Women Education And Media
As per Article 26, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to education’. ‘Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
In many respects the key to securing the universality of human rights lies in the right to education. Education should promote understanding, tolerance, peace and friendly relations between the nations and all racial or religious groups. The right to education straddles the division of human rights between civil and political rights and economic, social, and cultural rights, embodying elements of each. Satisfactory completion of a prescribed education programme of an essential prerequisite for many employment opportunities, education is viewed as a gateway to success. Strong parallels can be drawn between the right to education and the development of respect for human dignity.
The success of any right to education is dependent on the availability of that education and the conditions of access thereto. In accordance with general international human rights, there can be no discrimination in the provision of education; it s deemed as important for both girls as boys. There are many factors implicit in a discussion of the accessibility of education including geography, cost, language, and the availability of teaching and learning recourse. Moreover, education is not solely the prerogative of the young. International human rights law demands a basic level of education for all this could place States under an obligation to extend educational facilities to adults including females seeking to obtain basic literacy and numeracy skills.
In general, States are obliged to provide free education to women at least at the elementary/ fundamental stages. Conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26 not only requires free education, but also compulsory education. This is one of the few explicitly positive obligations the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states.
The 1960 Convention against Discrimination in Education is concerned with eradicating discrimination in education. Although prohibiting discrimination at any level of the education process, Article 2 of the UNESCO Convention allows the maintenance of single sex schools in certain circumstances and recognizes that different religious and linguistic groups within a State may be educated separately. It also permits the establishment and maintenance of private education institutions. In spite of this, States are obliged to ensure that standards of education are equivalent in all State institutions of the same level. This will ensure no discrimination results from any type of segregation or in respect of any given geographical area within a State. In terms of the Convention, equality of opportunity and treatment should be the object of national policy with particular encouragement for the education of those who have not received or completed primary education (Art. 4). The need for non-discrimination in the training of the teaching profession is also high lighted.
Concepts of academic freedom are often included in the right to education, although may aspects of academic freedom overlap with the freedom of thought and conscience, with the freedom of expression, or even with property rights, Academic freedom entails expression, opinion, dissemination of those opinions, and the publication of findings. There is a corresponding right to receive such opinions and information. Obviously the need to be educated is relevant to facilitate this. Parents and guardians, as well as the State, have duties in this respect.
The right to education of all should, as has been noted, include the fostering of mutual tolerance and understanding. It should promote the principle of non-discrimination. Public education programmes aimed as dissipating intolerance are called for in various international instruments including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 1996, Article 7, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women1979 demands that education is conducted in the spirit of understanding, tolerance, equality of the sexes, and the friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national, and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin. It also requires education on national history and values and those of the country of origin and other civilizations.
‘Gender’ and ‘sex’ are two different terms where ‘sex’ i.e. male or female is biological identification and cannot be changed, ‘gender’ prefers to socially constructed roles, which vary from one society to another, and which change significantly as societies develop and evolve over time. Gender roles are determined by several factors both prescribed and achieved status which includes level of women’s education, occupational roles, and social-status. Opportunity and need for talent in developed societies however, create confusion with traditional or prescriptive role concepts. Achieved statuses dominate over ascriptive role factors. ‘Gender Equality’ can be determined or realized only within the framework of equal rights and equal access. The legal and constitutional rights form an important component in any discussion on gender equality. Indicators used to measure gender equality as described in 1975 by the UN Assembly, were mainly life expectancy, education, means of livelihood or occupation and health etc. Indian women’s struggle for emancipation has indeed been very hard and arduous to arise from opposition of inferiority and submissiveness to equality with men, at least in theory.
Herein, in this paper an attempt has been made to answer one of the most serious questions on why is it that despite so much attention paid to women related issues, a vast majority of women in India remain disadvantaged. Secondly, despite westernization and globalization India continues to remain backward in terms of women education. What has been achieved so far as developmental process is concerned and what changes have come in the lives of women since independence and finally in the 21st century. Where have we failed, and what have we achieved? “Change” has come but at what cost? It’s true that gone are the days of sati, devadasi, child marriage, purdah and illiteracy but other atrocities as rape, dowry, sexual harassment, domestic violence are rampant. Politically, women have right to franchise, 33 percent reservation in the panchayats at the grass root level which is now also being realized at the district level but laws cannot be enforced if women’s representation in parliament remains so low i.e. less than 10 percent.
The Constitution of India came into force in 1950 and provided women equal status as men. Article 14 ensures equality before law and article 15 prohibits any discrimination on grounds of sex, caste or religion; Article 16 guarantees equal opportunity in matters of public employment or appointment to any office under state. Further, the Directive Principles provide franchise, equal pay for equal work, and maternity relief.
Article 38 of Directive Principles deal with securing of a just social, political and economic order for both men and women on the basis of equality. Mainly Article 39(a) provides right to an adequate means for men and women equally. Article 39(c) lay down that “the health and strength of workers, men and women and the tender age of children are not abused. Article 39(d) provides for equal work for both men and women. Article 39(e) provides for protection of health and strength for workers, men women and children from abuse and entry into vocations unsuited to their age and strength and Article 42 provides that “State shall make provisions for just and humane conditions of work and relief.” The Directive Principles also guarantees free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14.
It is essential to note here that not only the Constitution guaranteed various rights to women as citizens of India as to protect their interests but the judiciary has also interpreted the constitutional provisions so as to enable the implementation of the rights and also to facilitate the access to these rights in various ways that have come before it in the form of writ petitions filed by individuals or groups.
Education and Employment are interrelated. More educated a women better employment status. The female work participation in India increased from 19.7 percent in 1981 to 24.7 percent in 2001. As in education there are wider regional variations among major states, in employment as well. Despite increase in work participation rate there has not been much change in working conditions. Besides, majority of women in India are in informal sector, or low paid work or in part time work. Women’s earning’s along with household work which is still un-paid has both advantages and disadvantages. In case a woman has control over her earnings she is empowered but her response to household needs leads to more stress and continued exploitation.
Urban educated women in India comprise 7.1 percent of lawyers and 10.9 percent of the scientists, in spite of incredibly low literacy rates for the overall female population. This is to the credit of Indian women who participates in higher social arenas. Her political participation at the grass-root level has meant much to a foreigner or student of women studies.
Indian women whereas on the one hand is downtrodden, poverty-stricken and is exploited, on the other hand, has had the chance to occupy the highest chair on the political or socio-economic arena. Number of women vice Chancellors have increased, Indian women has held post of the Prime Minister, President, President of the leading political party which makes women of other countries envy her.
Despite atrocities on women it would however not be wrong to say that the Indian women’s journey from gender inferiority to gender equality has been achieved in terms of women’s education and employment to some extent. The changing attitudes of society towards women attributed to the factors such as rise in female literacy rate which increased to almost 14.5 percent from 1991-2001 whereas male literacy increased only 11.6 percent. The total number of women employed in the public sector has increased to 51 percent in 2006 from 47.7 percent in 1998, while the number of men employed fell from 228.72 lakh to 233.92 lakh in 1998. Women in the service sector has been increasing. Similarly, women’s participation in rural employment area is also on the increase. Younger women are being employed in powerful and intellectual sector. This highlights the phase of change. However, despite progress, discrimination in service sector remains. Women tend to hold lower positions than men even when they have sufficient skills to perform higher-level jobs. In senior decision making process and at managerial level there are only 5 percent women and total number of women at central government level is 8 percent.
Though Indian women, on the one hand, have stretched its feathers in all spheres including space and combat, it may be noted herein that only 50 percent are literate as compared to 66 percent men and hold only 10 percent of parliamentary seats, less than 6 percent pf Cabinet positions and less than 8 percent of seats as High Court judges are occupied by women. Otherwise too, instances of discrimination continue even after 60 years of independence. Patriarchal norms prevail and women’s recognition is not by her individual self. Reality is very different from theory and subjection of women remains, as is clear from reducing number of women in each census. Sex ratio has been falling at an alarming rate which is a matter of concern. Similarly, crime against women as rape, sexual assault, sexual violence, dowry deaths have been growing not only in number but also in intensity and brutality. Statistics show only reported cases, how much bigger it would be if unreported cases would be taken into account. Pornography is on the rise and projection of women through advertisements and treatment meted out to elderly women is a matter of concern.
The role of legislators and the Courts in their efforts to maintain “rule of law”, to usher in “economic and social justice” and the administrative apparatus needed for securing the advantages and benefits to the weaker sections have been described at length. However, the media in the country has been playing a very significant role to the cause of social justice in a variety of ways. Despite the criticism that the media is not playing its rightful role and engaging himself in politics of the day to the neglect or portraying the good word done by all sectors concerned with the task take or promoting social justice, it is necessary to point out the good work done by the media and its potentialities and capabilities to play a more vital role in future.
Legal literacy is a pre-condition to maintain the “rule of law”. The media has been rendering significant service to educate the people specially women about the laws, their rights and benefits flowing out of the various schemes and measure. Programmes such as “know your rights”, “Law for laymen”, T.V. Serials and Cinemas featuring on legal concepts, apart from being educative, created legal awareness among women.
The promotion of ethnic, racial, and religious tolerance within States and between States would go a long way towards reducing tensions and dissipating violence. It would also develop truly pluralistic societies. Female Education is key to this. Without appropriate education, ignorance can breed contempt. In such situations, the right to education to women becomes even more fundamental. As ignorance of human rights and of human rights implementation machinery is all too often a major factor preventing the realization of human rights, education is vital to inform individuals and groups of their rights. Female education also acts as a deterrent on States and may help limit future abuses of rights and freedoms.
# H.C. Upadhayaya, Status of Women in India, New Delhi, 1992, p.2.
# Uma Chakravarty, “In Search of Our Past,” Economic & Political Weekly, 23, No. 18, April 30, 1985.
# Kumkum Roy, “The Challenges of Women’s History” in A. Suryakumari ed. Women’s Studies, Gian Pub. House, New Delhi, 1993, p. 120.
# A.S. Altekar, The Position of Women in Hindu Civilization, Motilal Banarasidass, Delhi.
# History of Social Relations in India. Caste & Gender Equations in Indian History, http/India_resource.tripod.com/ social.html.
# Dr. V.S. Elizabeth, “A Review of Gender Justice since Independence” National Law School of India.
# Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Allahabad University.
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