Census equates housewives, prostitutes; SC irked

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Supreme Court of India
New Delhi, Jul 24: The norm of putting housewives under the economically non-productive worker category, under which beggars and prostitutes fall, in the Census has invited the ire of the Supreme Court, which has reprimanded the government for being "insensitive".

The apex court has dubbed this approach of the statutory authorities which equates homemakers with beggars and prostitutes as "totally insensitive" and "callous".

The court also said that it was indicative of a strong gender bias against women.

"This bias is shockingly prevalent in the work of Census. In the Census of 2001 it appears that those who are doing household duties like cooking, cleaning of utensils, looking after children, fetching water, collecting firewood have been categorized as non-workers and equated with beggars, prostitutes and prisoners who, according to Census, are not engaged in economically productive work," the Bench observed

"As a result of such categorization, about 36 crores (367 million) women in India have been classified in the Census of India, 2001 as non-workers and placed in the category of beggars, prostitutes and prisoners," it added.

In a separate judgment, the court sought amendments to the Matrimonial Laws to ensure that the women are given due status in the society.

This suggestion came in response to a husband's petition challenging the meager compensation awarded by the Motor Accidents Tribunal and the Allahabad High Court for the death of his wife in road accident.

"A wife/mother does not work by the clock. She is in constant attendance of the family throughout the day and night unless she is employed and is required to attend the employer's work for particular hours. She takes care of all the requirements of husband and children including cooking of food, washing of clothes, etc. She teaches small children and provides invaluable guidance to them for their future life," the apex court said.

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