The NDA is lax about gender issues
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The NDA is lax about gender issues

It must ensure a secure environment and tackle regressive mindsets to instil a sense of equality

analysis Updated: Aug 10, 2018 13:43 IST
India ought to acknowledge the problem of women’s safety, and the government must bear both the responsibility to mend the situation and the accountability for the outcome.(Raj K Raj/HT)

We live in an age of paradoxes. Goddesses are worshipped, but women assaulted. Mothers are exalted as life-givers, but female foetuses aborted. The NDA government evokes mythological and historical figures, but fails to recognise the agony of women who suffer the consequences of their empty promises. They sloganeer in the name of the beti, yet, today, we have been driven to shame by the injustice inflicted upon women.

According to NCRB data, the number of rape cases increased from 34,651 in 2015 to 38,947 in 2016 — a startling 12.4% increase in one year. This amounts to almost 106 cases of rape every day. This is shameful. It is heart-wrenching to see the gross 82% increase of rape crimes against children, rising from 10,854 cases in 2015 to 19,765 cases in 2016.

The BJP-ruled states are in a pitiful position: between 2013 and 2016, rapes increased by 13% in Madhya Pradesh (MP), 17% in Chhattisgarh, and 37% in Maharashtra. With 5,310 cases of rape registered across my home state of MP in 2017, it has acquired the dubious distinction of India’s “rape capital”. In the last few weeks, a 15-year-old was raped over three days by four men in Dewas, a 14-year-old was raped by three minor boys in Khajuraho, a four-year-old was raped by a 23-year-old man in Satna, and an eight-year-old was raped by two men in Mandsaur. Offences like these plague the nation. The horrors emerging from the shelter homes at Muzaffarpur, Bihar, reveal the extent of depravity unleashed on large sections of children and women.

The Rs 3,100-crore Nirbhaya Fund, established by the UPA in 2013, was meant to be utilised for strengthening our security apparatus to ensure the safety of women. But not even a third of these resources (Rs 825 crore) has been used over the last five years. The railway ministry has used only Rs 50 crore of the Rs 500 crore (10%) for the Integrated Emergency Response Management System, and only Rs 21 crore of Rs 156 crore (13%) set aside to install women’s helplines has been utilised. Even the ministry of women and child development is dawdling, having used a mere 13% of the budget to build “One Stop Centres”, meant to provide access to services like medical aid, police assistance, legal aid and psycho-social counselling to victims of sexual assaults. While the government spends a great deal of time and money on publicising Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and Ladli Lakshmi schemes, their lack of actions betrays their lack of conviction.

Beyond the Nirbhaya fund projects, there is a lot more the government can do to ensure a safer environment: ensuring 24-hour patrolling and CCTVs in public spaces, affording counselling and medical assistance to survivors, increasing the number of women in police, and ensuring that facilities such as women’s helplines and emergency buttons on public transportation are functional.

We also need to tackle deeper mindset issues to instil a sense of gender equality. But, BJP leaders foster a misogynistic environment through their sexist remarks. On one occasion, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said: “If men acquire women-like qualities, they become gods but when women acquire men like qualities, they become (‘rakshasa’) demon like.” On another, Haryana CM ML Khattar remarked: “If a girl is dressed decently, a boy will not look at her in the wrong way … If girls want freedom, why don’t they just roam around naked?” If those in power harbour such regressive views towards women, how then can we expect a change in mindset of the public?

The effect of this mindset also manifests in various other forms of discrimination: The Women’s Reservation Bill, introduced by the UPA in 2008, has been languishing since the BJP came to power, despite it being one of their electoral promises.

The problem extends to women in the workforce, who are still faced with the challenge of a 20% gender wage gap in India, as per the Monster Salary Index (MSI). While men in India earn a median gross hourly salary of Rs 231, women are at Rs 184.8. They represent only 24% of the paid labour force, as against the global average of 40%, as per the McKinsey Global Institute Report 2015. Instead of making efforts to remedy this, the NDA, along with its ‘volunteers’, spends its time trolling women. Be it the vile remarks and threats aimed at Sushma Swaraj or the suppression of the Opposition’s voice by threatening the minor daughter of Congress spokesperson, Priyanka Chaturvedi, women today are faced with a hostile and an inimical environment in which their liberty and equality are being undercut.

Women comprise half our population and no policy, scheme, slogan, or event can achieve inclusive growth, as long as regressive statements plague this sphere. We can start by having school curricula with mandatory components of gender sensitisation for instructors, material developers and students, so that gender stereotyping and prejudices are not internalised by impressionable minds. Sensitisation of persons in public offices is also important. The government’s role here cannot be to brush off crucial women’s issues to be mere “law and order” problems as a State subject. India ought to acknowledge the problem, and the government must bear both the responsibility to mend the situation and the accountability for the outcome.

Jyotiraditya Scindia is the chief whip of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha and former Union minister

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Aug 10, 2018 13:33 IST