Chief of the National Commission for Women (NCW) Mamta Sharma doesn't favour chemical castration for rapists any longer. Instead, she advocates life imprisonment for the convicted sexual offender. In Chandigarh on Friday on the International Women's Day, she spoke to the Hindustan Times on her controversial views and the rising crime against women.
Q Do you still stand by your statement asking girls to dress carefully to avoid sexual assault?
A: I never said that. I was misquoted by a reporter.
Q You have been asking women to preserve the Indian tradition. Are you hinting that they should wear traditional clothes and shun western attire?
A: After 67 years of Independence, I can't dictate people and issue blanket directions. Even old women and minors get raped on a daily basis. What needs to be changed is the mindset. I have no problem with girls turning western, but aping the West blindly is eroding our culture.
Q Do you consider "ghoonghat" (veil) part of the culture? A majority of women in your home state Rajasthan still follow the tradition.
A: Women should unveil their faces. When I joined active politics in 1985, a woman sarpanch refused to show her face saying: "Mera dhani baitha hai (My husband is sitting)", but, today, if 50% of the women swagger without a veil, it's a great achievement.
Q Even after public outrage over the Delhi gangrape case, there seems to be no end to rape horror in India. What is the National Commission for Women (NCW) doing in this regard?
A: I was the first one to raise voice for fast-track courts. Now, rape cases are being heard in such courts. I insist that cameras should be allowed during such trials, as in a majority of the cases, victims and witnesses turn hostile. To reassure the victims' faith in the judiciary, we need to deal with them sensitively. A majority of the rural women are unaware of their rights and their urban counterparts slip into depression after any traumatic incident. Everyone should be sensitised to curb crime against women.
Q What do you have to say on the Tarn Taran incident, where a woman was beaten up by policemen in full public view?
A: Suspension in such cases is no solution. Their seniors should be made answerable. Punjab home minister Sukhbir Singh Badal should resign.
Q You had said rapists should be rendered impotent. Do you agree with the Justice Verma panel that rapists should be sentenced to seven-year rigorous imprisonment rather than death sentence or chemical castration?
A: Seven years in jail is too less a time. I no more think that they should be subjected to chemical castration. Rather, they should be kept behind bars for their entire life. Perpetrators become sex starved when in jail. If you release them after seven years, they will repeat the offence and we will fail to contain the rising crime.
Q Are you in favour of monetary compensation for rape and molestation victims?
A: Instead of giving money to them, they should be provided employment according to their capabilities. It will help in their rehabilitation. If the victim is a minor, she should be provided free-of-cost education.