Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
However much a mother may love her children, it is all but impossible for her to provide high-quality child care if she herself is poor and oppressed, illiterate and uninformed, anaemic and unhealthy, has five or six other children, lives in a slum or shanty, has neither clean water nor safe sanitation, and if she is without the necessary support either from health services, or from her society, or from the father of her childen.
Vulimiri Ramalingaswami, "The Asian Enigma"
India is the world’s largest democracy and the second most populous country after China. India has a total population of 1.1 billion (UN, 2005), which is 16 percent of the world’s population. But India has only 2.4 percent of its land, resulting in great pressures on its natural resources. Over 70 percent of India’s population currently derives their livelihood from land resources, which includes 84 percent of the economically active women. Out of this 48.1% are women.120 million are women who live in poverty in India. The sex ratio in India is 933 women to 1000 men.
India has a long history of activism for women’s welfare and rights. Since the independence of India in 1947 a lot of progress has been made with respect to the development of the condition of women. The Preamble, Part IV consisting of the Fundamental Rights and Part V consisting of Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles of the Indian Constitution enshrines the principles of equality. The Indian Constitution has empowered the state to adopt measures of positive discrimination – in favour of women.
From the fifth five-year plan (1974-78) onwards, approach to women’s issues has shifted from welfare to development. The National Commission for Women was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1990 to safeguard the rights and legal entitlements of women.
The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments have provided for the reservation of seats in the local bodies like panchayats and municipalities. In 1993 India ratified Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations against Women (CEDAW) to secure equal rights of women. In 2001 the National Policy for the Empowerment of Women was adopted for socio-economic development of Indian women.
Even though the Indian constitution grants women equal rights with men, reality is otherwise. Strong patriarchal traditions persist, shaping women’s lives by customs that are centuries old. In most Indian families, a daughter is viewed as a liability, and she is conditioned to believe that she is inferior and subordinate to men. Sons are idolized and celebrated.
The list below gives a comprehensive view on the condition of women in India
- Life expectancy: females as a % of males, 2005---105
- Adult literacy rate: females as a % of males, 2000-2004*---66
- Enrolment ratios: females as a % of males, primary school 2000-2005*, gross---93
- Enrolment ratios: females as a % of males, primary school 2000-2005*, net---95
- Enrolment ratios: females as a % of males, secondary school 2000-2005*, gross--80
- Enrolment ratios: females as a % of males, secondary school 2000-2005*, net -
- Contraceptive prevalence (%), 1997-2005*---47
- Antenatal care coverage (%), 1997-2005*---60
- Skilled attendant at delivery (%), 1997-2005*---43
- Maternal mortality ratioâ€, 1990-2005*, reported---540
- Maternal mortality ratioâ€, 2000, adjusted---540
- Lifetime risk of maternal death---1 in 48
Source: UNICEF available at the web page http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/india_india_statistics.html
 Panchayat—is a village’s body of elected representatives who take decisions on the village’s social, political and cultural life.