Lakshmi Puri, deputy executive director, UN women tells HT's Khimi Thapa why India needs to lead the women rights revolution. She talks at length about gender inequality and how the government should address issues such as poverty and unemployment to check crime against women. Excerpts:
What brings you to India?
With the new government taking charge and prioritising its agenda, it's a crucial time for UN women and our global project on gender equality and women empowerment in India. So, as part of the senior leadership of UN women, I thought it would be a good juncture to offer both, our experience and support to the new government.
What's your take on Union health minister Harsh Vardhan's comment that sex education should be banned in schools which he later retracted?
I am not very familiar with the controversy, though I believe comprehensive sex education is very important for the health and well-being of young boys and girls. It is also part of a sound population policy.
The government has pledged Rs 50 crore for women security in public transport and Rs 150 crore on increasing their safety in the metros. Don't you think it's more about a change in mindset rather than money?
Well, we need both - money and change in mindset. Our finance minister Arun Jaitley himself has talked about changing the school curriculum, which is about changing mindsets. The 4Ps (prevention, protection, participation and programme) of ending violence against women need to be invested in. Also, many girl-child related schemes are good but not adequately resourced.
Recently, in some rape cases, a different social dynamics has emerged. While the December 16 gang rape highlighted that women are not safe in big cities, the Badaun gang rape hinted that caste factor still rules in rural areas. Your comments.
The problem of gender inequality will automatically get addressed when issues like poverty and underdevelopment in India are taken care of. Your question illustrates how multi-sectoral, multi-faceted and holistic the whole issue of gender equality is. Women need universal access to essential services like transport, water and sanitation, etc.