‘Parents should inculcate values of respecting girls in their boys’
The values like respecting girls or women needs to be inculcated among boys by their parents while raising them, says Rakesh Srivastava, Secretary in the Ministry for Women and Child Development (WCD), which is implementing various schemes and programmes for a safer and more conducive environment for women and children in the country. Excerpts of the interview with The Bridge India India Editor-in-Chief, Seema Jairath:
TBI: Do you see any change in the public perspective towards girls? What role is WCD playing in bringing about the change?
RS: Girls have become so aware nowadays that we get letters from them informing that their parents are forcing them for marriage while they don’t want to get married and want to study further or make a career. Upon receiving such information, we interfere. We stop such marriages and make the parents understand why it is not the actual age to marry off their daughter. If she wants to study further, we tell that they should help her in that and the marriage can take place later.
TBI:. In the wake of the #MeToo campaign, the WCD ministry had announced to set up a panel of legal experts to look into the allegations of sexual harassment. What is the current status of the proposed panel?
RS : The WCD ministry is working towards identifying the areas that need to be addressed in the existing laws for women. The drawbacks in the present laws that act as deterrents in providing a strong security to women are being worked upon by legal experts of the law ministry which has been working on it. Meetings have taken place and proceedings are on under the Home Ministry. Ways to strengthen the National Commission for Women’s role in near future is also being discussed.
TBI: There is a great deal of debate on women’s right to enter places of worship – be it Sabrimala or Haji Ali Dargah. What are your views as the WCD Secretary?
TBI: Tell us the key initiative or step which can actually empower women at large in India?
RS : Change begins at home. The most important thing is parents telling their sons to have respect for girls and women and help them whenever they need it. The girls and women should not be looked as second class citizens. They should keep them at par with boys. Such values need to be inculcated in boys during their upbringing. Secondly, when the society will have an overall changed mindset, eventually, the problem will be addressed up to a large extent.
TBI: What key initiatives your ministry has undertaken for the women and child welfare?
RS:The Ministry of Women & Child Development has taken up a major initiative to arrest the adverse and declining child sex ratio across the states through its flagship programme –Beti Bachao Beti Padahao. It envisages extensive outreach through multiple media for improving the child sex ratio. An exhaustive National Media Campaign for advocacy and mindset change with a 360 degree approach was rolled out. Pan-India awareness programmes have been organised including the Radio, TV, SMS campaigns, among others.
One-Stop Centers: The scheme for setting up one-stop centres was launched to facilitate access to an integrated range of services including police, medical, legal and psychological support for violence affected women.
The Ministry has recommended mandatory disclosure of constitution of Internal Complaints Committee by companies in their annual report under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013. Different Government departments have also been advised to ensure compliance of the Act. To sensitise different organisations as well as standardise the procedure for implementation of the Act, a handbook prepared in consultation with the stakeholders has been sent to all the Central government ministries/ state government ministries and Business Chambers. This handbook is for developing basic understanding of the nature of sexual harassment at workplaces.
The Ministry has placed at the forefront its efforts to recognise and reward the achievement of women. It is to create a difference in terms of life, aspirations and opportunities available to women. New awards have been instituted to recognise exceptional and selfless work done by the women at district and state levels throughout the country. These awards are presented on International Women’s Day.
TBI: What message you wish to convey to The Bridge India India readers?
RS: Stay aware of your surroundings. In case you come to know of any child or woman being inflicted upon violence or they are facing some untoward happening, please don’t say quite. Rise to the occasion, and immediately report the incident to the police for a suitable legal action.