In the year 2014, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power, the country was still riding high on the wave of angry protests. A little over a year-and-a-half since the brutal rape and murder of Delhi student Jyoti Singh, the nation was reeling from the realisation that the law and order situation in India, especially with regards to violence against women, had gotten really grim.
From women's rights activists to college students, the entire female population was up in arms with their demands for reform. The country had had enough. Then, foremost animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi took the helm and was appointed the Union Cabinet Minister for Women and Child development. A considerable section of civil society, however, expressed their doubts over how effective the Narendra Modi government, with its patriarchal agenda, would be in furthering feminist ideals.
While there is no ignoring the plethora of problematic statements that have been made by the Minister for Women and Child Development, especially with regards to her views on marital rape, here's looking at all of the steps taken by the ministry that have successfully furthered the cause of upholding the rights of women.
1. Draft National Policy for Women 2016
A definite leap for the better, the existing national policy for women, which had been in effect since 2001, was revamped by the Women and Child Development Ministry. Maneka Gandhi released the draft of the 2016 policy on 17 May. It is in tandem with the times. Not only is it a career-driven policy, it focuses on health issues as well. Gandhi stressed that women are now far more aware of their rights, and so the policy too must change to accommodate that understanding.
She has also acknowledged the fact that cyber crimes and online abuse against women are a dismal reality, and the issue needs addressing.
2. Panic Button and Global Positioning System in Mobile Phone Handsets Rules 2016
The Ministry, in a genius move, has collaborated with the Department of Telecommunications to work towards the installation of mandatory panic buttons on mobile phones. It is aimed at enabling women in distress situations and providing relief. The Panic Button and Global Positioning System in Mobile Phone Handsets Rules 2016, was issued on 26 April.
3. Guidelines to check harassment on matrimonial sites
The Women and Child Development Ministry has decided to address another very real issue, addressing the harassment that women have to face on matrimonial websites. The Ministry has expressed the intention of formulating guidelines to curb the same, with measures like setting up a dedicated helpline by the site owners for redress of complaints and filing periodical returns. It seeks to eliminate fraud in the digital space surrounding marriage portals.
4. Sexual offenders database
In December 2015, the Ministry wrote to the Law Ministry for the enactment of a law for the mandatory registration of sex offenders; for it to be enacted and to be carried out by local police to keep them under surveillance.
"In cases where the accused are convicted for committing heinous crimes, the orders of the court may also include mandatory requirement of registration of the accused in local police station so that police can monitor their activities and keep track of their movements," Gandhi said in the letter to the Law Ministry.
5. Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act, 2013
Maneka Gandhi also wrote to various chambers of commerce and industry, including the likes of FICCI, CII, Assocham and PhD, raising the issue of complaints received from women working in the private sector about the absence of Internal Complaint Committees in their organisations. Many members of Parliament have also personally raised their concern on this issue, Gandhi said.
In order to ensure that the rules laid down by the Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act are properly adhered to, she has asked them to furnish a compliance report on this issue every month, enabling them to take the necessary steps to ensure compliance. She intends to implement the same for state government offices as well.