New Delhi: While political leaders have been endorsing tough laws to deal with crimes against women, there is hardly action on the ground to show that women are any safer. While members of the government assured that tough anti-rape laws will be brought into effect soon, Parliamentarians called for unity to fight crimes against women during a debate on the occasion of Women's Day on Friday.
The two leading ladies of Indian politics, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, made strong calls for laws to fight crimes against women. Sonia Gandhi said there needs to be stronger action to prevent crimes against women. "Our heads hang in shame because of the crimes committed against women in our country. Stronger action needs to be taken to prevent such crimes," Sonia said.
Speaking in the Lok Sabha on the occasion of Women's Day on the plight of women, Leader of the Opposition in the House Sushma Swaraj quoted newspapers and highlighted the increasing insecurity among women in India. "Discussing women's issues in the House and then forgetting them has become a trend," she pointed out.
However, the situation on the ground hasn't gotten any better even as political bigspeak has continued for years. More and more cases of rapes continue to be reported from different parts of the country.
A lady journalist of an English newspaper was allegedly molested in Delhi on Wednesday night. The journalist was on her way home from her office in South Delhi when two motorcyclists allegedly molested her in Mansarovar Park of Northwest Delhi. When the journalist went with her father to the nearest police station to lodge an FIR, the police there tried to counsel her by saying that it was not advisable for women to step out at night.
This came on a day when CNN-IBN reported how policemen still blame women for rapes. CNN-IBN reporters met over 50 policemen in over 25 police stations in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, encountering prejudice in almost every thana. Even as lawmakers consider stronger laws against sexual offences, most keepers of the law insisted that a woman cannot be raped without her consent. Whether it was in Alwar or Bhiwani or Meerut or Rohtak or Bulandshahar or Dausa or Panipat, the story repeated itself alarmingly in every state. Despite growing violence against women and protests over police apathy, some men in khaki still have a feudal mindset, asserting that it's the victims who invite abuse.
Reacting to this, Union Law Minister Ashwini Kumar said there was a need to sensitise police. "There's clearly a need to sensitise police for investigating such cases. There should be a specially trained investigative force."
Assurances have been coming from the government even as the amendments to anti-rape laws kept getting delayed. CNN-IBN learnt that there were differences within the government over the use of the word 'rape' which was delaying the Criminal Law Amendment Bill for anti-rape laws. When asked about the delay, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said, "I had told the media specifically before the Cabinet meeting that this is not on the agenda. A note had gone to the Law Ministry and it has given its views. The MHA is putting together the Bill. It will come to the Cabinet. May be there will be a special cabinet meeting."
Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha MPs called for early passage of the Women's Reservation Bill. The MPs transcended party lines to demand passage of a bill providing 33 per cent reservation for women in the Parliament and state assemblies. As soon as the House met for the day, Chairman Hamid Ansari mentioned that Friday was International Women's Day to celebrate and honour the untiring commitment and persistent efforts of women.
Rajni Patil of Congress recalled the 33 per cent reservation that the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi gave to women in Panchayats and local bodies and said, "If we want to celebrate women's day, the women's reservation bill should be passed by Parliament." Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan said there can be no celebration unless the mindset is changed and cited growing incidents of rape, molestation, domestic violence and public thrashing of women by protectors of law.
While the politicians came out strongly for women's rights on International Women's day, what remains to be seen is whether this time the leaders will walk the talk and translate words into action.
(With additional information from PTI)