As a tribute to the Delhi gang rape victim, the government on Friday bestowed the Rani Laxmi Bai Stree Shakti award to 'spirit of Nirbhaya', a pseudonym given to her.
The award, presented on the International Women's Day by President Pranab Mukherjee, was received by the mother of the 23-year-old paramedical student at a function where her father and two younger brothers were also present.
"I am particularly happy that Rani Laxmi Bai award has been given to the spirit of Nirbhaya....Nirbhaya as she is now known, was a brave and courageous girl who fought till the very last for her dignity and life," Mukherjee said in his speech.
"She is a true hero and symbolises the best in Indian youth and women. Her sad demise should not be in vain. We must do everything to ensure that such an incident never happens again," he added.
The citation of the award to the spirit of Nirbhaya said that it was in acknowledgement of the contribution of thousands of man, women, boys and girls who turned the dark hour into a momentous cry for justice and freedom for all women from violence.
Mukherjee said that as citizens, "We must strive that women feel safe and secure at all times in our country and said that as a society, the endeavour should be to remove all negative perceptions against them".
Mukherjee also lauded the work of five other winners of the Stree Shakti awards.
The Rani Rudramma Devi award was given to Assamese social worker Pranita Talukdar, Mata Jijabai award to artist Sonika Agarwal, Kannagi award to Guramma H Sankina of Karnataka, Rani Gidinliu Zeliang award to Keralite social worker Omana T K and Devi Ahilyabai Holkar award to Olga D'Mello from Maharashtra.
The President also expressed concern at the declining child sex ratio. He said that women comprised 48.5 per cent of the population and though the overall sex ratio has increased by 7 points from 2001 to 2011, the declining child sex ratio for children of 0-6 years of age is disturbing.
"The figure for female literacy is also 16.7 per cent below male literacy. Surveys have indicated that female hourly wage rates in agriculture also vary from 50 to 75 per cent of the male wage rates. More disturbing is the increase in the incidence of violence against women," Mukherjee said.
He said that India ranked 134 in 2011 among 187 countries in terms of the UNDP Human Development Index and Gender Inequality Index which was indefensible as the founding fathers of our Constitution had been unambiguous in their commitment to the equality of women.
Mukherjee said that the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2013 had been passed by Parliament and the government also intended to constitute a Rs 1000 crore fund called the 'Nirbhaya Fund' to support initiatives for protection of women.
He said that the government had promulgated an ordinance, mending the criminal law to provide for stringent punishment for heinous sexual offences but added that legislation will be effective only if supported by efficient enforcement.
In her speech Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath elaborated on the initiatives and schemes to improve the health, security and educational status of women.
She said that infant mortality and maternal mortality rates had shown a declining trend. She said that to restructure and strengthen the ICDS scheme, the funds allocated in 12th Plan have gone up to Rs 1,23,580 crore from Rs 44,400 crore in the 11th Plan.