Women are agents of change, says SC

NEW DELHI,KRISHNADAS RAJAGOPAL: Indian women are no longer “passive recipients” of the state’s welfare schemes, but active agents of change. Real development is only possible with their economic empowerment, the Supreme Court has observed in a judgment.

Real development is only possible with women’s economic empowerment, notes SC Bench. —File photo Ritu Raj Konwar

Real development is only possible with women’s economic empowerment, notes SC Bench. —File photo Ritu Raj Konwar

In a 38-page verdict highlighting how women have progressed from being the protected to becoming the protector, a Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and A.M. Sapre said they had become “dynamic promoters of social transformation that can alter the lives of both women and men.”

The judgment came in a case of a woman police officer, Richa Mishra, who was denied selection as Deputy Superintendent of Police on the ground that she was overage. The apex court directed the Chhattisgarh government to appoint her in the senior rank after agreeing with her contention that there was a 10-year relaxation in age limit for women candidates under the service rules that was solely meant to encourage women like her.

As India promotes Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Education for girls) scheme, “empowerment of women is the need of the hour,” the Supreme Court said. Women in this world, and particularly in India, faced various kinds of constraints and discrimination. This was notwithstanding the fact that under the Constitution, women enjoyed a status of equality with men. “In reality, however, they have a long way to go to achieve this constitutional status,” Justice Sikri, who wrote the verdict for the Bench, observed in a judgment dated February 8 released on Tuesday.

The apex court said the focus was slowly shifting from mere “better treatment” or “well-being” of women to empowering them to be economically independent and self-reliant, with a positive esteem, to enable them to face any situation and participate in development activities.

Quoting Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen, the Supreme Court observed that economic development and women’s empowerment had a symbiotic relationship. One cannot do without the other. The court said the term “women’s empowerment” meant women’s ability to access the constituents of development, in particular health, education, earning opportunities, rights, and political participation.

Poverty and lack of opportunity had bred inequality between men and women, the apex court said. It called for further policy action for women empowerment in order to stimulate economic development.

“Policy action is still necessary to achieve equality between genders. Such policy action would be unambiguously justified if empowerment of women also stimulates further development, starting a virtual cycle,” the court said.