India To Open 100 Branches Of Women-Only Bank
India's top cabinet confirmed today that it plans to open a women-only bank as a catalyst for female independence, both financial and professional, in the country. Named Bharatiya Mahila Bank and based in New Delhi, the state-run institution will cater only to women, and by 2019 is expected to have 100 branches.
The move comes as India tries to boost the role of women in the country. While India is traditionally patriarchal, women have risen to prominent positions over the last half-century, and have benefited from constitutional changes that now promise women equal rights.
The country's finance minister noted that India's notoriously high incidences of sexual assault had cast a "dark cloud" over the global perception of Indian women. He said that with the bank, India hopes to promote an image as of its women as more liberal and independent.
The bank will be kick off with of 10 billion rupees' worth of funding ($164 million) and was generally met with acclaim. However, the notion of a state-run bank catering exclusively to a certain sex has also prompted criticism that the proposal is an unnecessarily drastic response to India's high-profile problems with sex-assault culture.
There are also federal elections in May of next year, and some believe that the move was an effort to court female voters.