State’s 3rd draft on women policy ready

Incorporates over 150 suggestions of around 600 inputs received,says minister

Written by Stuti Shukla | Mumbai | Published:September 21, 2013 1:08 am

Minister for Women and Child Development Varsha Gaikwad presented the final draft of women’s policy at an Idea Exchange at Express Towers,Nariman Point,on Thursday. The draft will soon be forwarded to the Cabinet for approval.

More than nine months after a draft of the women’s policy was released,this is the third draft submitted by the Maharashtra government. This draft has incorporated over 150 suggestions and objections of around 600 inputs received.

The recommendations include setting up hospitals only for women in every district,10 per cent reservation in plots for women entrepreneurs in Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC),right to choose surname,50 per cent reservation within the state Censor Board and one-third reservation in research programmes. For transgenders,the draft has recommended right to marriage,parenting and adoption,right to vote and contesting elections.

A chapter in the earlier draft,dedicated to transgenders,had attracted criticism for portraying their sexual identity as medical distortion and suggesting preventive measures. The latter has been dropped from the policy. Welfare of women from minority communities,which was missing from the earlier draft,has been incorporated.

Varsha Gaikwad said,“We received many suggestions and objections from all quarters,especially NGOs. We have tried to include as many as possible. We received flak for certain sub-heads in the chapter on the transgender community. We have removed those portions,” she said.

Suggesting “remedies” for the “problem”,the preventive-measures section contained medical advice for pregnant women on how to prevent transgender births.

The broad topics that the policy deals with include — women and law,political empowerment of women representatives,women working in unorganised sector,physically disabled and mentally challenged women,single women (20 per cent families in state are run by single women),rehabilitation of devdasis,sexually exploited women and education and research.

Critics have pointed out that the policy does not refer to any current data on women at the state level,for instance on the increasing rate of caste violence,informalisation of labour in agriculture and otherwise,low sex ratio,honour killings and the conditions of sex workers. The policy’s draft has also been criticised for being a standalone document that does not take into account achievements of past policies.

“We have tried to focus on rehabilitation of women from the unorganised sector,eunuchs,sex-workers,devdasis,tamasha artistes,rape victims,physically and mentally challenged women. We will try to ensure maximum implementation,” said Gaikwad.

For effective interface with law,a detailed chapter on women and law addresses a number a legislations such as Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act,Protection of Women from Domestic Violence,Divorce Act etc. “Presently there are many laws that exhibit sensitivity towards women and reassert their rights. However,women cannot use these to protect their rights due to problems in their implementation and the inadequacies of the acts in addition to women’s ignorance about their rights,” the policy reads.

Information regarding women’s laws and rights will also be included in the school syllabi. Students will also be exposed to topics like the age of marriage,gender equality,domestic violence and women’s rights to property.

The 2013 policy,drafted by an 11-member committee,was headed by Gaikwad.

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