President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday said women's empowerment, their dignity and equality should not be made a "distant goal or fond aspiration" but should be bestowed on them as one of their "sacred" rights.
While awarding some select women achievers of the country on the occasion of International Women's Day at Rashtrapati Bhavan here, Mukherjee said it was time for a "collective introspection" for changing those "societal perceptions" and attitudes that pose a hurdle in the development of women in the society and also vis-a-vis their status in country's economy.
"I take this opportunity to convey my heartfelt appreciation of the countless women who are the silent backbone of our economy...as professionals they are second to none in their achievements and their services as doctors and nurses, as space and nuclear scientists and in government offices and politics are invaluable in forging a path of progress and growth for our people.
"Therefore, it is only appropriate that we should remind ourselves that the empowerment of women and their equality, liberty and dignity are not a distant goal or fond aspiration of the women of our country. It is one of their sacred rights. It is not a privilege that they should seek," the President said.
"There are, nevertheless, enduring societal perceptions and attitudes which inhibit the pace of improvement in the condition and position of Indian women in our society and economy. These call for urgent individual as well as collective introspection. We must identify these weaknesses and their root cause," he said.
Mukherjee said the country must make required efforts "to remove the structural and institutional barriers that inhibit the economic and social transformation of women in India."
He underlined that violence against women continues to threaten their safety, well being and potential across the country.
"Even the perception of their (women) respective vulnerabilities constrains their freedom of movement and access to education, work and essential services," he said.