New Delhi: Even though women comprise half of the population of India, they still are a disadvantaged section that needs special care to bring them on. Acknowledging this fact, the Centre is considering lowering income tax for single women, introducing Aadhaar-linked health cards for free basic health check-ups for women and cashless medical service for those who are pregnant.
A national policy for women, framed by a group of ministers headed by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, is expected to be unveiled soon. It proposes a lower rate of income tax for single women as it takes note of a growing segment of the population; there has been a 39% increase in this category between 2001 and 2011.
Tax exemption on all menstrual hygiene products has also been proposed to ensure easy and affordable accessibility of these products. Building public toilets for women have been mooted. The survivors of gender-based violence will be provided free medical and legal support, counseling and shelter.
Noting the gender bias that often results in less attention being paid to the welfare of women, the policy proposes a health card that takes care of check-ups for anaemia and cancers; a cashless service for pregnant women and a comprehensive health insurance for critical ailments. These steps are marked for “urgent action”.
Increased participation of men in sterilisation programmes and government assisted living facilities for elderly women, especially widows, will also be priority once the Cabinet approved the policy. A separate section outlines the “areas for immediate action” on suggestions of the GoM.
The policy also looks at increasing women in the workforce by 50% by 2030, with measures such as a complete registration fee waiver for girls appearing in competitive or entrance exams conducted by government agencies, free coaching and more hostels in cities and towns for working women.
The policy also highlights the role and issues related to NRI women and their role in the cultural sphere. It notes the role of women in protection, preservation and propagation of India’s diverse culture. The document promises to take up issues such as NRI women affected by matrimony related disputes such as bigamous marriage, desertion, domestic violence and forceful retention of children’s custody.