While the Women and Child Development Ministry has largely focused on its main flagship scheme of Beti Bachao Beti Padao, Smriti Irani as the new minister will have to deal with a series of gender-related policy issues and legislations. These may not fall under the direct purview of her new ministry, but these significant policy measures for women figure prominently in the BJP’s manifesto for general elections 2019.
On top of the list is the promise to bring in the long-pending Bill for “33 per cent reservation in Parliament and state Assemblies through a constitutional amendment”. The manifesto specifically put its thrust on coming out with a “Women in Workforce” five-year roadmap so as to increase India’s abysmal female workforce participation rate.
With regard to the workforce, Irani also has the task of formulating a policy response to the #MeToo movement. The government’s initial response to the movement — which saw women sharing with their stories of sexual harassment faced at the workplace — was to set up an inter-ministerial committee under then Home Minister Rajnath Singh in October 2018. A sub-committee of bureaucrats has already prepared its recommendations for the panel, which includes amending the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 and giving more powers to the National Commission for Women. Irani is now faced with the task of operationalising the report.
While the controversial triple talaq Bill was one of the primary gender issues taken up by the Modi government in its previous term, the Bill still awaits passage in Parliament.
Irani will have to contend with a larger controversy if the BJP brings up the debate on uniform civil code. In its manifesto, the party reiterated its commitment to the cause by stating that without it “there cannot be gender equality”.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines