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‘Govt will bring in law to deal with NRI men deserting wives’: MSWC Chairperson

MSWC Chairperson Vijaya Rahatkar believes that, along with reforms, people’s mindset plays a crucial role in women empowerment. In an interview to The Indian Express, she discusses the problems and challenges of rural and urban women.

Written by Shubhangi Khapre | Mumbai | Published: September 17, 2018 1:29:11 am
Vijaya Rahatkar, chairperson, MSWC. (Express photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

Instances of NRI husbands deserting their wives are increasing. What is the MSWC doing to tackle the problem?

It is a very serious problem. Often in such cases, we face a lot of challenges in tracing the location of the NRI husband, who never accepts the summons served. Secondly, the phone number, email, residential address abroad are changed by them, making it difficult to trace them. Of course, Red Corner notice, seizure of property, lodging police complaints and going to court are among the options exercised.

We have suggested some reforms where it’s not possible to physically serve notice. The Union government is likely to come out with a law to deal with the issue. We have suggested that in such cases notices should be put up on the MEA site. After a certain period, it should be deemed as served and accepted, thus facilitating further action. The government is working on this issue seriously.

So far we have seen that in 10 cases, passports have been rejected. In majority of cases, the wife is left in the lurch as, even after a formal wedding, the husband snaps communication, in-laws refuse to cooperate.

Recently, BJP MLA Ram Kadam made a derogatory remark against women. What action has the MSWC taken?

Any remark against women’s dignity and freedom has to be condemned. In this specific case, the SWC has taken suo motu note and served notice to Kadam. We asked him to appear before the commission and explain his stand. It is in accordance with laid-down norms. After completing the procedure, we will act.

Let me also point out that there was another case where a teacher posted on Facebook derogatory comments against MP Pritam Munde. After a hue and cry, he withdrew the post. The commission has taken note of all these developments.

Your views on the Supreme Court verdict on Section 377?

It is a very delicate matter. After all, justice had to be done to those who are in a same-sex relationship. At the same time, there was this issue related to cultural acceptance. I think the SC verdict on decriminalisation of same-sex relation is welcome.

Often you have to deal with issues of couples in a live-in relationship…

Although live-in relationship is often perceived as an urban phenomenon, it’s no longer true. We come across cases where young couples from villages or smaller towns have been in live-in relationships. Now, complications arise when, after staying together for several years, the relationship falls apart. In the absence of a formal marriage, the couple doesn’t have any support from family members or society. I would not say it is confined to women alone. Even men have to deal with many complications. In many cases which come before us, families are not even aware of the relationship.

How different are the problems of women from rural areas and those living in cities?

An urban woman has her own identity. She has to multitask, managing the pressure at home and keeping up with the pace at her workplace. In rural areas, women are still fighting for their identity. She looks after her home and slogs in the field. But she has not earned her identity as a working woman, which is unfortunate.

‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ is a flagship project of the government. How has it helped?

The biggest impact has been getting acceptance for the girl child both in urban and rural areas. It has helped increase the ratio of the girl child. Here, I would like to say that several women-oriented schemes have been undertaken by the government. Cooking gas has helped village women overcome health problems. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which has led to the construction of nine crore toilets, has helped women the most.

Your views on triple talaq?

It’s impact is among eight crore Muslim women. Let us not perceive it as politics. It has given women freedom and dignity.

Are you in favour of 33 per cent reservation?

Yes. The 74th amendment has helped implement 50 per cent reservation in local bodies. It’s just a matter of time when we will see greater representation of women in Assembly and Parliament.

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