Varsha Gaikwad, state minister for woman and child welfare, talks about the various measures her department is taken to improve women’s safety.
Delhi is seeing massive protests following the Delhi gang rape and the victim’s death. With 46,000 cases related to crime against women from 2009 to 2011 and 9.6 % conviction rate for rape cases, Maharashtra doesn’t seem to be very safe for women either.
Lack of gender sensitization and poor conviction rates are to blame for the poor safety of women in the country. In Maharashtra, we do have a very low conviction rate, and we want to change this. chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has agreed to our demand for setting up fast track courts in the state to handle women related cases and ensuring quicker justice in rape cases. We are also holding workshops to make the police more sensitive towards women. We also helpline numbers — 103 for Mumbai and 1091 for rest of Maharashtra — for women in distress.
What immediate steps will the state take with regard to gender sensitization?
For the first time in Maharashtra, the women and child welfare department is observing a 10-day women’s awareness campaign, from January 3 to January 12, 2013. This state-wide program aims to educate people on issues and laws related to women’s rights, security and atrocities. There will be panel discussions, debates, plays, puppet shows in these 10-days. A special police sensitisation workshop will be held to make police aware of how women’s cases should be handled, how they should behave at police stations and how they should take care of women’s security.
What about the delay in delivering justice in rape cases, and the stigma attached to victims?
This is very important. Our department has charted out a detailed proposal on rehabilitation of victims, where will ask for providing rape victims the entire cost of medical expenses, cash compensation, ranging from Rs 2 –3 lakh as well as counseling and help in finding employment. This proposal is also applicable for victims who have faced acid attacks. It is pending with the state planning department for consideration.
There have been incidences of women being attacked in and around college campuses. What is the state doing about this?
We have moved a proposal to the higher and technical education department asking for special women’s cells in colleges in the state. Mumbai University already has them. We have requested the home minister to deploy plain clothed women constables on campuses.