The Planning Commission is pushing for special dispensation for single women, particularly those who are single by choice, under various government schemes in the 12th Five Year Plan.
In addition to reserving a certain percentage of jobs for single women under centrally sponsored schemes, the plan panel has proposed promoting and strengthening federations of single women at the block and district level.
“So far the recognised categories of single women are widows and divorcees. But there are a large number of women who have remained single by choice. Their status and choice need to respected,’’ Syeda Hamid, Member, Planning Commission told The Hindu.
“Our effort now is to place single women at the centre stage by creating space for them instead of clubbing them under the family category. We can create a ‘quota’ for them, if I may say so,’’ Ms. Hamid said.
While the Ministry of Women and Child Development has been taken on board on this, other Ministries and States will be asked to add ‘gender’ component in their scheme if the proposals of the Approach Paper of the 12th Plan are approved by the full Planning Commission this month and the National Development Council sometime next month.
According to the 2001 Census, more than 3.6 crore or 7.4 per cent women in India are single.
The figure will increase if the number of “customarily’’ separated women and those whose husbands are missing added. Low-income single women are vulnerable and victims of the patriarchal structures that deprive them of inheritance and other rights.
Dearth of schemes
“There are very few laws and government schemes of single women. Many a times, the existing schemes remain out of reach due to lengthy and cumbersome formalities. Society also generally marginalises single women and cruel caste and community traditions restrain them from living a life of dignity,” says Ginny Srivastava of the National Forum for Single Women’s Right that has been proactively championing the cause of single women for over a decade and managed to get itself heard in the corridors of the Planning Commission.
Single women are generally categorised broadly under family except in the case of a widow or a legally separated woman. “It is believed that the family court by announcing monthly compensation has done its duty for a separated woman. However, a man often gives money for a couple of months and then goes away. The hapless woman has to go back to the court again and again to get her dues,” Ms. Srivastava explained. Her organisation has been working on a proposal that wants the family courts to give money to the woman and subsequently recover it from the man.
The situation becomes worse in traditional systems where caste panchayats pronounce the decisions of separation which is not legally acceptable in a court of law and hence the woman is deprived of her rightful due.
The Planning Commission has proposed that schemes like the Indira Awas Yojana and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme should earmark a percentage for single women. Attention would also be given on providing legal aid for ensuring entitlements and matrimonial rights to single women.