Interview/ Maneka Gandhi, minister for women and child development
What will be the focus of the new policy for women?
We are looking for perspectives of what women will need in the next 15-20 years. It is a challenge as we still have to deal with discrimination and the expectations of the emerging aspirational woman. All laws related to women are being looked at. We will soon roll out a draft, and NGOs and civil society will be invited to give their views.
How many women will be affected by the new policy?
The idea is to provide an enabling environment where every woman can hope to achieve her dream. Like, Beti Bachao Beti Padao, our greatest success so far.
When will the policy be rolled out?
Within six months. The high level committee report, for all intents and purposes, is the policy. It leads into programmes. I hope this policy guides government on women's welfare for the next two decades.
Are you looking at a new law on trafficking?
Yes, not just a new law, but ways to tackle it. Trafficking requires not only a legal framework, but also an institutional mechanism to implement the intent of the law. We are working with Bangladesh and Nepal, too. The new law is almost ready and we are looking for an institutional arrangement under the trafficking commissioner. We are focusing on trafficking of women and children.
Welfare versus rights. What is your view?
In every movement, there is a clash between welfare and rights. Welfare should be given priority till we can mature into rights.
About the controversy over your remarks on marital rape.
Unfortunately, my 'views' on the subject were the result of sending an unread, unstarred answer to Parliament. My fault. But my view is not that it should be condoned. Unfortunately, marital violence happens in India and worldwide. Marital rape is not just a simple act of sexual violence against the wife; it has other things associated with it like the denial of rights of the wife, economic violence and harassment for dowry.
These will invariably be associated or may indeed be the real cause of a wife alleging rape by husband. We already have the domestic violence act. We need to first understand why this act is not working, if that is the case. If we find that this act is not capable of providing justice in case of marital rape, we can go for reviewing the relevant sections of IPC [Indian Penal Code]. That is why the matter has been referred to the law commission.