scheme for Working Women Hostel (WWH) aims at ensuring the security and safety of working women. The scheme seeks to provide safe accommodation for working women including daycare facilities for their children, wherever possible. The beneficiaries of the scheme include the following categories of working women and their children

  • Working women who are single, widowed, divorced, separated, or married but do not live in the same city/area as their husband or immediate family. Women from the disadvantaged sections of society may be given special preference. There should also be a provision for the reservation of seats for physically challenged beneficiaries.
  • Women undergoing job training as long as the total training period does not exceed one year. This is only if there is a vacancy available after accommodating working women. The number of women undergoing job training should not exceed 30% of the total capacity.
  • Girls up to the age of 18 years and boys up to the age of 5 years, accompanying working mothers, will be housed with their mothers. Working mothers may also avail of Day Care Centre services as provided under the scheme.

Scheme for Adolescent Girls 

Previously known as the Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (SABLA), the Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG) was devised in the year 2010. The scheme covers adolescent girls aged 11 to 18 years old and aims to provide them with life skills education, nutrition and health education, and awareness of socio-legal issues, among other things. This Scheme replaced the Kishori Shakti Yojana (KSY) Scheme and the Nutrition Programme for Adolescent Girls(NPAG). 

The objectives of SAG are as follows:

  • To enable adolescent girls to self-development and empowerment.
  • Improving nutrition and health of adolescent girls.
  • Promoting awareness regarding health, hygiene, nutrition, etc.
  • Upgrading the home-based skills, life skills, and vocational skills of adolescent girls.
  • Supporting the out-of-school girls to transition back to formal schooling.
  • Providing information regarding the available public services such as Primary Health Centres(PHCs), post offices, etc.

Mahila Police Volunteers (MPV) 

This Scheme envisages the nomination of Mahila Police Volunteers in all States and Union territories who will act as a link between police and community and will facilitate the women in distress. An MPV shall serve as a public-policy interface in order to fight crime against women. MPVs shall be responsible for reporting crimes against women such as domestic violence, child marriage, harassment in relation to dowry, etc.

Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK)

Established in March 1993, Rashtriya Mahila Kosh(RMK) is an autonomous body, a national level organization under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development with the objective of socio-economic empowerment of women. Currently, RMK acts as a facilitating agency wherein it provides loans to NGOs, Intermediary Micro-Financing Organization(IMO), and voluntary organizations which on-lend to Self-Help Groups(SHGS) of women.

The official website of RMK is: https://rmk.nic.in/

National Crèche Scheme for the Children of Working Mothers

A creche is a facility that enables parents to leave their children while they are at work and where children are provided with a stimulating environment for their holistic development. The objectives of the “National Creche Scheme for the Children of Working Mothers” are as follows:

  • To provide day-care services for children aged 6 months to 6 years of working mothers in the community. 
  • To improve children’s nutrition and health status.
  • To encourage the holistic development of children. 
  • To educate and empower parents/caregivers to provide better childcare.

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandna Yojna 

The Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana aims to benefit pregnant women and lactating mothers. The Scheme came into effect on 1st January 2017. The Scheme provides a benefit of Rs.5000 payable in three installments to Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers (PW&LM) for the first live child in the family.

Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM)

The DAY-NULM under the aegis of the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs, the Government of India aims to provide shelters equipped with essential services to the urban homeless in a phased manner. The objective of the Mission is to reduce poverty and vulnerability of the urban poor households by providing them with opportunities for gainful self-employment. The Mission covers the urban poor and the families of disadvantaged groups including women. It encourages the formation of women’s SHGs, provides for the skilling of street vendors, and facilitates access of the vulnerable groups to institutional credit and social security, etc.

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana

The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMYY) was introduced by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas in May 2016 with an objective to ensure the availability of clean cooking fuel such as LPG in the rural and deprived households which were otherwise using traditional cooking fuels such as firewood, cow-dung cakes, and coal, etc. The scheme aims to empower women and protect their health by providing free-of-cost LPG cylinders. 

The official website of the scheme is:https://www.pmuy.gov.in/index.aspx

Sukanya Samriddhi Yojna(SSY) 

Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana (SSY) aims at the economic empowerment of women. Launched as a part of the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ campaign, this Scheme is a small deposit scheme for a girl child in order to secure her future. The parents who have a girl child below the age of 10 years can invest in the scheme through any designated public and private banks and post-offices. The plan matures when the daughter attains the age of 21 years. The minimum deposit amount is Rs. 250  and the maximum amount is Rs. 1.5 lakh in a financial year. An interest rate of 7.6% p.a. is offered under the scheme.

Skill Upgradation and Mahila Coir Yojana

Skill Upgradation and Mahila Coir Yojana(MCY) is a training programme of MSME which aims at empowering women by providing them spinning equipment at subsidized rates after appropriate skill development training. A stipend of Rs. 10,000 per month is given to the trainees under the skill development programme.

Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) 

The objective of the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) is to provide financial assistance to self-employment ventures in order to create job opportunities for unemployed youth and traditional artisans. The key benefits of the programme are as follows:

  • Bank-financed subsidy scheme for setting up microenterprises in the non-farm sector.
  • Margin money subsidy on bank loans of 15% to 35% for manufacturing projects of up to INR 25 lakhs, and INR 10 lakhs for service projects.
  • For special category beneficiaries such as SC/ST/Ex-Servicemen/NER/Women/PH/Minorities, the money subsidy margin is 25% in urban areas and 35% in rural areas. The limit for the maximum project cost is INR 10 lakhs in the service sector and INR 25 lakhs in the manufacturing sector.

Stand-Up India

The Stand-Up India Scheme for financing SC/ST and/or Women Entrepreneurs aims to promote female entrepreneurship by facilitating bank loans ranging from 10 lakh and 1 crore to at least one scheduled caste or scheduled tribe borrower and at least one women borrower per bank branch for setting up a greenfield enterprise in the manufacturing, services, agri-allied or trading sector.

Eligibility

  1. SC/ST and/or woman entrepreneurs aged above 18 years.
  2. Loans under the scheme are available for only greenfield projects i.e. the first-time venture of the beneficiary in the manufacturing, services, agri-allied activities, or the trading sector.
  3. In the case of non-individual enterprises, 51% of the shareholding and controlling stake should be held by either SC/ST and/or Women Entrepreneurs.
  4. The borrower should not be in default to any bank or financial institution.

Mahila e-Haat 

Mahila e-Haat is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development and Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK). Launched on 7th March 2016, Mahila e-Haat is a direct online marketing platform that leverages technology to support women entrepreneurs/SHGs/NGOs and showcase the products/services that they make/manufacture/undertake. This exclusive portal is the first in the country to offer a specialised, female-focused marketing platform. Being a bilingual portal, it aims at the financial inclusion and economic empowerment of women.  

One-Stop Centre (OSC) Scheme

One-Stop Centre (OSC) Scheme was launched in 2015 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development with the goal of supporting women affected by violence in private and public spaces. The Scheme provides specialised services to women who have endured any type of gender-based violence including “attempted sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, trafficking, honour-related crimes, acid attacks or witch-hunting”.

Objectives of the scheme are as follows:

  • Providing integrated support and assistance to women affected by violence, both in private and public spaces under one roof.
  • Facilitating immediate, emergency, and non-emergency access to a variety of services, including medical, legal, psychological, and counselling support, all under one roof in order to combat all forms of violence against women.

Ujjawala Scheme

The Ujjawala Scheme is a comprehensive scheme for “prevention of trafficking and rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.” The Scheme became effective on April 1st, 2016. The objectives of the Ujjwala Scheme are provided as follows:

  • To prevent the trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation through social mobilisation and community involvement, awareness generation programmes, generate public discourse through workshops/seminars and such events, and any other innovative activity.
  • Facilitating the rescue of victims from the place of their exploitation and placing them in safe custody.
  • To give urgent and long-term rehabilitation services to victims by providing basic necessities/needs such as shelter, food, clothing, medical treatment, counselling, legal advice and guidance, and vocational training.
  • To aid the victims’ reintegration into their families and society at large.
  • To facilitate the repatriation of cross-border victims to their country of origin.

Women Helpline Scheme 

The Women Helpline Scheme came into effect on April 1, 2015. The Scheme provides a 24-hour emergency response to all women who are affected by violence both in the public and private spheres. The helpline is established in every state and union territory. Following are some of the significant objectives of the Women’s Helpline:

  • Provide toll-free 24-hours telecom service to women affected by violence seeking support and information. 
  • Facilitate crisis intervention through referral to police, hospitals, or ambulance services.
  • Provide information about the appropriate support services available to the woman affected by violence, in her particular situation within the local area in which she resides or is employed. 
  • Creation and maintenance of a comprehensive referral database by the Helpline within its local area.

SWADHAR Greh (A Scheme for Women in Difficult Circumstances)

This scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development with the objective to rehabilitate women in difficult circumstances. The Scheme covers the following categories of women:

  • women who are deserted and without any social and economic support,
  • women victims of domestic violence, family tension, and natural disaster. 

Under this Scheme, a SWADHAR Greh will be set up in every district with the following objectives:

  1. To meet the primary needs of women in distress who lack social and economic support, such as shelter, food, clothing, medical treatment, and care.
  2. To help them regain their emotional strength, which has been hampered due to encounters with unfortunate circumstances.
  3. Providing them legal aid and guidance to enable them to take steps for their readjustment in family/society.
  4. To economically and emotionally rehabilitate them.

Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP) Scheme

The objective of the STEP Scheme is to provide skills that give employability to women and also provide competencies and skills that enable women to become self-employed/entrepreneurs. The Scheme intends to benefit women all across the country who have attained the age of 16 years and above.

Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP)

The Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) is an initiative of NITI Aayog for the promotion of women entrepreneurship by:

  • Promoting and supporting aspiring as well as established women entrepreneurs in India.
  • Assisting and handholding the women entrepreneurs in their journey from starting up to scaling up and expanding their ventures.

This unique, one of its kind, enabling platform is built on three pillars:

  1. ‘Iccha Shakti’ represents motivating aspiring entrepreneurs to start their businesses.
  2. ‘Gyaan Shakti’ represents providing knowledge and ecosystem support to women entrepreneurs to foster entrepreneurship.
  3. ‘Karma Shakti’ represents providing hands-on support to entrepreneurs in setting and scaling up businesses.

Initiatives taken by the government for transgender persons

Recently, India has enacted a law for the protection of rights of transgender persons that came into force on 10th January 2022. The Act, namely the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 recognizes the identity of transgender persons and prohibits discrimination or unfair treatment against them in relation to education, employment, healthcare services, holding public or private offices, etc.

Section 22 of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 empowers the appropriate government to make rules for carrying out the provisions of the said Act. In exercise of this power, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020 were framed and notified on 25th September 2020 by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

In addition to the aforesaid legislative measures, the Government of India has undertaken some policy and other measures for upliftment and protection of the rights of transgender persons, which are discussed as below:

Support for Marginalised Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise (SMILE) 

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has come up with a national level umbrella scheme called SMILE i.e., Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise. This Scheme includes two Sub-Schemes, namely:

  1. Comprehensive Rehabilitation for Welfare of Transgender Persons;
  2. Comprehensive Rehabilitation of Persons engaged in the act of Begging;

SMILE covers several comprehensive measures for the welfare of transgender persons which are provided as follows:

National Portal for Transgender Persons

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has launched the “National Portal for Transgender Persons” in consonance with the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020. The official website of the portal is: transgender.dosje.gov.in 

The Portal provides the following facilities:

  1. Certificates and Identity Cards: The Portal provides the facility for transgender persons to apply for certificate and identity cards from across the country without physical interface through a seamless end-to-end mechanism. The Transgender certificate and identity card is nationally recognised and provided by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment. The aforesaid certificate is a mandatory document to avail the welfare measures being provided under the SMILE Scheme.
  2. Helpline: The portal provides technical and administrative support to the applicant. It also assists in sending timely reminders to district authorities for expediting the process of issuing certificates and identity cards to applicants to alleviate unnecessary delays by making the process transparent to the beneficiaries. 

The Portal also encourages online skill training and employment opportunities for transgender persons and provides recognition/incentives to those applicants who have done courses from the SWAYAM portal.

SMILE Garima Greh : Shelter Homes

Garima Greh aims to provide shelter to destitute and abandoned transgender persons with basic amenities such as shelter, food, medical care, and recreational facilities. In addition to that, it also provides support for the skill development of transgender persons. Garima Greh seeks to empower the transgender community by ensuring that they have access to a safe and secure environment.

Eligibility Criteria for availing benefits under the Scheme

  • TGs certified issued through National Portal for Transgender Persons and preferably living below the poverty line. 
  • Transgenders who are abandoned, aged above 18 years and below 60 years.
  • TGs should not be engaged in sex work and beggary.
  • TG must be unemployed and not engaged in productive commercial activities.

Scholarships

The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is providing scholarships to transgender students for studies. These scholarships are available in four categories:

  1. Scholarships for secondary school (9th and 10th) transgender students.
  2. Scholarships for senior secondary (11th and 12th) education.
  3. Scholarships for students (Undergraduate/Diploma).
  4. Scholarships for students (Post-graduation)

Skill Development and Training

The Skill Development and Training programmes are provided in the form of short-term training programs and long-term training programs with the aim of providing employment opportunities to the persons belonging to the transgender community by teaching them market-oriented skills. The training is provided free of cost and a stipend of Rs. 1000 per month per trainee is also given in case of non-residential training. 

Medical Support and Health Benefits

This scheme aims to provide health insurance coverage to all transgender persons living in India to improve their health condition through proper treatment including sex reassignment surgery as well as medical support. The scheme would cover all transgender persons not receiving such benefits from others centre/state-sponsored schemes.

Eligibility

The transgender persons will be selected as per the following criteria:

  • The beneficiary should be a transgender person as notified by the Government of India holding a Transgender Certificate & Identity Card issued by the National Portal for Transgender Persons. 
  • The beneficiary should not be availing similar benefits from any other scheme of the Centre or state government. 

Conclusion

This article has extensively discussed the various policy measures, schemes and other initiatives undertaken by the Government of India to achieve gender equality in India. These schemes and measures seek to uplift, protect and empower women and persons of the transgender community to enable them to enjoy an equal status in personal and public life and to eliminate all forms of discrimination, prejudice and unfair treatment meted out to them. While there are a plethora of schemes and laws that have been formulated and are being formulated to address the gender inequalities in India, what is required is the continuous monitoring and tracking of the implementation of these measures. In addition to that, the timely revival and updation of these policies to make them more inclusive and responsive to the urgent needs of a particular situation or crisis will go a long way in accelerating the achievement of the goal of gender equality in India. 

References


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