Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari on Tuesday said that violence against women is a major challenge.
"Data from National Crime Records Bureau indicates that the total number of crimes against women increased by 29.6 per cent between 2006 and 2010. The 2005-06 National Family Health Survey also reported that one-third of women aged 15 to 49 had experienced physical violence, and approximately one in 10 had been a victim of sexual violence," he added.
Vice President Ansari, who inaugurated the centenary celebrations of Shailabala Women's College here, said 'these facts stare us in the face and call for serious introspection'.
"The first corrective has to be in the mind. Gender injustice is a social impairment and therefore has to be corrected in social attitudes and behaviour. The corrective in laws and procedures is one aspect of it; it is work in progress. In February 2012 the Government set up a High Level Committee on Status of Women headed by Justice Ruma Pal. Its report is expected next year," Vice President Ansari said.
"The corrective in societal attitudes, however, necessitates a wider effort. It calls for a serious endeavour to set aside social preferences for a boy-child over a girl-child, an end to the abominable practice of foeticide, and reform of marriage customs that impose unbearable dowry burden and which have been aggravated by the consumerist culture of today," he added.
Vice President Ansari said 'in this context, the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and gender parity is essential for progress, as gender discrimination imposes a heavy cost on the entire society'.
The Vice President said that according to United Nation Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women or UN Women, gender equality is not only a basic human right, but its achievement has enormous socio-economic ramifications.
"Empowering women fuels thriving economies, spurring productivity and growth," he added.
Vice President Ansari said UN Women has estimated that about a billion women fall short of their potential economic contribution due to barriers in decision-making, labour markets, financial services, education and training, among other areas.
"This is equally, if not more, applicable for India as well," he added.
Vice President Ansari said the access of women to health and education is a critical determinant of the status of women and their ability to fully participate in nation building.
"While the overall picture in the country is one of progress in many aspects, large gaps still remain with respect to status of women in India. To underscore the point, let me give you some disturbing facts," he added.
Stating that according to the 2011 census, women account for 586.47 million in absolute numbers and represent 48.46 percent of the total population of the country, Vice President Ansari said: " If our overarching national objective is to become a progressive, prosperous and modern country through rapid, sustained and inclusive economic growth, attainment of gender parity through elimination of discrimination against women is a necessary condition."
"No society can hope to achieve its developmental goals without addressing the critical issues affecting half its population. Status quo, therefore, is not an option," he added.
Vice President Ansari said women have been guaranteed equal rights as citizens of the country under the Constitution.
"Laws have been enacted to preserve, protect and promote women's rights and empower them through their participation in public and private space on equal terms. Reservation for women in the Panchayati Raj Institutions has been a landmark step," said Vice President Ansari.
"Much more, however, needs to be done. Laws that are on the statute book require to be implemented stringently, and law-enforcers instructed regularly about the need for it in terms of social objectives," he added.
The Vice President informed that the government has identified a plan of action in the 12th Five Year Plan under which gender equity issues will be addressed in seven specific areas: economic empowerment, social and physical infrastructure, enabling legislations, women's participation in governance, inclusiveness of all categories of vulnerable women, engendering national policies/programmes and mainstreaming gender through gender budgeting.
"Since any plan is as good as its implementation, it becomes a civic and moral duty for all of us - in governments, legislatures, judiciary, NGOs, civil society and ordinary citizens - to ensure that the programme objectives are translated into concrete action through faithful implementation," he added.
Vice President Ansari called upon the students gathered to step forward and make it their life mission to ensure that India emerges as a shining example of a land from where gender bias and discrimination is addressed as a national priority, resulting in gender gap being eliminated on four counts: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
"The students of this institution, as women leaders of tomorrow, have a special responsibility in this matter. I am confident that they would discharge it fully," he added. (ANI)