We, at Feminism in India, appreciate the initiative taken by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in sharing their draft National Policy For Women 2016 with civil society organisations as well as individuals and society at large for their inputs on the same. We are pleased to see the government’s attempts at involving it’s citizens whole-heartedly in the legislative procedures of the country.
There are some concerns that we would, however, like to express with the Ministry. We would also put forth a set of simplistic recommendations that we hope would be incorporated within the draft or the final bill.
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Analysis Of The Draft
- While the draft of the National Policy For Women 2016 gives an exhaustive list of all the steps that will be taken in order to ensure a comprehensive and holistic law for women, it does not however give exact methods and tools which are going to be employed in order to achieve that.
- The language in certain parts of the policy is quite problematic and needs to be reviewed. In order to promote gender equality and not propagate a sympathetic outlook towards gender, held by both the government as well as the society at large in terms of gender, certain references like ‘women workers‘, ‘women have been traditionally considered to conserve genetic diversity‘, ‘Women will also be included in the decision making process of waste disposal’ have to be avoided. Usage of such terminologies reflect the mindset of the government with respect to gender. It reinstates the mindset that women are the secondary citizens and workers in the society hence the policies and laws to be drafted should follow their secondary citizenship status.
- The language of the draft is also not gender fluid and sticks to gender binaries, thereby giving transgenders only a passing mention and completely ignoring the gender and sexual minorities altogether.
- Unique techniques have been suggested in order to incorporate a comfortable lifestyle for women from all ages, since birth. Certain methods such as ‘cluster pooling‘ for girls in order to maintain their safe transportation as well as continuity in school have been proposed. However, this could easily devolve into a patronizing and protective attitude towards girls, promoting further exclusion from public space in a bid towards protectionism.
- Another glaring question that has arisen in our minds is the fact that there are no mentions of penalisation or actions that would be undertaken in order to ensure the smooth functioning and continuity of the programs that are being suggested to be implemented. Although the draft does mention gender audits and intervention by non-governmental bodies for review, yet it does not mention the possibilities of what might be done if there appear no transformative changes with regard to the policy implementations being made by the government.
- Feminism in India greatly appreciates the government’s attempts at sensitisation of the society about the gender disparity in care work or domestic work performed by women. However, how the aspect of domestic work would be integrated with major programmes is unclear to us. It would be better if the government explained the techniques and the actual methods as to how they would be implementing these strategies.
- The draft policy mentions that the National Legal Services Association (NLSA), the National Commission for Women (NCW) and the District Legal Services Association (DLSA) would be creating support systems through Shelter homes and One Stop Centres, however, how women’s access to these one-stop shelters and Shelter Homes is going to be facilitated has been grossly ignored by the draft policy.
- Furthermore, the most important aspect which Feminism in India would like to highlight is the fact that there have been minimal policy regulations suggested for cyber crime and violence. Cyber crime is a reality which women are facing increasingly each and every day. Globalisation has created a society whereby there is free and easy access to the internet.
- For the law to be holistic and for civil society organisations and the public in general to provide concrete suggestions for their own safety and well-being, they have to be able to know the exact processes and working that the government will be undertaking for the well-being of it’s citizens. Hence, we recommend that the government list down what exactly is to be done instead of listing what ‘will be done‘.
- Language is an important tool of communication and official documents should necessarily reflect a mentality towards gender equality without treating women as second class citizens who must be empowered. Language must also be gender fluid so as to not marginalise the transgendered population while drafting policy initiatives.
- While techniques like ‘cluster pooling’ could improve the number of girls going to school, we would recommend that attention is focussed on making regular school buses safer for girls, so as to not perpetuate an protectionist and surveilled mode of transportation for girls to and from school.
- While discussing the girl child’s nutritional discrimination, FII recommends that the government tread carefully – the policies cannot reflect as an intervention by the State within the private familial life of the individual.
- Similarly, sensitisation of individuals with respect to domestic work also has to be dealt with carefully and it has to be kept in mind that domestic work should evade gender binaries and hence be labelled only as work which has to be performed for the household.
- It is a simple fact of human nature that we only tend to abide by rules and regulations only if there are penalisations that bind us. Hence we at Feminism in India feel that certain regulatory penalisations are necessary in order to maintain the smooth functioning of the policies or programs.
- Feminism in India feels that there needs to be methods which explain the facilitation of access to women who are experiencing violence of any form. Only creation of One Stop Centres and Shelter Homes is not enough, the access to the same have to be clearly spelt out to the society at large.
- It also has to be kept in mind that spaces such as shelter homes, orphanages and so on have repeatedly been spaces for exploitation and abuse. The government hence has to specify what kinds of regulatory checks are being made on such shelter homes and one stop centres in order to sensitise them on the same. FII also feels that civil society bodies should be involved in the review and rating of the same.
- The internet has become a compulsory tool for business and communication, hence the usage of the internet cannot be avoided in the present times. Therefore it is extremely necessary for the government to create safe spaces on the internet for women to comfortably interact and communicate. Violence against women on the internet in the form of cyber stalking and harassment has to be recognised and proper steps have to be undertaken to prevent the same. For this the government can also refer to FII’s regulatory campaign on internet safety, #DigitalHifazat which attempts to make the internet a safe space for women.
- Overall FII feels that civil society, non-governmental organisations and the citizens of India at large should be incorporated and involved in the decision making process, from the policy drafting stage to the implementation so as to maintain the democratic nature of India’s legislature.
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Whereas we do feel that the draft if implemented properly will enhance the lifestyle of women, yet it has some basic flaws which have to be changed as advised by our organisation, Feminism in India in the above account. Moreover Feminism in India also supports the differential, specific recommendations made by organisations such as Prajnya PSW Community, Chennai and also demands that the government move from gender binaries and refresh and reset it’s policy based on gender equity and equality.
Featured Image Credit: The Indian Iris