'We need better execution of anti-women laws '

'We need better execution of anti-women laws '

Not long ago,  people were hardly aware of the existence and functioning of the National Commission for Women. The situation has changed particularly after the incident, a year ago, of Delhi gangrape that shook the conscience of the nation. The growing awareness about atrocities against women has changed the scenario.

Suddenly, the role of the NCW has become important and people have started expecting the organisation to play a pro-active role in addressing issues like sexual harassment.  Anil Sinha  of Deccan Herald spoke to NCW chairperson
 Mamta Sharma. Excerpts:

All of a sudden, there is an apparent surge in the cases of sexual harassment, rape and related atrocities on women. What, according to you, are the reasons for this? 

Growing awareness among women is one of the main reasons. Studies have pointed out that more and more women are coming out to lodge their complaints and they are also showing readiness to fight. So, the number of complaints has increased.

Rights activists and experts on women’s issues have been complaining that our laws are not foolproof or there is lack of sufficient number of laws to deal with sexual crimes.

We have adequate number of laws. We have also changed various laws when we found that their provisions were inadequate. However, I feel we are lacking in their implementation. Corruption plays an important role in the non-implementation of laws. This is the most serious problem that comes in the way of getting justice to victims.  Without overcoming it,  we cannot think of proper implementing these laws.

The attitude of the police towards such crimes has always come in for criticism. Don’t you think we need more sensibility on the part of the police force?

Of course, we do need a proper sensitisation of the police force. The NCW has given attention to this as well. We have done a programme to sensitise Railway Protection Force. We need to do more on this front. Other police forces, including Border Security Force, should also be sensitised. This is vital for implementing laws.
 
There is a view that geography plays a major role in reporting and action taken in cases of sexual harassment. Incidents in urban areas get proper attention and the government machinery is generally forced to act in such cases compared with cases in rural areas.

Women in rural areas are more vulnerable. Vulnerability increases with the lower socio-economic status of the community. Women belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have to face harder situations. At times, harassment is linked with traditions and customs to make it institutionalised. I can refer to Nata Pratha in Rajasthan in which one can have another partner outside the marriage. Women are just sold but they do not feel exploited.  People need to be sensitised that it is a kind of sexual harassment.

Academics, experts, activists and administrators have been discussing the cultural basis for sexual harassment. Many people attribute it to male dominance and patriarchy. How do you trace cultural factors resulting in sexual crimes?

I look at it differently. I think urbanisation has compounded the problem.  The impact of mass media-films and TV serials-is profound. There are ample programmes which are provocative. Others also impact negatively. You will invariably find TV serials propagating idea of extra-marital relations. The Censor Board should play pro-active role in curbing propagation of negative ideas through films. The advertisements on TV are also adversely affecting society.

Recently, the case of sexual harassment by Tarun Tejpal and several other cases were highlighted in the media. These have brought a new focus on the issue of vulnerability of women at workplace.

The NCW has been active in the case. We do not buy Tejpal’s argument that his self-inflicted punishment was enough. The most important thing for us is how the girl should get justice.

The NCW has the mandate to study the gender problems in a holistic manner and recommend essential measures to overcome them. Could you spell out such endeavours currently being undertaken by the Commission?

We have constituted a special task force to study rape and trafficking in the country. Both the problems are interrelated and some of the areas are quite vulnerable. Except for our borders with China, all the borders are infested with the problem of trafficking.

Women who fall prey to such crimes are subjected to all sorts of sexual harassment including rape.  Most of the time, the law enforcing agencies are unable to curb this organised harassment of women. The task force comprises highly qualified academicians and experts and is likely to submit its report this month.

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