Women’s Right to Work

Six poor women belonging to a community that strictly restricts women to kitchen decide to go to work in a nearby factory. They want to earn for their families and repay mounting debt. They want freedom from moneylenders. But the village panchayat warns these women against working in factory. It issues diktat to get money from moneylenders instead. These women are also ostracised and humiliated in the village by the powerful panchayat members.

You are District Collector of the district where this village is located. An official from panchayat complains you about this incident.
Identify ethical issues involved in this case and explain what course of action will you take? (200 Words)
Constitution of India provides Right to live with dignity under Article 21,Right to work without discrimination under Article 16 and Right to freedom under Article 19.In this perspective Panchayat banning women from working in factory seems to be against the constitutional principles in the first instance. However it needs to be investigated before taking a call on it.
Why women want to work:
  1. To support their family and to become financially independent.
  2. To pay debt and come out of the debt cycle engraved by high rate of interest charged by money lenders.
Why Panchayat have banned women from taking employment:-
  1. Patriarchal society: Giving freedom to women for work goes against this mindset who wants to bound women within the four walls of the house only.
  2. Money lenders don’t want to lose out on their profits from loans taken by people. So they put pressure on panchayat to stop women from taking employment and they continue being dependent on money lenders for finance.
Ethical issues involved:
  1. Protecting the dignity of women.
  2. Saving marginalized sections from the powerful persons in the village.
  3. Upholding constitutional values. Providing an environment so that people can enjoy their fundamental rights.
As a District Collector I will initially investigate the whole matter and in the mean time I will order the nearest police station to protect the women against the panchayat ill-conceived decision. Once the investigation is complete if panchayat members and all those involved in it found guilty then necessary required legal actions will be taken against them. Also women who denied the panchayat order needs to be praised and can be projected as role models for promoting women employment. A committee can be set up to look into similar matters (if exists) in other parts of the district.
Lastly the root cause of the problem was debt issue because of which all it started so awareness needs to be spread about the various employment schemes by the government like MGNREGA and other financial schemes. Also more awareness about Skill development related issues among the people will help those women who want to work. In order to provide women guarantee of their security a separate women police personnel can be designated in every police stations to look into such cases along with a helpline number who will be guiding the women required steps to get their grievances redressed.