ACKNOWLEDGING A “bi-directional relationship between economic development and women’s empowerment”, the Supreme Court has said that women have gradually shattered the glass ceiling to become “active agents of change”, and that their economic empowerment is the need of the hour.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Abhay M Sapre underlined that women are no longer passive recipients of welfare-enhancing help but are being increasingly seen by men as active agents of change. “The dynamic promoters of social transformation that can alter the lives of both women and men,” the court observed.
Directing the Chhattisgarh government to appoint a woman excise officer as a Deputy Superintendent of Police after granting her relaxation in upper age limit, the court said all state governments must take affirmative policy actions to achieve equality between genders.
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It said that although the Constitution accords equality to women with men, but in reality they still have a long way to go to achieve this Constitutional status. “It is now realised that real empowerment would be achieved by women, which would lead to their well-being facilitating enjoyment of rights guaranteed to them, only if there is an economic empowerment of women as well. Public employment… would naturally lead to empowerment of women, which is the need of the hour,” it held.
The top court hailed the fact that the focus has now shifted to economic empowerment of women apart from achieving just better treatment for them. The bench said, “It is now realised that there is a bi-directional relationship between economic development and women’s empowerment, defined as improving the ability of women to access the constituents of development — in particular health, education, earning opportunities, rights, and political participation.”
Citing a study by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen in this regard, the bench noted that development alone can play a major role in driving down an equality between men and women. “…empowerment can accelerate development. From whichever direction the issue is looked into, it provides justification for giving economic empowerment to women,” it said.
Empowerment of women, the court said, is perceived as equipping them to be economically independent, self-reliant, with positive esteem to enable them to face any situation and they should be able to participate in the development activities.