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. 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.
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.
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.
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. “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,”.