Saturday, 12 January 2019

Participatory Training: Methodology and Material

What, Why and How of Training Methodology and Materials

To answer the 'what' question, you may say that training methods and materials are the techniques and resources the adult educator uses to organize a training workshop and transfer new knowledge, skills, and attitudes to participants. Many a time it is useful to differentiate between the methods, tools/aids and techniques in order to use them effectively. There are some differences between methods, aids, equipments and techniques, which are highlighted below.

In order to answer the 'how' question, you can point out that active learning workshops use a variety of training methods in order to engage participants in the learning process.

When choosing teaching methods for a particular session, you may consider the following questions:
  • Is the method suitable for the objectives?
  • Does the method require more background knowledge or skills than the participants possess?
  • How much time does it take to prepare and then to use it in the learning session?
  • Is that sort of time available with the adult educator and adult learners? How much space does the learning dession take?
  • Is that kind of space available at the venue of learning sessions?
  • Is the method appropriate for the size of the learning group?
  • What kind of teaching materials does it require?
  • Are those materials available?
  • Does the method require special skills to use?
  • Does the adult educator possess these skills?

1. Knowledge-based Learning Sessions

The broad factor guiding the selection of methods is the focus of learning. If the focus of learning is increasing knowledge, then the methods used may be lectures, field visits, demonstrations, self-study, etc. Adult educators need to keep in mind that they need to talk about only those facts which the participants need to know. It is important to get the participants' attention before explaining why they need to know the topic. Tell a story that shows why it is important.

Give a summary. Explain the main themes you are going to cover. Present the facts and information. Use handouts to reinforce the talk. Participants learn more by listening and actively participating than by taking detailed written notes. Ask participants to tell stories about how the facts will be used by them. Among the materials to be used, whenever possible, use audio-visual aids such as Chalk- board, Flip chart, Models, Posters, Photographs, Overheads, Slides, Video, etc.

2. Skills-based Learning Sessions

If the focus of learning is to increase skills, the methods used are more of practice sessions, demonstrations, apprenticeship and learning by doing.

Examples of Activities for Skills-based Learning Sessions
  1. Name the skill. Ask if participants have for it any other name(s) in the local language(s).
  2. Tell why it is important. Ask if participants have in mind other reasons for its importance.
  3. Explain when to use it. Ask participants if they use the skill in any other context.
  4. Describe the steps involved in performing the skill. Ask the participants if they include some other steps in performing the skill.
  5. Demonstrate the skill. Ask the participants to demonstrate the skill as understood by them.
  6. The demonstration must use effective methods, which are applicable to the work environments of the participants. Ask the participants if there are other effective methods to master the skill.
  7. Use only that equipment, which is available to participants in the field. Ask participants to name equipments available locally for mastering the skill.
  8. All participants must be able to see what you are doing. It is possible that one of the participants may be able to, or may want to, demonstrate the various parts of the skill. Invite such participants to demonstrate all or some operations.
  9. Explain what you are doing (a written handout with pictures will help reinforce the explanation). Ask participants to draw pictures of what the skill is supposed to involve.
  10. Arrange practice sessions.
  11. Come to the most important part of conducting skills-based learning sessions and take time to practice. Make all participants practice the skill.
  12. Each participant must receive feedback from you as well as from fellow learners.

3. Awareness-generating Sessions

If the focus of learning is to generate awareness then the methods used would be role-plays, small group discussion, case studies, simulation, learning games, structured exercises, etc. One's own experiences, both past and present and others' experiences form an important source of learning. Hence the experiential learning methods provide an opportunity for learners to experience, share reactions and observations, reflect upon implications and consequences, discuss patterns and dynamics, develop practical and conceptual understanding and apply it to the real life situations.

Besides the focus of learning, there are some other important considerations for selecting methods such as who are the learners, what are their backgrounds? Is the knowledge and experience base of learners being used? Which methods are helpful in building an environment conducive to learning at a particular point of time? How can individual and collective learning be ensured, etc. Other factors that play an important role are time, space, competence of facilitators, group size, etc.

Participatory Training Methods/ Techniques

Participatory training has several methods which are in vogue in adult learning. We will discuss the following more popular methods in this section.
  1. Lecture
  2. Case Study
  3. Role Play
  4. Simulation
  5. Instruments
  6. Learning Games

1. Lecture

The lecture method is an effective way to introduce new information or concepts to a group of learners. The learners always appreciate a concise, stimulating and well - delivered lecture. The lecture method is primarily used to build upon the learners' existing base of knowledge. The lecture must always be suited to the learners' level. Asking some relevant and effective questions can help elicit information. Thereafter, the adult educator will have to make constant efforts to situate the new information in the context of the training by continuously providing examples and illustrations to relate it to the learners' context.

Lectures are useful for conveying new information and concepts to the learners and for providing context so that learners can relate what has been learnt to a conceptual framework. Lectures are also good for stimulating and motivating learners for further enquiry and for presenting a specialized body of external information.

To lecture effectively, the lecturer needs to prepare for the lecture, become very familiar with the subject matter, identify and prepare supporting aids to illustrate the points. One needs to provide examples to link the subject matter to the lives of the learners and ask questions to check whether the learners are following the lecture. A good lecture provokes the learners to ask questions and note key points. It is advisable that the lecturer maintains eye contact with the learners to assess whether they are following or not, whether they are interested or bored. The seating arrangement has to be such that all can see the aids equally well and hear the lecture and maintain time stipulations. It is important to be aware of one's own body movements and facial expressions and speak clearly, loudly and use simple language.

Given below are the advantages and disadvantages of the lecture method.

a) Advantages
  1. Allows the presentation of facts, Information and concepts in a relatively short span of time. 
  2. Makes possible interaction of learners with multiple resource persons with different points of view. 
  3. Is possible to use for illiterate learners.
  4. A diverse range of supportive materials can be used to support the content areas, e. g. slides, charts posters, etc.
  5. A large number of learners can be accommodated at one time.
b) Disadvantages
  1. The world view of the speaker dominates the knowledge. 
  2.  It does not promote interaction in most cases. 
  3. The input may be too abstract if not related to real life situations. 
  4. The pace of learning is determined by the lecturer.

2. Case Study

In the case study method, look at others' experiences in the form of a case. The learners reflect upon and analyze these experiences to derive new ideas. The learner's own experiences, values, feelings form the basis for analysis of others' experiences. The adult educator may present case studies in written or verbal Participatory Training and Research in Adult Education forms or even through the medium of films or songs, depending upon the background and experiential level of learners. In order to use the case study method, the adult educator may present the case study to the group. One way of presenting the case study is to divide the group into smaller groups and give each group the task (question) to reflect and discuss. Then each group's views may be presented and consolidated in a collective session.

Among the reasons for using the case study method you may point out that the case study method helps to convey complex theoretical concepts in a simple way. It makes the group reflect on its own situation in the context of others' experiences, and it gives a chance to discuss complex situations. This exercise sharpens learners' analytical and diagnostic skills and exposes them to situations they might not ordinarily experience in their own lives. It exposes learners to similar experiences elsewhere to enable them to feel a sense of solidarity and validation. In addition, it helps in creating new knowledge through collective reflection, analysis and synthesis. Given below are the advantages and disadvantages of the case study method.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Case Study Method. 

 a) Advantages 
  1. Simple 
  2. Can be used with illiterates and relatively unsophisticated people.
  3. Can be used for cognitive learning too.
  4. Low cost, culturally appropriate. 
b) Disadvantages
  1. May be difficult to find an appropriate case study. 
  2. The case study may be too general to focus on a specific issue.
  3. Case studies written by some one else contun the writer's perceptions, feelings and ideologies which may lead to distortion of the objective reality.
  4. Hypothetical or prepared case studies may be too idealistic.

3. Role Play

 One of the most common training methods is the role-play. Role- play is useful where learners share a somewhat similar experience, which is difficult to recall because of its emotional nature. You can also use it where the uniform possibility of recall is less likely among the learners. Role-play is a structured experience; it means that learning takes place from re-enactment of past experiences. It is a powerful training method if the focus of learning is to generate awareness.

The method of role-play is useful as it helps learners utilize their experiences of real life situations. The enactment is helpful in developing awareness at individual and group levels. Through role play it becomes easier to discuss complex social issues in a non threatening environment.

In order to use role-play effectively, you need to select a suitable role play depending on the purpose of learning and identify role enactors/performers. Next, you need to prepare briefs and explain the situation to the learners and tell the audience all the points to be noted. Now is the time to set the stage and start the role-play. After the play you can consolidate and debrief.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Role-play Method 

a) Advantages
  1. It is energizing.
  2. It helps the suppressed and illiterate to express their feelings.
  3. It is a simple and low cost learning tool It focuses on problems which are real.
  4. It presents complex issues simply and in a short time.
  5. It does not need materials/ props or advance preparation
b) Disadvantages
  1. There is a possibility of the role play becoming entertainment which vitiates learning.
  2. Participants can get too involved in their roles and later lose objectivity during analysis'.
  3. Acting can become an end in itself and participants can overact or distort the roles. 
  4.  If points for observations are not clear, it may dilute the focus of learning.
A Role-play is used in a variety of ways. A small group enacts a role-play about a situation while other learners watch the role-play. A discussion follows that enactment. In this case, the role-play is similar to a demonstration where learning occurs through observation. The adult educators themselves, or a few outsiders or a handful of learners, with or without adult educators, can enact such a role- play.

You can also use role-play to stimulate discussion on complex issues. A brief enactment by adult educators or learners or both, can be used to stimulate further group discussion on similar issues and experiences that learners share. This method of learning is essentially group discussion where role-play merely acts as a stimulant or catalyst for the discussion that follows. Its use in this case is similar to an aid e.g. charts, video clipping, etc.

In certain situations, a role-play is also used to practice skills. For example, you can practice how to motivate adult learners by enacting different roles. The prime method of learning here is practicing and receiving feedback from learners and adult educators after that practice. You can also use a role-play as a re-enactment of past experiences. Learners may enact a past situation with which they are familiar.

4. Simulation

Simulation is a method based on 'here and now' experience shared by all learners. It involves assigning definite roles to each participant and having them act out a situation according to the given roles. It is carried on long enough to generate responses and reactions based on real feelings as participants need to genuinely 'get into their role'. However, learning takes place without any serious risk because the situation is after all 'make- believe .

The original meaning of the method is derived from the situation used to train aircraft pilots. Since real life training is too risky, and any error during learning would prove fatal, realistic conditions of air and pressure are created inside a 'simulator' cockpit, and the pilot learns how to fly.

You may use simulation to understand complex societal issues and to learn in a situation which is very similar to real life. Here learning takes place at different levels. Simulation involves "pre-simulation" phase in which you need to select a simulation according to the purpose of learning and develop a conceptual framework. Then you prepare a list of rules/ instructions and briefs for all roles and assign roles to different learners. Try to include all learners, as simulation does not require an audience, and define the situations and events in which the characters will interact. There may be more than one situation/ event.

Decide the location for simulation. The site/s chosen need to be as close as possible to real life sites of the chosen situations. You need to keep necessary props ready at hand, to be used for different roles.

For conducting a simulation, you need to assign roles, give each person the appropriate role brief. Ask the participants to study their roles and try to 'become' the role. It is not a good idea to let different roles study each other's briefs. Yes, you need to prepare name tags or some other appropriate means of identifying the different roles. Then brief the participants about the situation and let them start acting according to their interpretation of the role. Stop the simulation when appropriate, or when the essential part is over, or if it is getting out of hand. In the post-simulation phase, it is better to give the participants time to get out of their roles. Then ask the participants to share their feelings by posing direct questions, for instance, "what happened to you during the simulation?' " how did you feel?", etc. You may try to draw parallels with real life while analyzing the patterns in the data and collate the participants' feelings. Finally collect necessary inputs and summarize the entire proceedings.

advantages and disadvantages of simulation method.

a) Advantages
  1. Allows an exploration of real life situations, social processes and behaviors in a relatively non- threatening manner/ situation. It allows for the study of very complex social processes.
  2. It is entirely controlled by the learners' pace.
  3. It involves activity and universal participation.
  4. Learning takes place at the awareness level
b) Disadvantages
  1. It requires that participants cooperate and internalize the roles.
  2. It is a difficult method and requires an experienced and skilled adult educator to conduct it.
  3. Mismatch of roles may lead to poor performances by the learners.
  4. Critical skills are needed to handle feelings generated in the process.

5. Instruments

'Instruments' are usually in the printed format containing clear instructions and a series of questions, either with multiple choices, or requiring brief replies. Participants fill in the questionnaire individually or in twos/threes for each other. There are instructions at the end of the instruments explaining how to examine answers, assign scores and tally them. The connotations of different scores are also clarified. The purpose is to generate data about each learner. However, it is left to the learners to decide how to use this information. Some examples of instruments are the personality trait inventory, interpersonal perception form, T-P questionnaire for Leadership, FIRO-B, etc. The advantages and disadvantages of instruments method are as follows.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Instruments Method

a) Advantages
  1. Can be a very effective method for learning more about one's own self through systematic self- examination, reflection, and in cases, feedback.
  2. The learner does not feel external pressure or compulsion.
  3. Learning takes place at the individual's own pace according to his/ her interest and inclination.
b) Disadvantages
  1. Can only be used with a group which is highly literate.
  2. Needs a certain amount of honesty and genuine interest of the learner to generate meaningful data.
  3. Works better with people who can learn intellectually at the level of abstractions.
  4. Very difficult to design instruments.

6. Learning Games 

Learning games are seemingly fun activities involving all participants. There are rules and regulations and the games may or may not include a competitive element. You may use games to convey feelings and processes which are implied within the game being played, e. g. tnst games, leadership games and so on. After the game is over, it is essential that the feelings of the participants are debriefed and consolidated; otherwise it will remain either an icebreaker or an energizer.

The reason for playing learning games is to explain group processes involving issues of trust, social relationships and so on. You can play the learning games by explaining the game and involving the learners in the game. After the game, you need to consolidate, debrief and derive learning. Given below are the advantages and disadvantages of learning games method.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Learning Games Method 

a) Advantages
  1. It is lively, fun and involves everyone's participation.
  2. Complex issues can be explained in a simple manner. 
  3.  It allows the participants to experience the matter under consideration within the course of the training itself, (also called here-and-now experience).
b)  Disadvantages
  1. Finding or designing appropriate games is not very easy.
  2. The focus of the game must be clear to the adult educator otherwise debriefing will be confused.
  3. May generate lot of feelings, thereby obstructing learning.
  4. Entertaining without learning is not the objective.

7. Other Methods

Besides the methods discussed above, you may also look at the following other methods which are useful in some cases.
  1. Demonstrations
  2. Field visits
  3. Apprenticeship Practice
1. Demonstrations: Demonstrations refer to methods in which the learners are provided with an opportunity to observe for themselves the object or processes that they wish to learn. It can be real-life or make believe situations or models. This method is useful in conveying complex information simply, as seeing and understanding is considerably easier than hearing and understanding. Examples include - demonstrating what a biogas plant or a sanitary latrine is, through a model, demonstration by the adult educator on how to conduct an interview, demonstrating how to conduct safe deliveries to dais (TBA) - through models, etc.

2. Field Visits: Field visits refer to demonstrations in practical situations, i. e. where the subject matter actually occurs or happens in real life. Some examples of field visits are as follows - taking the learners to a hospital in the course of health training, or taking learners to villages in the course of a Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) training, or taking community level workers to the block office for training on local government, etc. The emphasis again is on observing, asking questions and understanding.

3. Apprenticeship Practice: Apprenticeship and practice are methods of paramount importance for skill training. The difference between the two lies in that practice is done in controlled situations while apprenticeship is done in real life situations and is usually of longer duration. It is essential in both methods that the learner be supervised by the adult educator and given feedback. These two methods can be used for any skill. In the course of training, it is easier to incorporate practice, while apprenticeship can be an entire training in itself.

Training Materials and Resources

When planning which training materials to use, the adult educator may consider the following questions.
  1. What materials are available?
  2. Will the material facilitate active learning?
  3. What can the training facility accommodate?
  4. Does the adult educator know how to use the material?
  5. Can the participants learn how to use the material?
Types of training materials include written materials, which are useful when imparting knowledge. If they are not available at the appropriate learning level, the adult educator may have to develop new materials. Examples of written materials are equipment instructions, lists for decision-making skills, and blank charts for record-keeping. While developing and using written materials, make sure that they contain only the information that participants need to know, and the materials are clear. Here, as layout is very important, you need to keep pages looking 'clean' and uncluttered and use language and diagrams appropriate to participants' level of knowledge. For example, use graphs if participants can read a graph. Audio-visual materials are useful for teaching knowledge and skills. Examples of audio-visual materials are:

black boardphotographs
flip chartsoverheads
charts and diagrams slides
models videos

While choosing audio-visual materials, you need to consider how the material would enhance active learning and if the material is appropriate to the knowledge level of the participants. Also consider how you will use the material and if it is available during the training. You need to ensure that all the participants are able to see and hear the material.

In case the method requires any supplemental materials, ensure their availability. To show a film you need a screen or a blank white wall. To use a flip chart you may want to use different color markers. Make sure that the facilities are appropriate for use of the material.

Roles of Adult Educators

Given the learning agenda, an adult educator has to play several critical important roles to ensure that the learners and learning process are at the Centre of all training. The educator needs to ensure that there is adequate stimulation to critical analytical faculties of learners, and there are occasions to value, analyze, share and reflect upon the experiences of learners. In the process learners feel empowered and there is enhancement of their self-image. Try and create and nurture conditions of learning.

The adult educator also needs to keep in mind that these multiple roles are played not only during the training, but also prior to the training and after the training as well. Each Of the roles during training and after the training requires a particular set of critical competencies, comprising three components, namely, knowledge, awareness and skills. An effective performance of any role involves the use of multiple competencies.

Roles of Adult Educator: You can now look at the roles of an adult educator. 
Training and planner 
  1.  Assessing learning needs and evolving learning objectives.
  2. Planning strategy of training.
  3. Working out the detailed contents, sequencing them and choosing appropriate methods.
  4. Involving learners in the designing phase. Identifying and preparing resource persons.
  5. Preparing and selecting learning materials and aids.
  6. Prep g self and the adult educator-team. 
  7. Delegating responsibilities for training.
Facilitator
  1. Facilitating group processes, to keep the group together and let it grow (participation, communication, decision -making, leadership, conflict resolution etc.).
  2. Summarizing, synthesizing information.
  3. Creating a learning environment.
  4. Pursuing, nudging, pushing, cajoling, building their confidence so that participants can perform beyond their existing potential.
  5. Managing the heterogeneity within the group.
Manager
  1. Mobilizing financial resources. Planning dates/venue.
  2. Scheduling logistics and required inputs.
  3. Providing administrative support. 
  4.  Ensuring communication with learners, resource persons regarding the venue, travel details, etc.
  5. Planning and co-coordinating arrangements for field trips, etc.
  6. Arranging for needed support systems at the venue (separate formations for men and women; for children arrangements accompanying mothers).
Educator 
  1. Providing new information and concepts.
  2. Eliciting learners' experiences and analysis by setting up structures, asking questions, etc.
  3. Synthesizing, consolidating and Appreciating encouraging conceptualizing information and analysis. new individuals and the group as a whole. Initiating discussions, articulating unsolved group issues.
  4. Directing, managing structured learning experiences -role-plays, simulations, discussions, etc.
  5. Using learning aids effectively video-camera, tapes, flash cards, audio -visual aids, etc.
Friend, philosopher, counselor and guide 
  1. Being accessible to learners, listening to them, their anxieties, thoughts, problems, joys, by being a sounding board.
  2. Sharing one's own life experiences with the learners.
  3. Providing a sense of direction, by giving feedback.
  4. Developing a close rapport with learners and building their trust and confidence. 
  5. Being a sounding-board when required responding positively and understanding the origins of the anxieties or problems of the learner.
  6. Setting up sessions to enhance the self- confidence and self-esteem of the concerned individuals, in an informal manner.
  7. Showing solidarity, holding hands, offering a shoulder to cry on, being sensitive to and responding to a crisis, if any.
Recorder and documenter
  1. Observing keenly the flow of content and processes taking place.
  2. Maintaining detailed notes on a regular basis.
  3. Involving learners in the recording / documenting efforts.
  4. Exchanging roles with co-adult educators and incorporating it into further planning of sessions.
  5. Addressing additional issues of providing relevant feedback to the individuals and groups that may arise in the process.
Learner
  1. Paying attention to what others are sharing, being open to and accepting differing frameworks of analysis and perspectives.
  2. Seeking additional information, clarifications, asking questions. Acknowledging others' abilities and appreciating them.
  3. Accepting "learning structures" set up by others during the training, and supporting each learner.
Evaluator
  1. Planning evaluation/monitoring mechanisms.
  2. Involving learners in the evaluation process.
  3. Soliciting formal and informal reviews to assess every event and ongoing process.
  4. Matching feedback with objectives of the session and assessing if  learners are learning. 
Follow-up co-coordinator
  1. Communicating at regular intervals.
  2. Disseminating feedback from individuals and organizations to feed into the next training.
  3. Assessing future learning needs and planning additional events for the same  Providing support through participation, involvement in designing, preparing strategy and materials, etc.
  4. Reflecting and evaluating the training outcome with co-adult educators.
Report writer
  1. Planning a reporting format (from learners' needs expressed by learners).
  2. Organizing all the needed information, notes, and flip charts for report-writing.
  3. Preparing separate reports for different constituencies, if need be (i. e. fund providers, learners, etc. ) 
  4.  Disseminating it to both learners and wider audiences.
As is evident from the above table, the adult educator has to play multiple roles. This requires a very systematic, deliberate and planned process of training adult educators in the context of participatory training.

1. Systematic Preparation

The role of the adult educator in participatory training is much more radical and critical than the role of adult educator in traditional training. Participatory adult educator has to be much more resourceful, competent and creative to fulfill his/ her task as facilitator-manager of the training processes. The adult educators need to systematically prepare to effectively play the multiple roles, fulfill the engrossing functions and shoulder the demanding responsibilities incumbent on them. Three key aspects of adult educator's training include i) learning the theory of adult learning, ii) developing skills as a facilitator and 111) self-development of the adult educator. In fact the third is the most important, since the other two are of no use in the absence of the third one. Let us talk a little more about this aspect in the next sub-section.

2. Understanding Self

It is important to understand the self in-the context of participatory training. It is generally agreed that the self has three broad aspects. These three constantly interact with each other causing confusion or congruence depending whether they are in harmony or not.
  1. The Cognitive Self: This refers to our mental or intellectual capacities to store and process information, our memory and logical abilities.
  2. The Affective Self: This refers to our emotional side, our capacity to feel and express emotions.
  3. The Behavioral Self: This refers to our behavior aspects, our actions, skills and expressed behavior.
Understanding self is important for developing congruence between cognitive, affective and behavioral aspects of self and for developing sensitivity towards learners and understanding their self development process. It is important for developing faith in others' capacity to learn, grow and change, and for building up the self-esteem of the learners into a realistic and positive self-concept. It is only when we personally experience the transformation of the self and a sense of personal growth, that we as adult educators in participatory training are convinced that others can also achieve the same.

Self development of your role as a facilitator implies different things. In reality, these different meanings may overlap, but it is useful to understand them distinctively. Here we will discuss some of the main implications of self- development.

Self-development implies developing a positive and healthy appreciation of one's capabilities, limitations and the self. It means overcoming the negative self- concept in some cases, and excessively unrealistic self-concept in others. Self- development means the art of acquiring internal control over oneself. In many cases, we depend on others to define ourselves. We need to develop our own definition of ourselves and not allow our definition of self-concept to be exclusively and totally determined by others. It involves creating a sense of initiative and self-control in each person. Self-development entails the development of the cognitive, affective and the behavioral aspects. This implies developing and sharpening our cognitive capacity, becoming sensitive to one's own emotions and feelings and developing the ability to articulate and express them and sharpening emotional capacities.

Self-development is to create a sense of congruence between different aspects of self. This implies an internal congruence and consistency between cognitive, affective and behavioral aspects. This also implies that our behavioral aspect represents authentically our cognitive and affective aspects and our actions are congruent with our thoughts and feelings. This is one of the major challenges in self- development.

Self Development has two important aspects, understanding one-self and changing one- self. Understanding one-self requires collection of information about "one's own self', whereas change of behavior requires self-disclosure. As adult educators, we need to develop "openness" in ourselves, and feedback and self-disclosure become essenqal in this process. Feedback from others and self-disclosure are reciprocal activities crucial for self-development. Let us learn in brief a bit more about feedback and self-disclosure.

Feedback is a verbal or non-verbal communication with a person or group which provides others with information on how their behavior affects you. Feedback is also a reaction by others usually in terms of their feelings and perceptions, about how your behavior is affecting them. Self- disclosure is a process of sharing of "me" with others. Feedback is information given to a person (or a group or an Organization) about how one affects others. It helps one become more aware, both of one's strengths and weaknesses. It does not tell one what one should do, but it raises questions and helps one to decide whether to change one's behavior, so that one can be more effective and better able to achieve what one wants. If feedback is given in a positive way it can be helpful. But if it is given ineffectively, it is not only unhelpful, but can also be quite destructive.

3. Planning for Self-development

Planning for self-development usually involves identifying areas that require development. One can identify aspects about oneself that one would like to develop; for example, I want to reduce my aggressiveness or I would like to be able to say no without feeling guilty, etc. Prioritize these needs and assess their importance over the next few months. There may be sexæral aspects that one would like to develop. It helps to assess what is more important and needs immediate attention. Choose one priority area to begin with. Identify obstacles in self and in environment. Then you can try and identify the factors that are likely to block the process of self-development. This could involve looking inside one's behavioral patterns, attitudes, temperaments, etc. The environment, other people, and situations can sometimes create obstacles in the process of self- development.

The next logical step is to decide how to go about improving an aspect of self. This includes detailed planning of activities to be carried out in order to achieve the goal. A time-frame also needs to be developed for this plan. You may seek others' help. Self-development plans invariably necessitate seeking help from other persons. It is rather impossible to develop oneself in isolation, all by oneself.

We need the help of others, our colleagues, family members, etc. to be able to engage in self-improvement Any change process needs regular monitoring. In some form or other self- development process also needs close monitoring. You need to evolve mechanism for such monitoring at the time of planning itself.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Rights of women

Hon'ble Justice K. Ramaswamy of the Supreme Court, in Madhukiswar v State of Bihar (1996, p.148), stated the position of women: "Half of the Indian population is women. Women have always been discriminated against and have suffered and are suffering all inequities, indignities, incongruities and discrimination in silence'.

Like children, women also constitute a special social group; they too have been given special rights, privileges and protection. Therefore, in post, we will focus on these aspects of women that help in their empowerment.

International Law and Women's Status

We all know that from the very moment of her birth, the girl child confronts a world which undervalues her existence in comparison with a boy. Girls face obstacles in their education, nutrition, health and other areas solely because of their sex. They are viewed as having a "transient presence" to be mamed young and then judged by their ability to procreate. As they mature into women, they are thrust into cycle of disempowerment and that is very likely to be their daughters' destiny as well. This is the position of women, in general, in. the global and national (Indian) contexts.

The United Nations, from the very day of its inception in 1945 till date, has been striving to secure women's legal equality. It found that in many parts of the world the women have constantly been denied equality in law, and in practice they are also compelled to live under male-dominated world and are subjected to a variety of discriminations. The U.N. has chalked out a comprehensive programme by means of various conventions to uplift and develop the status of women in the field of education, politics and in social life. As a result, the U.N. has incorporated in several treaties and conventions many provisions to achieve equal political rights, among others, of women worldwide. These include:
  1. United Nations Charter, 1945. 
  2.  Commission on the Status of Women, 1946. 
  3. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.
  4. International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, 1949. 
  5. Convention on the Political Rights of Women, 1952. 
  6.  Convention on the Nationality of Married Women, 1957. 
  7. Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriage, 1962. 
  8.  Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, 1967. 
  9. World Conference on Women's Human Rights, 1975. 
  10. United Nations Development Fund for Women's, 1976. 
  11. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979. 
  12. Declaration on Elimination of Violence Against Women, 1993. 
  13. Vienna Declaration on Human Rights of Women, 1993. 
  14. Beijing Declaration, 1995. 
  15. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, 1999. 
We will, now, have a brief look at the essence of each of them.

1. United Nations Charter, 1945

Provisions of United Nations Charter 1945 are concerned with Human Rights of Women. Advancement of right of women has been the concern of world community since the end of Second World War. Some of the important and relevant provisions of this Charter are as follows.
  1. In the preamble it is stated, "we the people of the United Nations are determined to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women, and of large and small nations.
  2. In Art- I , the charter lays down that one of the purposes of the United Nations is to achieve international cooperation In solving international problems of an economic, social and cultural or humanitarian charter, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.
  3. Art-8 "Equality of Opportunity" of the Charter lays down that the United Nations shall place no restrictions on the eligibility of men and women to participate in any capacity and under conditions of equality in its principal and subsidiary organs." Thus, equality of opportunity has been assured to the women in the matter of participation in the work of the United Nations 
  4. Art-13 of the Charter lays emphasis upon promoting international cooperation in the economic, social, cultural, educational and health fields, and assisting in the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion. 
  5. Art-55 of the Charter also lays emphasis upon the promotion of universal respect for, and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.
Thus, the principle of equality of men and women in the matter of promotion and observance of human rights and fundamental freedom has been fully established under the charter of the United Nations.

2. The Commission on the Status of Women, 1946

It is an organization established under the United Nations system. It is a functional Commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). In the initial period, this Commission was particularly concerned with:
  1.  the improvement of the status of women in law, particularly private law; and 
  2.  the advancement of women's enjoyment of their rights to education, employment and health care.
The on the Status of Women, has done valuable work promoting the right of women in political, economic, civil, social, and educational fields and in achieving the goal of women having rights equal to those of men. 

The Commission has requested the International Labour Organization (ILO) to promote the principle of equal pay for equal work and to complete a convention on this, subject.

It has also requested the UNESCO to provide equal opportunities for women in education.:
  1. Equal access to education at all levels.
  2. Equal economic rights and opportunities for women.
  3. Equal pay for equal work.
  4. Equality in various aspects of family law and property rig)ts. 
The Commission on the Status of Women was instrumental to the following Conventions and Declarations:
  1. The Convention on the Political Rights of Women, 1952.
  2. The Convention on the Nationality of Married Women, 1957.
  3. The Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriage, 1962.
  4. The Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, 1967.
  5. The Convention on the Protection of Women & Children during Emergency and Armed Conflicts, 1974.
The Commission has served as the preparatory body for the world conferences on women, held in Mexico city (1975), Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi ( 1985) and BelJ1ng (1995), It has now been assigned with "the functions of promoting the objectives of equality, development and peace, monitoring the implementation of measures for the advancement of women, and reviewing and appraising process made at the national, sub-regional, regional, sectoral and global levels.

3. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

The UDHR has been hailed as an historic event of the greatest achievements of the United Nations. The Preamble clearly declares the common standard of achievement for all the peoples and all nations. The declaration shows the importance and necessity of having fitting the fundamental human rights and dignity of individuals including men an omen. In view of Jurist C. Bunch (Transforming Human Rights from a Feminist Perspective, 1995): "Human Rights Instruments and mechanisms provide avenues for challenging the systematic abuse of women, and governments can be made to take gender-based violations more seriously by being held accountable for the implementation of laws against them.

The Declaration dealt with civil and political rights of men and women in terms of equality. It also dealt with the social and economic right. The principle of equal rights of men and women has been incorporated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  1. Art. 1: All human are born free and equal in dignity and rights. 
  2. Art. 2: Everyone, without distinction of any kind such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other status, is entitled to all the Fights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration.
  3. Art. 3; Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person irrespective of the country of territory he/she belongs to.
  4. Art. 4: Prohibition of slavery and slavery trade.
  5. Art. 5: Prohibition of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  6. Art. 6: Right to be recognized as person before law.
  7. Art. 7: Emphasises that all are equal before the law and are entitled, without any discrimination, to equal protection of law,
  8. Art. 10: Right to a full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.
  9. Art 11: Right to education, without any discrimination.
  10. Art. 13: Freedom from arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence or attack on honour or reputation and right to protection by law against such interference.
  11. Art. 14: Right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of the state.
  12. Art. 15: Right to leave any county, including his/her own, and to return to his/her county.
  13. Art. 16: Right to seek and enjoy in other country asylum from persecution in respect of political crimes.
  14. Art. 17: Freedom from arbitrary deprival of nationality and to change nationality (right to a nationality).
  15. Art 18: Right to marry with the free and full consent and to found a family and equal rights to men and women as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  16. Art. 19: Right to own property and freedom from arbitrary deprival of property,
  17. Art 20: Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  18. Art 21: Right to freedom of opinion and expression.
  19. Art 22: Right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  20. Art 23: Right to take part in the government of the county.
  21. Art. 24: Right of equal access to public services in the country.
  22. Art. 25: Right to social security and the right to realization of the economic, social and cultural rights.  
  23. Art. 26: Right to work and favourable conditions of work.
  24. Art. 27: Right to equal pay for equal work.
  25. Art. 28: Right to just and favourable remuneration.
  26. Art. 29: Right to form and to join trade unions.
  27. Art. 30: Right to rest and leisure.
  28. Art. 31: Right to living wages, adequate for the health and well-being of himself/ herself and his/her family. 
  29.  Art. 32: Right of all children to enjoy same social protection.
Legal effect of the Declaration (i.e. the UDHR, 1948) is a proclamation of the U.N. providing common standard of achievement. It recognized the inherent dignity and equality among the people, i.e. men and women. The concept of human rights mentioned in the proclamation is universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. It is the duty of the states to promote and protect the social, political, civil and economic rights of all human beings. The said proclamation was not meant to be legally binding and therefore it did not impose any legal obligation on the state to give effect to its provisions. The nature of provision as contemplated in the said proclamation is only recommendatory and it was not strictly binding on the states.

4. International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, 1949

It emphasized that the prostitution and the accompanying evil of the traffic in persons for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person and endanger the welfare of the individual, the family and the community. Subsequently, with respect to the suppression of the traffic in women and children, several international instruments have also come into force.

5. Convention on the Political Rights of Women, 1952

This convention intends to implement the principle of equality of rights for men and women on equal terms.
  1. The right to vote: Art. I of the convention lays down that the women shall be entitled to vote in all elections on equal terms with men without any discrimination.
  2. Eligibility for election: Art. Il of the convention provides that women shall be eligible for election to all publicly elected bodies established by national law on equal terms with men and without any discrimination. 
  3. The right to hold public office: Women shall be entitled to hold public office and to exercise all public functions, established by national law, on equal terms with men and without any discrimination.

6. The Convention on the Nationality of Married Women, 1957

This convention provides for determination of nationality of a married woman in the context of marriage and also of its dissolution.

7. Convention and Recommendation on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriage, 1962

It aimed at prohibiting child marriage and at safeguarding the principle of free consent to marriage. No marriage shall be legally entered into without the full and tree consent of both parties, such consent to be expressed by them in person after due publicity and in the presence of the authority competent to solemnize the marriage and of witnesses, as prescribed by law. State parties to this Convention shall take legislative action to specify a minimum age for marriage. No marriage shall be legally entered into by any person under the so specified age, except where a competent authority has granted a dispensation as to age, for serious reasons, in the interest of the intending spouses. All marriages shall be registered in an appropriate official register by the competent authority.

8. Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, 1967

Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (DEDAW) united in a single instrument the principles and standards relating to the rights of women in all spheres of I Iv life and society. It was adopted unanimously by the General Assembly on 711 November 1967. In the preamble to the Declaration, it has been laid down that as the discrimination against women has continued to exist even after the charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other Instruments and the progress made in the matter of equality of rights, it becomes necessary to make the Declaration in order to attain equality of rights of men and women, and the Elimination of discrimination based on sex. It emphasises the flowing.
  1. That the discrimination against women, denying or limiting their equality of rights with men is fundamentally unjust and constitutes an offence against human dignity.
  2. That the existing laws, customs, regulations and practices which are discriminatory against women must be abolished. The adequate legal protection for equal rights of men and women must be provided. The international Instruments of the U. N. and specialized agencies relating to the elimination of discrimination against women and their full implementation must be ratified or accede to, as soon as possible.
  3. Appropriate measures shall be taken to generate public opimon towards the eradication of prejudice against women.
  4. That all appropriate measures be taken to ensure to women on equal terms with men and without any discrimination the right to vote in all elections and be eligible for election to all publicly elected bodies and the right to hold public office and to exercise all public functions.
  5. That woman shall have the same rights as men to acquire, change or retain their nationality and that marriage to an alien shall not automatically affect the nationality of the wife.
  6. That all appropriate measures, p'articularly legislative measures, shall be taken to ensure to women, married or unmarried, equal rights with men in the field of civil law, e.g. property, marriage, children, etc. 
  7. That all provisions In Penal Code which constitute discrimination against women shall be repealed.
  8. That all appropriate measures shall be taken to ensure to girls and women, married or unmarried, equal rights to seek education at all levels.
  9. That all appropriate measures shall be taken to ensure to women equal rights with men in the field of economic and social life.
  10. That all appropriate measures shall be taken to combat all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.
  11. That child marriage and the brothel of young girls before puberty should be prohibited.
  12. That equal protection in employment and professional advancement shall be ensured.

9. Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979

General Assembly adopted this Convention (CEDAW) on December 18, 1979. The State parties to this Convention determined to implement the principles set forth in the preceding declaration and for that purpose, to adopt the measures required for the elimination of such discrimination in all its forms and manifestations. The term "discrimination against women" means any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect of impairing enjoyment bv women irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights in the political, social, cultural, civil or any other field.

The specialized agencies have to be established in order to achieve the fundamental objectives of the conventions and the efforts should be made to root out all the forms of discrimination between men and women, as discrimination of any kind is a sure obstacle to the participation of women with men.

The State parties to the Convention were fully convinced that discrimination is an important factor causing obstruction in the development and advancement of women with men at national and international levels. It was realized that to achieve equality of women with men it is indispensable to bring awareness in the society across the world because it is needed most in the present scenario.

10. Declaration on Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993

This declaration is the first of its kind which exclusively dealt with the elimination of violence against women and intends to protect the fundamental right of freedom of women.

Art. 1 of the said Declaration provides as under: Any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life should be eliminated. Violence is not only physical or sexual harm to women, but also psychological harm caused to women.

Following are the World Conferences on Human Rights which are worth noting. particularly the Vienna Conference.
  1. First Conference held at Mexico City (1975): Focused on equality, development and peace at the international level. 
  2. Second world conference (1980) was held in Copenhagen: Focused on education, employment and health for all.
  3. Third World Conference at Nairobi (1985): Reviewed and assessed the achievements during the period commencing from the year 1976 to 1985,
  4. Fourth at Vienna, 1993: Took up 23 varieties of points covering aspects such as AIDS, aging, refugee and displaced women, poverty and apartheid. Pledged unanimously on the Elimination of Violence against Women and also realized that it is a major hurdle to the achievement of equality, development and peace. It was for the first time that the subject of physical, sexual and psychological violence against women was addressed vehemently.

11. Beijing Declaration, 1995

In September, 1995 the Forth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing, China. The outcome of this Conference was a 'Platform for Action' that emphasized the human rights of women and the need to mainstream a gender perspective in all sections and at all levels of policy-making and planning to achieve gender equality, The Platform for Action recommended action in twelve areas of concern as these areas were considered then hurdle in the women's advancement. These areas of concern are: poverty, education, health, violence, armed and other conflicts, economic participation, power, sharing and decision- making, national and international machineries, human rights, mass media, environment and development of the girl child.

12. United Nations Development Fund for Women, 1976

United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programmes and strategies that foster women's empowerment. It is the women's fund at the United Nations dedicated to advancing women's rights and achieving gender equality. UNIFEM works on the premise that it is the fundamental right of every woman to live a life free from discrimination and violence, and that gender equality is essential to achieving development and to building just societies.

13. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, 1999

By means of this protocol it was realized by the State parties to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979 that there is an urgent need to gear up by all adequate means to ensure full and equal enjoyment of freedom by women of all human rights. In this context, India, which is one of the signatories to the Protocol, has shown the Parliamentary Endeavour in the relevant field. As a result, in the year 2005, the Parliament has passed the enactment called the Protection of Women from the Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Women's Rights and Their Protection in India

Prior to focusing on various legislations relating to women in India, we need to understand the status of women vis-a-vis the international conventions, etc.,

discussed above Status of India vis-a-vis International Conventions: India is a signatory to most of the aforesaid international Instruments. The Indian Constitution, which came into force from 26th January, 1950, has also adopted the various rights that have been mentioned under the international Conventions, and given them the status of fundamental rights in part Ill. The various rights that have been included are: the right to equality (Art. 14), freedom of speech and expression in various forms (Art. 19), Right to life and personal liberty (Art. 21 ), right to practice one's own religion (Art. 25), etc. Further, though any of the aforesaid conventions do not have any binding value, the courts have time and again relied on such conventions and have used them while delivering judgments in cases such as Keshavananand Bharti v State of Kerala (1973, p. 1461). In this case, the Supreme Court observed that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 may not be a legally binding instrument but it shows how india understood the nature of human rights at the time Constitution was adopted. Thereafter, on several occasions the Supreme Court clarified that a number of Indian Constitutional provisions are similar to the provisions contained in the Declaration and the provisions of the Declaration can be referred while constructing judicial pronouncements and interpreting the Indian Constitutional provisions.

Rights of women as provided for in the Constitution of India are given in brief below.

1. Rights Guaranteed to Women under the Constitution

Our Constitution, the fountain head of all laws and the organic law of the land, recognizes equality of the sexes and prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. There are many other constitutional privileges that are available to women. All provisions of the constitution are applicable in equal measure to men and women and can, therefore, be invoked by the women for assertion of their rights. It also provides legislation to be made to confer more rights on women by making special provisions. Further, there are many constitutional privileges that are available to women.

Part Ill of the Constitutions, consisting of Article 12 to 35, relating to Fundamental Rights, is considered the 'heart' of the constitution. The fundamental rights are regarded as fundamental because they are most essential for the attainment by the individual of his full intellectual, moral and spiritual status. Part Ill and Part IV provide the backbone of legislature for socio-economic emancipation of women. These are the foundations on which protective legislations for women have been designed.

The essence of these constitutional provisions along with relevant and important cases is presented below so as to highlight their significance in protection and promotion of women's rights and privileges.

Art. 14: Right to Equality: It enunciates the general principle of right to equality and prohibits the State from denying to any person "equality before the law or the equal protection of laws." Thus, it provides equality before law for women. The underlying principle of Art. 14 of the Constitution of India is reflected in the statement, "like should be treated alike and not that unlike should be treated alike." Therefore, amongst equals, law should be equal and should be equally administered. It recognizes "women" as a class and declares this "class" to be different from men as a class. In the case of Chitraghosh v Union of India (1970, p.35), the Court permits reasonable classification, yet classification based on sex is not permissible. Other relevant and important cases are: i) Uttarkhand Mahila Kalyan Parishad v State of UP (1992, p. 1695) — on differential treatment between man and woman in educational department; ii) Air India International v Nargesh Meerza (1981, p. 1829) — on discriminatory service conditions.

Article 15: It prohibits discrimination on ground of religion, race, caste, sex or place of births; Article 15(3) empowers the State to take affirmative measures for women, based on protective discrimination principle. It permits making special provision for women and children by the State and the Courts have upheld the validity of special measures in legislation or executive orders favoring woman. In particular, provisions in the criminal law, in favor of woman or in the procedural law discriminatory in favor of woman, have been upheld. Important cases are: i) Smt. Savitri v Bose (1972, p.305) — granting license for opening liquor shop, Art. 15 (3) advantage; ii) Dattatraya v State of Bombay (1952, p. 181) — Institution can be establish exclusively for woman,

Article 16: Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment: It ensures equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State. It is an extension of the goal of "equality of status and opportunity". Important and relevant cases are: i) Randhir Singh v Union Of India (1982, p.879) — upheld the principle of equal pay for equal work; ii) Uttarkhand Mahila Kalyan Parishad v State of U. P. (1992, p. 1695) — difference in pay scales of male and female employees.

Article 19: Right to Freedom: 19 (l)(g) gives protection to certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc., to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. Important and relevant cases are: i) Vishaka v State of Rajasthan (1997, p,3011) — The Supreme Court laid down exhaustive guidelines to prevent sexual harassment of working women at their working place; ii) Delhi Domestic working Woman 's Forum v Union of India ( 1995, p. 14) — The Supreme Court called for protection to the victims relating to rape and violence against working woman.

Article 21: Protection of life and personal liberty: No person shall be deprived of his/her life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by Law, Important and relevant cases are: i) State of Maharashta v Madhukar Narain (1991, p.207) — the Court held that woman of easy virtue is entitled to privacy; ii) State of Punjab v Gurmit Singh (1996, p.998) — rape trial must be held in-camera; iii) Bodhi Satwa Gautam v Subra Chakraborty (1996, p,490) — The right to life also includes the right to live with human dignity and rape violates this right of woman.

Article 23: Right Against Exploitation: It prohibits traffic in human beings and forced labour. Traffic in human beings means selling and buying human beings as slaves and also includes immoral traffic in woman and children for other purpose.

To curb the deep rooted social evil of prostitution and to give effect to this Article the Parliament has passed the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956. Important and relevant cases are: i) Vishal Jeet v Union of India (1990, p. 1412 ) — prohibited prostitution; ii) Gaurav Jain v Union of India (1997, p.3021) — the Supreme Court has placed emphasis on the need to provide to prostitute opportunities for education and training so as to facilitate their rehabilitation; iii) Sanjit Ray v State of Rajasthan (1983, p.328) — held that the payment of wage less than the prescribed under the minimum wages Act amounts to forced labor or beggary; iv) Neeraj Choudhary v State of M.P. ( 1984, p.328) — compelling to work in unhygienic conditions amounted to violation of Art. 21 and Art. 23; v) Laxrni Kant v Union of India (1984, p.469) — selling the female infants and girls to foreigners under the guise of inter-country adoption and marriage violates Art.23. Guidelines laid down for foreign adoption.

Article 39 enjoins the State to provide an:
  1. adequate means of livelihood to men and women,
  2. equal pay for equal work, and
  3. men and women not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations. 
To give effect to this Article, the parliament has enacted the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 which provides for payment of equal remunerations to men and woman workers. Important and relevant cases are: i) Randhir Singh v Union of India (1982, p.879; ii) Mackinnon Mackenzie and Co. Ltd. v Andrey D' Kosta (1987, p. 1281) — upheld equal pay for equal work (Stenographers).

Article 42: State to ensure the provision for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief: The State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief. Legislations which promoted the objectives of this Article are:
  1. Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923.
  2. The Employees State Insurance Act, 1948.
  3. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948
  4. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.
  5. The payment of Bonus Act, 1965.
Important and relevant cases are: Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. Female workers (Muster Roll) (2000, p. 1274) — held that the maternity benefit extends even to daily wage employees.

Article 44: Uniform Civil Code: The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India. Important and relevant cases are: i) Mohd. Ahmed Khan v Shah Bano Begum (1985. p.945) — Sec 125 of Cr.P.C. Act. After this case, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 was enacted.

Article 46: The State to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.

Article 51-A(e): Fundamental duties — It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of woman. This provision found its manifestation through the enactment of The Indecent Representation of Woman Prohibition Act, 1986.

Article 243D and Article 243T have been added to the Constitution by the 73rd and 74th Amendments. 81st Amendment Bill reserves 1/3 of seats for woman in the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies.
  1. Article 243D: Reservations of seats for women belonging to SC & ST in every panchayat — not less than 1/3 of the total number of seats. Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Panchayat (Article 243D(3)). Not less than one-third of the total number of offices of Chairpersons in the Panchayats at each level to be reserved for women (Article 243D(4)).
  2. Article 243T: Reservations of seats for women belongs to SC and ST in every municipality, not less than 1/3 of the total number of seats. Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality (Article 243T(3)). Reservation of offices of Chairpersons in Municipalities for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and women in such manner as the legislature of a State may by law provide (Article 243T (4)).
Further, the Constitution of India has provided in Part IV the Directive Principles of State Policy. These directives impose certain obligations on the State to take positive action in some circumstances that can promote the welfare of the people. Nevertheless, it can be concluded that despite the Constitutional safeguards and the active judicial support towards the women, the status of women is not yet equal to men. Laws written in black and white are not enough to combat the evils. It is expected that the courts should deal with cases relating to women in a more realistic manner. A socially sensitive judge should handle the cases of crimes against woman. Awakening of the collective consciousness is the need of the day to rise the status of women.

2. Specific Legislations and Policies Related to Women: An Overview

The State (India) has enacted various legislative measures intended to ensure equal rights to women, to counter social discrimination and various forms of violence and atrocities against them and to provide support services, especially to working women, to uphold the constitutional mandate. Although all laws are not gender specific, the provisions of law significantly affecting women have been reviewed periodically and amendments have been carried out to keep pace with the emerging requirements. Some Acts which have special provisions to safeguard women and their interests are:
  1. The Employees State Insurance Act, 1948 
  2. The Plantation Labour Act, 1951 
  3. The Special Marriage Act, 1954 
  4. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 
  5. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 
  6. Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 
  7. The Maternity Benefit Acts 1961 
  8. Dowry Prohibition Act; 1961 
  9. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 
  10. The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1976 
  11. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
  12. The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act, 1979
  13.  The Crirmnal Law (Aluendment) Act, 1983 
  14. The Family Courts Act, 1984 
  15. The Factories (Amendinent) Act, 1986 
  16. Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 
  17. Commission Of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 
  18. Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 
  19. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 
  20. Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
Thus, the State took measures to enact, amend or abolish specific legislations and policies affecting or discriminating against women and to facilitate effective participation of women. These, in nutshell, include the following.

A) Labour Laws relating to Women

  1. The Factories Act, 1948: Section 34 provides that the State government can lay down rules prescribing weights that may be carried by men and women.
  2. The Contract Labour (Abolition and Regulation) Act and Rules: Prescribed separate provision of utilities for women and fixed working hours (These laws have proper implementation mechanisms; however, there is no provision for monitoring the effect of these laws on women. Further, allowance for special provisions for women has often proven to be detrimental to their employment opportunities).
  3. Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 : It provides measures and benefits to women in service during pregnancy.
  4. Equal Remuneration Act, 1976: It mandates equal pay for equal hours of work for men and women.

B) Trafficking

  1. Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956.

C) Domestic Violence

  1. Criminal law: Section 498A.
  2. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 & Rules: It is a civil law on domestic violence. It gives protection to women by providing shelter, custody, medical facilities, compensation, etc. The cases under it are disposed in 60 days. Protection officers and service providers are appointed under this Act to help the women victims.

D) Dowry

Despite specific provisions under PWDVA, Protection Officers have yet not been appointed in all states. States that have identified Protection Officers have "deputed" officials as opposed to the required "full-time" appointments. Despite legislations mandating provisions of legal aid, women are often unable to avail of the services. Services are also often inadequate and not of quality. High cost of litigation deters court action by women. Lack of awareness of rights amongst community prevents women from taking or sustaining action. Inadequate responses and lack of co-ordination by multiple agencies in combating violence and discrimination are other problems.
  1. Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961: Prohibits giving and taking of gifts or money at the time of marriage.

E) Sex Determination and Abortions

  1. Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994: It requires the following bodies to undertake publicity efforts and allows for the filing of compliance reports on a regular basis: 
    1.  Policy-making Bodies at the Centre and State.
    2. Implementing Authorities at State, District and Sub-district levels. 
    3.  Advisory Bodies at State, District and sub-district levels.
  2. Medical Termination of Pregnancies Act 1971: Prescribes guidelines and procedures to the medical fraternity with regard to abortion. 
    1.  Despite legislations on sex selective practices, use of technology in conducting pre-natal sex selection continue to support female feticide. Lack of enforcement of the legislations coupled with inadequate recognition of equal rights of women serve in continuance of such sex discriminatory practices.

F) Sexual Harassment

  1. Indian Penal Code: Section 354 - Outraging the modesty of a woman: Criminalizes all non-penetrative sexual offences against women and is often used in cases of sexual harassment.
  2. Supreme Court Guidelines on the prevention of sexual harassment at workplace (Visakha v State of Rajasthan): Prescribes preventive steps and provides for a complaints mechanism through setting up of complaint committees and disciplinary action.
  3. Proposed Bill on Sexual Harassment at workplace: This bill provides for prevention and redressal mechanisms in cases of sexual harassment at work places.
  4. Personal Laws: Personal laws are based on religious practices. It deals with marriage, property rights, guardianship, custody rights and maintenance. Some of the personal laws are codified, and some are uncodified. Customary practices of communities are recognized under Law.
    • Madhu Kishwar v State of Bihar (1996, p. 125): Challenged a tribal law dis-entitling tribal women from inheriting land as being discriminatory. The court struck down the discriminatory provisions and ruled that women could assert a right of occupation against male inheritors but not alienate it.
    • Daniel Latifi Case (2001, p. 740): Challenged discriminatory provisions on maintenance for Muslim women. Although the court did not strike down the law, it held that unless Muslim women are paid not just a provision for the iddat period (three months) but a reasonable and fair provision for life, the provision would be liable to be struck down. The advantage of the challenge was to gam substantial rights to maintenance for Muslim women.
Obstacles to implementation: Personal laws relating to marriage, divorce and inheritance governed by laws of the specific community overshadow constitutional guarantees of equality. Discriminatory provisions under personal laws deny women equal protection or equality before the law. Some of the discriminatory practices are: triple talaq practice giving unilateral power of divorce to men; Hindu women have the right to guardianship only in the absence of the male guardian, discriminatory property rights under Hindu laws persist even after amendments. However, fact is that, none of the disc minatory personal laws have been struck down in entirety on the basis of violating fundamental rights of women.

G) Political Participation

  1. 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution had given reservations for women in Panchayats and Municipal Bodies (local governments). Panchayati Raj Acts have been passed by several State governments giving effect to the Constitutional provisions.

3. Protection of Women under Criminal Laws

Women have a right to protect their person or body from being violated by men. Women belong to weaker section of the community, and in most circumstances unable to secure their person and honours and need keen and immediate relief from the courts in such matters.

Under the Indian Penal Code, there are certain offences against women which are punishable with imprisonments of description for different terms or with fine or with both. These offences are covered under relevant sections of IPC mentioned, in brief, below.
  1. Section 312 — Causing miscarriage: Whosoever voluntarily causes a women with child to miscarry, shall, if such miscarriage be not caused in good faith for the purpose of saving the life of the woman, be punished. A woman who causes herself to miscarry also falls within the meaning of this section.  
  2. Section 313 — Causing miscarriage, defined in the preceding section, without women 's consent.
  3. Section 314 — Death caused by act done with intent to cause miscarriage. 
  4. Section 315 — Act done with intent to prevent child being born alive or to cause it to die after birth.
  5. Section 316 — Causing death of quick unborn child by act amounting to culpable homicide.
  6. Section 354 — Outraging the modesty of women: The test of the outrage of modesty must be whether a reasonable man will think that the act of the offender was intended to or was known to be likely to outrage the modesty of a woman.
  7. Section 375 — Rape: A man is said to commit 'rape' if he has sexual intercourse with a women under circumstances falling under any of the six following descriptions:
    1. Against her will;
    2. Without her consent;
    3. With her consent (fear of death or hurt);
    4. With her consent not his wife (lawfully married).
    5. With her consent (unsoundness of mind and intoxication).
    6. With or without her consent, when she is under 16 years of age. Explanation: Penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse includes that by a man with his own wife if his wife is within fifteen years of age.
  8. Section 376(2)(g) — Gang Rape: Where a women is raped by one or more in a group of persons acting in furtherance of their common intention, each of the persons shall be deemed to have committed gang rape within the meaning of this sub-section.
  9. Section 376-A: Intercourse by a man with his wife without consent during separation.
  10. Section 376-B: Intercourse by public servant with woman in his custody.
  11. Section 376-C: Intercourse by superintendent of jail, remand home, etc.
  12. Section 376-D: Intercourse by any member of the management or staff of a hospital with any woman in that hospital (advantage of his official position ). Section 493: Cohabitation caused by a man deceitfully inducing a belief of lawful marriage.
  13. Section 494: Marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife: This section does not extend to any person whose marriage with such husband or wife has been declared void by a court of competent jurisdiction, nor to any person who contracts a marriage during the life of a former husband or wife if such husband or wife at the time of the subsequent marriage shall have been continually absent from such person for the space of seven years, and shall not have been heard of by such person as being alive within that time provided the person contracting such subsequent marriage, shall before such marriage takes place informs the person with whom such marriage is contracted of the real state of facts so far as the same are within his or her knowledge. 
  14. Section 495: Offence under Section 494 committed with concealment of former marriage from person with whom subsequent marriage is contracted. 
  15. Section 496: Marriage ceremony fraudulently gone through, without lawful marriage.
  16. Section 497: Adultery: Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man without the consent or connivance of that man such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape is guilty of the offence of adultery. Section 498: Enticing or taking away or detaining with criminal intent a married woman.
  17. Section 498-A: A husband br relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.
For the purpose of this section cruelty means:
  1. Any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger of life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the women; or 
  2. Harassment of the women where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.
In addition to the above, Section 113-A of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 provides that when a married woman commits suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage, the court may presume that such suicide is abetted by the husband or his relations and the burden of proving that it was not dowry- death is on the husband and his relatives as the case may be.

4. Maternity Protection under Maternity Benefit Act, 1961

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 is an employer's liability scheme. 'Employer's liability' here implies that the employer solely bears the full amount of liability for providing maternity protection to pregnant employees and the employees are not required to make any contribution for availing of the maternity benefits. This is a Central Act and covers the whole of India. It aims to impart social justice to women employees. It protects the dignity of motherhood by providing for full and healthy maintenance of the woman employee and her child during the period of her confinement.

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 also aims at regulation of employment of women in certain establishments for certain periods before and after birth of the child and to provide maternity benefit and certain other benefits and facilities to the women employees such as paid-maternity leave, cash benefits, exemption from arduous work, protection from dismissal, and nursing breaks to the pregnant women employees in a dignified manner so that they may overcome the state of motherhood honorably, peaceably and undeterred by the fear of being victimized for forced absence during the pre- or post-natal period. Indeed, this is a major legislative enactment providing for maternity benefits in the formal sector.

In the case of B. Shah v Labour Court, Coimbatore (1978, p. 12), the Supreme Court, while interpreting the provisions of maternity benefit legislation, stated: "the beneficent rule of construction which would enable the woman worker is not only to subsist but also to make-up her dissipated energy, nurse her child, preserve her efficiency as a worker and maintain the level of her previous efficiency and output".

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 applies to every establishment, being a factory, mine, or plantation including any such establishment wherein persons are employed for the exhibition of aerobatics, equestrian, and other performances. It was amended in the year 1988 to extend its application to the shops and establishments employing ten or more. This Act also covers those establishments, which are covered under the enabling provisions of the Act in different states.

Significantly, there is no wage limit for coverage under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, which covers all women in the applicable establishments. It is not applicable to the employees working in fact ones and other establishments, which are covered by the Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948.

Quite noteworthy feature is that the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 does not mandate that a woman employee be married to avail of these benefits. The act prohibits any woman from working in an establishment during the six weeks after her delivery or miscarriage. Also, the employers are forbidden to knowingly employ women during this period and employed women are required to take a paid leave of six weeks.

This Act enshrines that a woman shall be entitled to the maternity benefit for a maximum period of 12 weeks of which not more than six weeks shall precede the date of her expected delivery. If a woman employee could not avail of six weeks' leave preceding the date of her delivery, she was entitled to only six weeks' leave following the day of her delivery. However, by virtue of an Amendment in 1989, the position has changed. Now, in case a woman employee does not avail six weeks' leave preceding the date of her delivery, she can avail of that leave following her delivery, provided the total leave period, that is, preceding and following the day of delivery of her delivery does not exceed 12 weeks. The possibility for women to choose how they wish to divide up their maternity leave on a pre-natal and post-natal basis appears to be in the interests of a better harmonization of work and family responsibilities.

In this context, it is worth mentioning that the ILO Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183) stipulates a period of maternity leave of not less than 14 weeks while the ILO Maternity Protection Recommendation, 2000 states that the members should endeavor to extend the period of maternity leave to at least 18 weeks. Interestingly, the pregnant women employees working in the Central Government are entitled to maternity leave of 135 days whereas the pregnant women under the Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948 the Maternity leave is up to a maximum of 12 weeks only.

Apart from this, women who suffer from illness arising out of pregnancy, delivery, premature birth, or miscarriage have the right to take an extra month's paid leave. In case of miscarriage, a woman shall, on production of such proof as may be prescribed, be entitled to leave with wages at the rate of maternity benefit for a period of six weeks immediately following the day of her miscarriage. Whereas a woman employed in the Central Government, in case of miscarriage/abortion (induced or otherwise), is entitled to a total leave of 45 days in the entire service period (excluding such leave taken prior to 16 June, 1994).

Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 is also applicable to casual workers and daily wage workers. In Municipal Corporation of Delhi v Female Workers (2000, p. 1274), the Supreme Court declared that there is nothing in the Maternity Benefit Act which entitles only regular women employees to the benefit of maternity leave and not those who are engaged on casual basis or on muster roll on daily-wage basis. Also, in a very recent case, Anima Goel v Haryana State Agricultural Marketing Board (2007, p.479), the Punjab and Haryana High Court held that even when a female employee is engaged on contractual basis, she would be entitled to maternity benefit under Section 5 of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.

The Act lays down that every woman shall be entitled to the maternity benefit and her employer shall be liable for payment to the woman worker at the rate of average daily wages for the period of her actual absence immediately preceding and including the day of her delivery and for six weeks immediately following that day. In this regard, it is noteworthy that without making any contributions whatsoever the pregnant woman is entitled to derive maternity benefits provided she has worked for not less than 80 days in the establishment during the 12 months preceding the day of her expected delivery whereas under the Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948 a woman employee, to be eligible for the maternity benefits, must have paid weekly contributions for not less than 13 weeks in the contribution period. In addition, every woman entitled to maternity benefit shall also be allowed a medical bonus of Rs. 1,000, if there was no pre-natal confinement and post-natal care is provided by the employer free of cost. The Central Government may, before every three years, by notification in the official Gazette, increase the amount of medical bonus of Rs.20,000. If any woman who has been allowed to go on maternity leave, works in any other establishment for any period during the authorized leave, then her claim to the maternity benefit for such period worked shall be forfeited. In case a woman employee dies during the period when the maternity benefit is due to her, she is entitled to benefits up to including the day of her death. However, if she bears a child that survives her, the employer is obliged to pay benefits up to six weeks after delivery or as long as the child survives whichever is less. In such eventuality, the payment is to be made to the person she has nominated or if no one is nominated, to the legal representative.

However, no woman employee under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 shall be entitled to the maternity benefit unless she has actually worked in an establishment of the employer from whom she claims maternity benefit for a period of not less than 80 days in the twelve months immediately preceding the date of expected delivery. In Bharati Gupta (Mrs) v Rail India Technical and Economical Services Ltd. (2005, pal 108), the court held that the female employee on contractual appointment, having worked for 80 days will be entitled to maternity benefits. For calculating the number of days on which a woman has actually worked during the preceding twelve months, the days on which she has been laid off or was on holidays with wages shall also be counted.

During pregnancy, exposure to certain hazardous and arduous job or unsafe working environment may have adverse effects on the health of a woman employee and her unborn child. In line with the requirements of the ILO Maternity Protection Recommendation, 1952 (No.95), our legislation — Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 — provides for measures to protect the health of pregnant women and their children, seeking to minimize fatigue by the reorganization of working time or to protect women against dangerous or unhealthy work. Accordingly, the pregnant woman employee can opt not to perform work which entails long hours of standing and is likely to cause a miscarriage or otherwise to adversely affect her health. This act prohibits the employer from making deductions from her wages because of the nature of work that may be reassigned to her.

When a woman employee returns to work after delivery of a child, she has the right to two breaks per day for nursing until the child attains the age of fifteen months. In this regard, the ILO Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183) provides that a woman shall be provided with the right to one or more daily breaks or a daily reduction of hours of work to breastfeed her child. Further, it outlines that, where practicable, provision should be made for the establishment of facilities for nursing under adequate hygienic conditions at or near the workplace. Indubitably, it is a step for the care and improvement of a newly born child's health. This measure is in addition to her normal interval for rest. It is to be noted that the employers are prohibited from decreasing woman's wages on account of the nursing breaks.

When a woman employee absents herself from work in accordance with the provisions of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, it shall be unlawful for her employer to discharge e: dismiss her during or on account of such absence, or to give notice of discharge or dismissal on such a day that the notice will expire during such absence, or to vary to her disadvantage any of the conditions of her service. It guarantees that a working woman who is discharged at any time during her pregnancy but who would otherwise have been eligible for benefits will still have a right to maternity benefits and medical bonus. In this respect, the ILO Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183), also provides that it shall be unlawful for an employer to terminate the employment of a woman during her pregnancy, or absence on account of maternity leave, or during a period following her return to work to be prescribed by national laws or regulations, except on grounds related to the pregnancy or birth of the child and its consequences or nursing. The burden of proving that the reasons for dismissal are unrelated to pregnancy Or childbirth and its consequences or nursing shall rest with the employer. By virtue of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, a woman is guaranteed the right to return to the same position or an equivalent position paid at the same rate at the end of her maternity leave.

It may, however, be mentioned that the protection against dismissal is not available to the pregnant woman employee if she is charged for gross misconduct, for example, willful destruction of employer's goods or property; assaulting any superior or co-employee at the place of work; criminal offence involving moral turpitude leslilting in conviction in the court of law; theft, fraud, or dishonesty in connection with the employer's business or property. In such eventuality, the employer must notify her in writing that her benefits and bonus will be denied. Further, the pregnant woman employee, who is not eligible for benefits because she has wolked less than the required period of time, is also not protected against dismissal.

As regards the term 'week e, it is significant to note that neither the Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948 nor the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 defines it. Thus, a question arises as to whether for the computation of maternity benefit for the six weeks preceding the date of delivery (including the period of 12 weeks day of delivery) and six weeks (following that date), cover wages for non-working days such as Sundays falling during the period of absence. On this, the Supreme Court, in the case of B. Shah v Labour Court, Coimbatore (1978, p. 12), opined that in the context of sub-sections (1) and (3) of Section 5 of the Act, the term 'week' has to be taken to signify a cycle of seven days including Sundays. The language in which the aforesaid sub-sections are couched also shows that the legislature intended that computation of maternity benefit is to be made for the entire period of the women employees actual absence, that is, for all the days including Sundays which may be wage-less holidays, falling within that period and not only for intermittent periods of six days thereby excluding Sundays falling within that period.

If any woman employee's claim for the maternity benefit to which she is entitled under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 has been improperly withheld or her employer has discharged or dismissed her during or on account of her absence from work, may make a complaint to the Inspector. Upon receipt of such a complaint from the woman employee, the inspector has the power to order for an enquiry and pass such orders as are just and proper according to the circumstances of the case. In furtherance, the Inspector can enter, at all reasonable time, any premises or place where women are employed or work is given to them in an establishment for the purposes of examining any registers, records, and notices required to be kept or exhibited under this act and require their production for inspection.

The Inspector can also ask the employer to give information regarding the names and addresses of women employed, payments made to them, and application or notes received from them under this act; and to take copies of any registers and records or notices or any portions thereof.

For failure to pay maternity benefit as provided under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 the employer is punishable with imprisonment from three months to one year and a fine from Rs.2,000 to Rs.5,000. If the court finds the employer guilty of failure to produce any register or document before the Inspector or obstructing the Inspector, or contravenes any other provision of the act or the rules, it can impose a punishment of imprisonment up to one year or a fine up to Rs.5,000 or both.

Shortcomings of Maternity Benefit Act, 1961: These include the following.
  1. All pregnant women employees are not covered for maternity benefits. 
  2. The Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948 and the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 providing maternity protection for women employees are, more or less, restricted to the formal sector, which represents a small proportion of economic activity. These acts do not apply to women in unregistered economic activities in the informal sector who, in reality, represent the majority of women employees, engaged in agriculture, dairying, small animal husbandry, fisheries, home-based industries, ready-made garments, zari and embroidery work, basket-making, cottage and handicraft industries, handloom and power loom, and khadi industries. The condition of women employees in the unorganized sector is such that there is a very strong need to compensate them for their loss of earnings during maternity. 
  3. Protection from dismissal of service only during maternity leave: The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 protects pregnant women from discharge/ dismissal of their service by the employer during the period of maternity leave. In this connection, it may be mentioned that if a woman is dismissed during pregnancy it only safeguards her right to claim maternity benefits; it does not protect her service by forbidding discharge or. Dismissal of a pregnant woman.
  4. Maternity leave of twelve weeks not enough: The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 as well as Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948 prescribe a maternity leave of 12 weeks. In this context, it is of interest to note that the pregnant women employees in the Central Government are entitled to 135 days maternity leave. Keeping this in view, women who are covered under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 and under the Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948 should get at least a total of 14 weeks, if not equal to 135 days. Also, the ILO Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 stipulates 14 weeks maternity leave. Further, it is important to note that ILO Maternity Protection Recommendation, 2000 recommends 18 weeks maternity leave.

5. The National Commission for Women Act, 1990

The main objective of the National Commission for Women Act, 1990 is to constitute a National Commission for Women and to provide for all matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The special features, functions, weaknesses and suggestions for improvement of the Commission are presented below.

1. Salient Features of the Commission

The National Commission for Women is constituted under Section 3 of the Act. The Commission shall consist of:
  1. A Chairperson committed to the cause of women, to be nominated by the Central Government;
  2. Five Members to be nominated by the Central Government found amongst persons of ability, integrity and standing who have had experience in law or legislation, trade unionism, management of an industry or organization committed to increasing the employment potential of women, women's voluntary organizations (including women activists), administration, economic development, health, education or social welfare. Provided that at least one member each shall be from amongst persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Schedule Tribes respectively;
  3. A Member-Secretary to be nominated by the Central Government, who shall be: i) An expert in the field of management, organization structure of sociological movement, or ii) An officer who is a member of civil service of the Union or of an all-India service who holds a civil post under the Union with appropriate experience.
They will hold office as fixed by law, and other officers and employees shall be appointed to assist the Commission. The Commission may appoint such committees as may be necessary for dealing with such special issues as may be taken by the Commission frolic time to time. The Commission or a committee thereof shall meet as and when necessary and shall meet at such time and place as the Chairperson may think fit. The Commission shall regulate its own procedure and the procedure of the Committees thereof. All orders and decisions of the Commission shall be authenticated by the Member-Secretary or any other officer of the Commission duly authorized by the Member-Secretary in this behalf.

2. Functions of the Commission

The functions of the Commission are specified under Section 10 of the Act.

(i) The Commission shall perform all or any of the following functions, namely:
  1. Investigate and examine all matters relating to the safeguards provided for women under the Constitution and other laws;
  2. Present to the Central Government, annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards;
  3. Make in such reports the recommendations for the effective implementation of those safeguards for improving the conditions of women by the Union or any State Review, from time to time, the existing provisions of the Constitution and other laws affecting women and recommend amendments thereto so as to suggest remedial legislative measures to meet any lacunae, inadequacies or shortcomings in such legislation; 
  4. Take up the cases of violation of the provisions or the Constitution and of other laws relating to women with the appropriate authorities;
  5. Look into complaints and also take suo motu notice of matters relating to:
    1. Non-implementation of laws enacted to provide protection to women and also to achieve the objective of equality and development;
    2. Non-compliance of policy decisions, guidelines or instructions aimed at mitigating hardships and ensuring welfare of women; and 
    3.  Providing relief to women and take up the issues arising out of such matters with appropriate authorities.
  6. Call for special studies or investigations into specific problems or situations arising out of discrimination and atrocities against women and identify the constraints so as to recommend strategies for their removal;
  7. Undertake promotional and educational research so as to suggest ways of ensuring due representation of women in all spheres and identify factors responsible for impeding their advancement such as, lack of access to housing and basic services, inadequate support services and technologies for reducing drudgery and occupational health hazards and for increasing their productivity;
  8. Participate and advise on the planning process of socio-economic development of women;
  9. Evaluate the progress of the development of women under the Union and any State;
  10. Inspect or cause to be inspected a jail, remand home, women 's institution -or other place of custody where women are kept as prisoners or otherwise, and take up with the concerned authorities for remedial action, if found necessary;
  11. Fund litigation involving issues afflicting a large body of women;
  12. Make periodical report to the Government on any matter pertaining to women and in particular various difficulties under which women toil; and 
  13.  Any other matter which may be referred to it by the Central Government. 
(ii) The Central Government shall cause all the reports referred to in clause (b) of sub-section ( I ) to be laid before each House of Parliament along with a memorandum explaining the action taken or proposed to be taken on the recommendations relating to the Union and the reasons for the non- acceptance, if any, of any of such recommendations.

(iii) Where any such report or any part thereof relates to any matter with which any State Government is concerned, the Commission shall forward a copy of such report or part of it to such State Government who shall cause it to be laid before the Legislature of the State along with a memorandum explaining the action taken or proposed to be taken on the recommendations relating to the State and the reasons for the non-acceptance, if any, of any of such recommendations,

(iv) The Commission shall, while investigating any matter referred to the matters in clause (a) or sub-clause (i) of clause (f) of sub-section (l), have all the powers of a civil court trying a suit and in particular, in respect of the following matters, namely:
  1. Summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person from any part of India and examining him on oath;
  2. Requiring the discovery and production of any document; 
  3. Receiving evidence on affidavits; Requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office; 
  4. Issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses and documents; and 
  5.  Any other matter which may be prescribed.
The Commission shall prepare, in such form and at such time, for each financial year, as may be prescribed, its annual report, giving a full account of its activities during the previous financial year and forward a copy thereof to the Central Government and the Central Government shall cause the annual report together with a memorandum of action taken on the recommendations contained therein, in so far as they relate to the Central Government, and the reasons for the non- acceptance, if any, of any of such recommendations and the audit report be laid as soon as may be after the reports are received, before each House of Parliament.

3. Specific Areas of Work Done by the Commission 

 Researches have been done and reports published by the Commission on the following matters:
  1. The conditions of women prisoners in Indian jails;
  2. Women and child prostitution;
  3. Codification of criminal laws pertaining to women;
  4. Family courts;
  5. Women in politics;
  6. Tribal women and employment;
  7. Amendments in the existing laws; and 
  8. Framing new bills for empowerment of women. 
Based on the researches, the NCW has done the following, among other things.
  1. The Commission had made more than 300 concrete recommendations to elevate the status of women in the country. It had also been instrumental in setting up enquiries, reviewing laws and suggesting amendments to 12 Acts, including the Commission for Sati Prevention Act, 1987 and Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
  2. It has framed a Code of Conduct at work place to prevent sexual harassment of women. The Code of Conduct as framed in accordance with the Supreme Court judgment in Vishaka v State of Rajasthan (1997, p.384) has been sent to all government offices, ministries and industries with the hope that employers would become more sensitive towards women. 
  3. NC W has recently taken up several cases of killing and torture of women. 
Weaknesses of the Commission: Following are the main weaknesses of the Commission.
  1. The National Commission for Women (NCW) does not have enforcing power but enjoys only a recommendatory role, which makes it a toothless body. 
  2. The working of the Commission is hampered by lack autonomy and a clear status. The government is the controlling authority and, therefore, susceptible to bureaucratic and political interference and influence.
  3. The NCW has not been granted an audience in Parliament or with the Cabinet. Reports and recommendations of NCW are tabled in Parliament by the Women and Child Development Wing of the HRD ministry.
  4. The Commission cannot appoint its own staff. The appointment and removal of staff belonging to the lower cadre belongs to the Ministry. The usual red tapism has hampered the working of the Commission.
  5. A major constraint of the Commission is that it has no investigating agency of its own as in the case of National Human Rights Commission.
  6. The Government is often keen to appoint only those persons who are seen to be close to its own ideology. The present method of nominating the Commission's Chairperson and members leaves it wide open to political manipulation. Yet, the activist's role played by the NCW in the past has not been appreciated by the government.
  7. The commission is not financially independent. Without sufficient fund and staff the Commission has been reduced to a highly decimated body. 8) Persons who come to the Commission with a great hope to find solutions to their problems often go disappointed, as the commission does not have sufficient right, powers and facilities to solve their problems.
  8. In some States, State-Commissions do not exist. So, poor and destitute women are left with no option but to approach the National Commission.
  9. Different State Commissions, where they exist, have varying frameworks of powers, responsibilities and work-atmosphere. In some States, matters do not move quickly because of bureaucratic and political involvement. 
In the light of the above weaknesses, the existing Act under which the NCW was constituted and its working must be critically reviewed and analyzed so that adequate amendments can be brought in to make it effective (Thomas B. Jeyaseelan, 2003).