Gender equality policy still shackled in ‘sarkari’ files

At a time when the world including Gujarat is celebrating the centenary of International Women’s Day...

Written by BASHIR PATHAN | Gandhinagar | Published:March 8, 2009 4:53 am

Various departments very slow in drawing up area-wise plans,says WCD

At a time when the world including Gujarat is celebrating the centenary of International Women’s Day,the Nari Gaurav Niti (Gender Equality Policy) that the government had announced with much fanfare in 2006,continues to exist only on paper.

That apart,the state-level committee headed by Chief Minister Narendra Modi to review the progress on implementation of the much-hyped policy has not met even once since it was first announced in October 2006 by the State Women and Child Development (WCD) department. It is mentioned in the policy document that the committee should meet at least once every six months.

One of the main reasons being advanced by the WCD department for the policy not making any headway is that various government departments implementing women-specific programmes have been very slow in drawing up detailed area-wise action plans. The pace of initiating the process of changing or amending the relevant provisions of existing Acts/Rules and government orders has also been quite slow. The WCD department is the nodal agency for implementing the policy.

At the time of announcing the policy,the government had directed its various departments concerned,to complete the task within two years. Until these departments finish this mandatory exercise of changing or amending the relevant provisions of the existing laws,the policy cannot be effectively implemented .

State Women and Child Development Minister Anandi Patel could not be contacted for comments despite repeated attempts. Her deputy,Dr Maya Kodnani,however,told Newsline on Saturday,“The government has started receiving all necessary feedback from the various departments concerned for the implementation of Nari Gaurav Niti across Gujarat.”

Manorama Bhagat,Director,Gender Resource Centre,said: “Any government implementing such a vital policy is bound to face teething problems. Although some of the departments have made considerable progress in the task they have been entrusted with,some other departments like Home and Legal are yet to achieve the goals set under the policy. We’ll ask them to complete the task at the earliest.”

Under the Nari Gaurav Niti – 2006,the government proposes to amend as many as 20 existing laws,including the Equal Remuneration Act,1976; Maternity Benefit Act,1961; Gujarat Panchayat Act; Gujarat Co-operative Societies Act,1961; Bombay Marriage Registration Act,1954; Indian Evidence Act and the laws pertaining to domestic violence,rape and sexual harassment.

For the Home Department,the policy has set a major goal,asking it to set up an “all-women police station” in each of the districts. It is yet to achieve this goal. Besides,the department has been asked to depute a separate officer of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police to investigate cases of unnatural deaths of women. The Legal Department is yet to develop a statutory and procedural framework for the registration of women workers engaged in domestic work so that they can avail social security cover.

The WCD department,which was entrusted with the task of setting up working women’s hostels in all district headquarters and major cities across the state,is yet to accomplish its job. The department has also not made any headway in creating a separate fund to support women self-help groups (SHGs) and women’s co-operatives to enable them to carry out economic activities.

Under the policy,the Revenue Department has been asked to increase women’s control over ownership of land and other properties.

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