This month marks a year since the draft National Policy for Women is pending approval of the NDA government, mainly due a politically contentious proposal to introduce one-third reservation for women in electoral politics.
The policy, mooted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, was passed with some modifications by the Group of Ministers headed by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in July 2017 following a series of meetings and crowd-sourced suggestions.
It is since awaiting the Union government’s sanction.
According to sources in the know, the policy is held up mainly due to its recommendation for 33 per cent reservation for women in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies, and at least 50 per cent quota in all local bodies.
The draft policy is a revision of the first National Policy for Women, firmed up in 2001. It marks a shift from the previous policy’s view of women as welfare recipients to taking a rights-based approach. The provision for greater representation for women in the political arena was to be a significant part of such an approach to create an enabling environment through affirmative action.
Officials said that in the Group of Ministers’ meetings, it was pointed out that the 2001 policy lacks the provision to ensure greater women’s participation in electoral politics. “It was also brought out that the existing representation of women in Lok Sabha is a low 11 per cent, in state Assemblies 9 per cent, while the NDA manifesto promised 33 per cent reservation for women. The draft policy has since been with the Prime Minister’s Office for further action,” an official said.
The draft talks of promoting women’s presence in all three branches of the government — the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary — as also in corporate boardrooms. It mandates one-third reservation for women in the police force, and also details the need to look at policies across all ministries through a gendered lens.
The policy was to be operationalised and its implementation monitored through an inter-ministerial committee headed by Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister Maneka Gandhi, and similar state-level committees were to be set up, headed by the respective chief ministers.
Questions sent by The Indian Express to the PMO seeking reasons for the delay in passing the policy went unanswered. A WCD Ministry spokesperson said, “The draft National Policy for Women has not been approved by the Cabinet yet.”
A key recommendation in the draft policy is making it mandatory for every ministry to maintain sex-disaggregated data on all schemes and programmes.
Noting that India’s data system has remained largely gender neutral, it states that for better policy formulation, data has to be disaggregated as per gender especially on issues concerning poverty, economic participation, violence, environment, health, education, governance, and media. It also asked for qualitative data on the impact on men of polices regarding paternity leave, gender-based violence, and gender equality.
It focuses on emerging gender issues, such as those relating to single women, a segment that has grown by 39 per cent between 2001 and 2011, or the growing incidence of cybercrime.