Women’s empowerment is not just a catchphrase to be trotted out by glib politicians and flag-waving feminists. It is an essential contributor in the development of a nation — a fact that is recognised by all governments, especially governments of developing countries, where so many women continue to be trapped in traditional gender roles and are never able to realise their full potential. India does have a raft of laws, policies and schemes to ensure the social, economic, and political uplift of women. Even so, women’s empowerment in this country has been patchy at best, often hamstrung by a range of social, cultural and infrastructural roadblocks.
Shuma highlights issues of male responsibility for contraception; protecting single women; preventing online harassment; and protecting surrogates. However, Shuma points to the lack of attention to sexual assault in marriage.
On female representation in parliament, Shuma notes the many promises that have not been delivered on for the modest goal of 33% reservation:
Critics have been grumbling that the draft policy is nothing but high sounding verbiage, describing it as a regurgitation of standard issue goals for the uplift of women, with no clear roadmap for implementing them. There is, for example, that old promise of 33% reservation of women in Parliament, a promise every government likes to make, but none delivers on. And yes, many of the objectives do carry a tired sense of deja vu. However, just because some goals are regularly articulated does not mean that they are less relevant.