We celebrated 101th International Women’s Day this year. However, discrimination against women continues to be a devastating reality in our country. In order to ensure that policy commitments are backed by financial outlays and that gender perspective is incorporated at all stages of a policy or a programme, Gender Budgeting was introduced by the government.
The total magnitude of the Gender Budget (outlays earmarked for women) has declined from 6.1 percent (2010-11 BE) to 5.8 percent (2011-12 RE). Further, there is a marginal increase of 0.1 percent in 2012-13 over the previous year. The coverage of ‘Gender Budgeting Statement’ in terms of the number of Union Government ministries/departments reporting in the Gender Budgeting Statement has remained stagnant at 33 for the sixth consecutive year. Except for the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, there is no new addition. Moreover, no steps have been taken to review the format of the Gender Budgeting Statement.
The budget allocation for Ministry of Women and Child Development has been increased from Rs.16100 crore (2011-12 RE) to Rs.18500 crore (2012-13 BE), an increase of 15 % at current prices.
The Steering Committee on Women’s Agency and Empowerment for the 12th Plan had suggested several important interventions to address the gender based disadvantages confronting women and girls. Of these, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has launched a few namely, women’s helpline, development of distance learning programme on the rights of women, implementation of protection of women from domestic violence act, relief to and rehabilitation of rape victims albeit with token allocations for most of them. Infact, no funds have been allocated for Swayamsidha Phase II that as per the 11th Plan was supposed the main vehicle for women’s empowerment.
For most of the existing schemes, the outlays fall far short of those proposed by the Steering Committee on Women’s Agency and Empowerment for the 12th Plan. Allocations for schemes such as Priyadarshini, STEP, Hostels for Working Women have registered a marginal increase over the previous year. This is despite the fact that 2012-13 marks the first year of 12th Five Year Plan.
Most of the government flagship schemes continue to rely on underpaid labour of women. In the Budget 2012-13 also, while the role of ASHAs – the backbone of the National Rural Health Mission has been enlarged further, there is no mention by the Finance Minister to regularise their services. ASHAs will continue to get their remuneration based on activities they perform and targets they are able to achieve.
To ensure women’s empowerment in true sense, it is imperative that women’s capabilities and choices are enhanced. The Department of Science and Technology, traditionally perceived as not “women related”, has launched several interventions exclusively targeting women in order to promote women’s participation in technical fields. It has launched another new scheme, ‘Disha’ in this year’s budget to facilitate the mobility of women scientists. The government needs to emulate such interventions recognizing specific gender based disadvantages that women and girls encounter. (The author is Programme Officer, CBGA)
First Published: Friday, March 16, 2012, 21:54