By Dr Susmita Priyadarshini
Last month Ministry of Women and Child Development unveiled two important Bills for public comments. One is Draft tiol Policy for Women, 2016 and the other is Draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016. As women are being trafficked for forced labour and sex work, each of the Bills has bearing on another. The previous policy for women was formulated in 2001, but has rarely been discussed since then. While the endorsement of SDGs is expected to change the course of development in favour of women, the replacement of previous policy by this new policy will be another welcome move. The overall objective of the Bill is to achieve women’s empowerment not just through benefits and entitlements but through creating an ebling environment for women in which they can enjoy their rights. This right- based approach means a clear deviation from earlier policies. It includes reproductive rights as well as rights for single women and widows. It wants to ensure the rights of surrogate mothers, commissioning mothers along with the rights of the children born through surrogacy. For the first time , the Government wants to change its role of a provider to an ebler. The attempt of the Government to become an ebler indicates that the Government really understands the meaning of an ebler. Right –based approach is also seen in anti-human trafficking bill. It is a step towards protecting the victims of human trafficking from further abuse. It will prioritize survivor’s needs and prevent victims such as those found in brothel raids from being arrested and jailed like traffickers. Intertiolly , violence against women is recognized as one of the most systematic and widespread human rights violation. Besides being the sigtory to intertiol treaties aiming to end discrimition against women, India has a large number of laws, policies and schemes to ensure social, economic and political upliftment of women. Despite this, women empowerment is often crippled by a range of social, economic, cultural and infrastructural roadblocks. There exists a wide gap between the goals enunciated in the constitution , legislation , policies and programmes related to women empowerment and the situatiol reality. But the discrimition and inequality have economic implications too. According to a study conducted by McKinsey Global Institute, India can increase its 2025 GDP estimate at $ 4.83 trillion , by between 16% and 60% simply by allowing women to participate in the economy on par with men. The tiol policy for women is a move towards making women equal partner with men in development process of the economy by elimiting all kinds of discrimition existing against them. The most revered corporate sector of our country often cites their rules against gender discrimition, but women employees of this very sector are not paid as much as their male counterparts. This is the revelation of a survey done by recruitment firm Monster India. According to the survey, median wage earned by women is 27% lower than what men get .On an average men earn Rs. 259.80 per hour while their counterparts earn just Rs. 190.50. Gender pay gap is not uniform across sectors. In the IT sector women earn around 34% less while the difference is only 19% in the fincial sector. This new policy for women will address gender wage gap. Though the policy wants to end violence against women, yet nothing has been mentioned about marital rape. According to official statistics, almost 95% of rapes against women( 31,507 0ut of 33, 707 reported rape cases in 2013) involve a family member or household , a neighbor or someone from the community known to the victim( NCRB, 2014). Even the heavily amended Indian Pel code has failed to acknowledge marital rape. Will the existing Domestic Violence Act be sufficient to give justice to it? Besides crimilizing marital rape ,the High Level Committee headed by Pam Rajput constituted by the previous UPA Government recommended to ban triple talaq . The new policy does not include those. But this new policy for women is very much indebted to Rajput Committee report on other matters. In the meantime some 50,000 Muslim women and men have signed a petition asking that oral, unilateral divorce of a wife by the husband pronouncing the word ‘talaq’ three times be outlawed along with polygamy. The issue puts a controversial question before the Government. The question is not that whether the Muslim community has the right to live by its holy law or not, but whether any community has the right to live by law that destroys the rights guaranteed to every citizen by the Constitution. As no deadline has been set for comments on this policy, it is clear that the Government is taking time to take decision on these controversial issues. In order to reflect the expectation of new aspiratiol women, the Government has to decide on this. One welcome step is that the Bill takes into account the abuse women face on social media platforms and treat it as a form of punishable violence. In the wake of increased atrocities on women in the seats of higher learning, UGS directed all the universities in the country and institutes of higher learning to set up separate cells to monitor and deal with sexual harassment cases. Unfortutely, most of the institutes of higher learning don’t have Anti-Sexual Harassment Cell. Similarly, most of the cities don’t have night shelter for women. Hope these will be the reality as a follow up action of the policy. Poor women and children are tural victim of human trafficking or modern day slavery. The draft tiol policy for women assures that requisite steps for prevention of trafficking at source, transit and destition areas for effective monitoring of the networks of trafficking will be given a priority. Existing legislation / schemes for prevention , rehabilitation of victims of trafficking will be suitably strengthened. According to tiol Crime Record Bureau, trafficking of minor girls surged 14 times over the last decade and increased 65% in 2014. The reason behind this rise in trafficking is economic. Take the case of North East Region. The region faces floods three four times a year which shatter the economy of the poor. Without work and food, the poor parents compel to send their children to metropolitan cities or states like Kartaka, Punjab, Harya for a livelihood which ends up trafficking. Without economic upliftment of the poor this trend will continue. The tiol Policy for Women by increasing participation of women in workforce through need-based training, creating entrepreneurial opportunities through schemes like E-Haats etc, will try to do this. Hope these two bills will be the game changer.