Kerala has made significant progress in achieving gender justice, particularly in the areas of education, health, and political participation. The state has the highest female literacy rate in India, and women are well-represented in local government and other public institutions. Kerala has also implemented a number of innovative programs to empower women and address gender-based violence.
Education and Gender Equality
Kerala has a long history of commitment to education, and this is reflected in the state’s high female literacy rate. According to the 2011 census, 92 percent of women in Kerala are literate, compared to 74 percent of women nationally. This gender gap has narrowed significantly over the past few decades, and Kerala is now one of the few states in India where female literacy is higher than male literacy.
Girls in Kerala also have equal access to education at all levels. In fact, girls outnumber boys in both higher secondary education and tertiary education. This is due to a number of factors, including the state government’s emphasis on girls’ education, the availability of affordable and quality education, and the strong cultural value placed on education for girls.
Health status of women in Kerala
Kerala has also achieved significant progress in improving the health status of women. The state has the lowest maternal mortality rate in India, and female life expectancy is higher than male life expectancy. This is due to a number of factors, including the state’s investment in public health care, the high level of female literacy, and the strong social support networks available to women.
Economic participation of women through Kudumbashree
Kudumbashree, a women’s empowerment program launched by the Kerala government in 1998, has played a major role in improving the economic status of women in the state. Kudumbashree provides women with access to microcredit, training, and other resources to help them start their own businesses or find employment. As a result of Kudumbashree’s efforts, the number of women participating in the workforce in Kerala has increased significantly in recent years.
The Kerala government has also introduced a number of initiatives to promote gender equality through budgeting. For example, the state has a dedicated gender budget, which allocates funds to programs and initiatives that specifically benefit women and girls. The gender budget has helped to fund a variety of programs, including education and training programs for women, women’s health programs, and shelters for victims of domestic violence.
Kerala is also one of the leading states in India in terms of transgender rights. The state has implemented a transgender policy that provides transgender people with access to government services and employment opportunities. The state has also set up a number of programs to support transgender people, such as skill training programs and financial assistance schemes.
Nirbhaya Policy: The Government of Kerala has formulated the Nirbhaya Policy to combat sexual violence against women and children and protect them from exploitation. Nirbhaya Cell is now under the Directorate of Women and Child Development. The Nirbhaya project includes shelters for sexually abused women, where they are given life skills education to earn a living and gain employment. The Nirbhaya Cell has established fifteen Nirbhaya Homes (women and children’s homes) across the state.
SOS Model Home: This model shelter home was started in Thiruvananthapuram district for girls who survived POCSO under 12 years of age.
One Stop Centers: These centers of WCD provide support to women facing violence in public and private spaces, family, community and workplace. These centers will provide a range of integrated services, including transportation, medical assistance, facilitation of interaction with the police, legal assistance, psychosocial counseling and, if necessary, temporary shelter. In 2019-20, Kerala became one of the first states in India to have One Stop Centers in all districts.
Cathorth: This online consultation program of WCD for women was launched in February 2021 and aims to solve their various problems through counselling, legal aid and police assistance. Complaints can be submitted through the website www.kathorthu.wcd.kerala.gov.in.
Relief Fund: Recognizing the need to provide financial assistance to victims of sexual crimes and heinous gender-based violence, the state government has announced in the state budget 2018-19 a corpus fund of Rs 300 lakh to provide interim relief to such victims. The Women and Child Development Department provides these funds to victims of sexual crimes, domestic violence, acid attacks and heinous gender-based violence.
Bhumika: The government has initiated a program to provide medical and psychological care to victims of gender-based violence/social abuse with the support of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). “Bhumika”, a center dealing with violence against women, provides social and psychological support to victims.
Snehita: Snehita, the Kudumbashree Gender Help Desk, provides services to distressed women and children. These services include short-stay homes for women and children facing violence, counseling for individuals, adolescents and those about to marry, awareness groups, legal and medical assistance and rehabilitation in collaboration with other departments and NGOs.
Aparajita is Online: This is a quick response system for redressal of complaints of violence against women and girl child operated by the police department.
Mitra-181 Helpline: This helpline launched by KSWC has been successfully functioning as an emergency response service available 24×7 for women in need of assistance.
Formation of Department of Women and Child Development
A significant achievement of the government was the bifurcation of the Department of Social Justice and the establishment of the Department of Women and Child Development in June 2017, with more emphasis on activities aimed at empowerment and social support of women and children, State Women’s Commission, State Women’s Development Corporation, State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Gender Park, Nirbhaya Project, Women and Children’s Shelter. It is a comprehensive structure comprising Centres, ICDS and Anganwadis. A major part of its work is related to the running of 44 welfare institutions (16 for women and 28 for children) for the protection and rehabilitation of women and children, and NGOs and voluntary organizations play a major role in providing care to vulnerable people through institutions. The Department of Women and Child Development works to ensure holistic physical, mental, cognitive and emotional development of women and children and a Lingava conscious family and community.