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Oxfam India’s Recommendations for National Policy for Women
Oxfam India / Oxfam India
Oxfam India’s Recommendations for National Policy for Women 2016 (Draft)
Oxfam India welcomes the National Policy for Women 2016 (Draft) and appreciates the Ministry’s commitment to achieving the national and international commitments as stated in the Policy, especially the Sustainable Development Goals with the emphasis on poverty, inequality, and violence against women (Point 1.2). Women comprise half of the country’s population and efforts to achieve the SDGs would need urgent attention to the points raised in the Policy. Drastic socio-economic, political, and scientific changes are witnessed across the country in the past few decades and hence, a revision of the existing National Women Empowerment Policy 2001, was a need of the hour.
Additionally, we also welcome and appreciate the initiative of the Ministry in inviting comments from across the country on this draft Policy. We thank the Ministry and the Hon’ble Minister for giving us this opportunity to be able to provide some inputs based on Oxfam’s work on women’s rights and gender justice over the past three decades or so.
Oxfam welcomes many positive aspects elaborated in the draft Policy. To name a few:
1.The reiteration of the need to re-script women’s empowerment from a rights based approach (Point 1.11).
2.The special mention of the need to work with the specific issues of vulnerable and marginalized women in India. (Point 4 (x)).
3.The mention of 33 percent representation of women in state assemblies and parliament for without an enabling environment, much of the aspects of the draft Policy may not be addressed (Point 5.IV (i)).
The following are our Recommendations under the Sections covered in the Draft Policy:
(Section 3) Mission
•Section 3, Mission (page 3) need to be broader and not only specify it to “family, community, workplace and in governance”. These words should be replaced by “all spheres of life”.
(Section 4) Objectives
•Section 4, Objectives (page 3) should have a specific objective on “Improving women’s access to property and assets through strengthening policies, legislations and mind-sets”.
Priority Areas (Section 5): We have made recommendations under health including food security and nutrition, education, economy, enabling environment, environment and climate change and resource management.
(Section I) Health including food and nutrition
•Ensuring access to contraceptive services is an important issue, especially considering the repeated episodes of women’s deaths due to mass unsafe sterilisation in camps. In addition to this another important issue would be the violence and disrespect experienced by women in accessing these services.
•There is no mention of abortion services in the Policy. Discourses around women’s right to safe and respectable abortion should be encouraged.
•The front line health workers (ASHA, ANMs, Anganwadi workers) are women. Hence, their safety and security should be prioratised. They should be provided with adequate financial resources (timely payment, minimum salary) and also support systems to function effectively.
(Section II) Education
•The Central Advisory Board of Education Committee on Education has recommended the extension of Right to Education (RTE) from pre-primary to secondary education. This draft includes the pre-primary, but not considering the secondary. However, we would like to recommend its extension up to higher secondary.
•It is not possible to monitor the status of the education for each girl child to know whether they are in the system, without engaging ‘Panchayats’. As per Panchayati Raj Act, 1992 every panchayat has to maintain a register of all children in the villages. They can maintain the list and monitor the status of children, especially girls.
•Point ‘IV’ should also include residential hostels under different schemes, e.g. Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidhyalaya, Ashramshala etc. The cases of sexual violations are high and unreported in these institutions, which must be addressed.
•There should be clear provisions for education for girls and women living in institutions, under child protection mechanisms.
•Point ‘IX’ should include the facilitation of existing provisions of providing transport or escort facilities under RTE.
(Section III) Poverty, Agriculture, Industry, Labour and Employment (Skill development, Entrepreneurship)
•As access to property is a structural issue and main driver of women inequality, this needs emphasis in the Policy as an independent objective. All the measures mentioned related to this under Section III (page 7-9) should be moved under this. Though access to property has been taken under Section III in the Agriculture section, which is commendable, but this is an equal issue for the urban women as well, hence, this needs equal emphasis there as well.
•The specific recommendations for increasing women farmers access to property should include:
i.The Union Government should amend Indian Stamps Act 1899 and Indian Registration Act 1908, to exempt payment of stamp duty and registration fee in case of a single ownership being converted to joint ownership of husband and wife.
ii.The State Governments should strictly implement Hindu Succession Act (HSA) 2005, and clearly partition the land, giving exclusive and identifiable land titles to women.
iii.The State Governments should liberalise tenancy restrictions on crop land, with top priority to women and their collectives.
iv.The Union Government should institute a policy aimed at collecting sex disaggregated data on women’s land ownership of all kinds of land to inform appropriate policy making.
•The specific recommendation under Industry, Labour and Employment (Skill Development, Entrepreneurship) (page 9) includes:
i.The title should also include “Cottage Industry”.
ii.Forest dependent women, especially tribal women, be supported for non-timber forest based value chains and cottage industry through enabling minimum support price, skill development, market spaces and easy and affordable finance availability. Though this has been mentioned under climate change point (vii), page 16 but it is important that the focus on Cottage Industry and value chain based on Non Timber Forest Products is taken under Section III.
•(Section V) Violence against Women
i.Addressing violence against women and girls (VAWG) as a cross cutting issue throughout the Policy: Oxfam India recommends that all sectors including education, health, agriculture, industry, environment should have a separate explicit analysis of gender based discrimination and violence as an integral part of each sector. For each sector, it is necessary that steps are taken for making spaces safer and free of discrimination and violence.
ii.The need for valid and recent data on aspect related to women and girls is of prime importance to be able to develop and implement thematic policies and programmes related to women and girls. This becomes more important in the case of VAWG, particularly domestic violence, as the data related to the prevalence and acceptance of violence is scant. In this regard, Oxfam appreciates the mention of the need to work on addressing discriminatory societal attitudes that may underpin domestic violence (Point 1.5 and 4 (vii)). This is an area that Oxfam would like to direct its efforts in the coming years.
iii.Ensuring that adequate budgets are allocated and utilised to laws that are meant to address VAWG in its many forms. For example, the women’s movement has been advocating for an adequate allocation for the implementation of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) 2005. In 2016-17 Central budget, there has been zero allocation for the implementation of this Act. With the financial devolution to the states, it is expected that states would allocated for its implementation. But in the absence of minimum benchmarks that are developed and shared by the Centre, there would be many gaps in the implementation by the states. This would be equally true for the implementation of other pro-women laws as well.
iv.Better monitoring and evaluation of the laws has been an area of concern. With the lack of clarity in terms of reporting, the onus of collecting relevant data is often lost. There needs to be discussion and debate on the evaluation of the implementation of laws for the better enforcement of these laws. For example, 2016 is the tenth year since the enactment of the PWDVA 2005. For the past three years there has been no evaluation of the law.
v.Convergence of ministries towards eliminating violence against women and girls: There is a need that every Ministry and Department converge together and work towards ending VAWG. Seeing VAWG in isolation might not be an ideal way of seeing it and it is required that all the Ministries and Departments work in a coordinated manner to address the issue.
vi.Sensitisation and training of stake holders Every stakeholder handling VAWG issues should be sensitised and trained from a gender perspective. In most of the cases when women are charged with allegations of misusing pro-women laws (for example Section 498(A) of the Indian Penal Code), the underlying cause has been that the advocates and lawyers are not counselling them properly and are not giving them the right direction on how to deal with her situation. Periodic trainings and workshops for the judiciary as well as the prosecutors dealing with issues of trafficking is also recommended.
Apart from the above mentioned general recommendations under VAWG, we would like to place issue specific recommendations drawn from our programmes in five states of India.
Specific Recommendations (Section V) Violence Against Women
We would recommend to have sub sections on domestic violence and child marriage under the section on violence against women.
Oxfam has also developed a specific Charter of Demands for the better implementation of the relevant Act. In addition to the points provided in the Charter of Demands, there are some more points:
•Speeding the processes for the rolling out of the universal helpline number for women.
•Coordination between Ministry of Women and Child and State Women and Child Departments should be strengthened for more accountability in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the PWDVA 2005. There will be effective coordination between ministries of law, home affairs, health and women and child for proper implementation of the legislation.
•The Ministry of Women and Child should issue protocols and guidelines to states to ensure convergence of various stakeholders in the implementation of the Act.
•The State Governments should ensure appointment of full time independent Protection Officers at the block level with a bench mark qualification; list, notify and create public awareness of the service providers and shelter homes (Government and Private) through State Women and Child Departments; improve the provisioning of physical infrastructure and ensure the safety and security of women survivors and their children in One Stop Crisis Centres.
•One Stop Crisis Centres should be set up in each district.
•Shelter Homes should be provided with adequate and safe facilities for survivors of domestic violence and their children. In order to ensure more safe spaces for women facing domestic violence, it is important that the number of shelter homes are increased across the country.
•Oxfam welcomes the point to improve the quality of the state run shelter homes for survivors of violence.
•Convergence workshops with all stakeholders at the district level and periodic orientation and refresher drives for the stakeholders on their roles and responsibilities should be organized.
•Central Government should ensure in setting bench marks for states in terms of budgetary allocation, release and utilization of funds with clear specification of purpose.
•The periodic monitoring and evaluation reports on the implementation of the Act will be published by the Central Government.
•Universalise secondary schooling and build residential schools and provide incentives to poorest girls including those belonging to the Backward Classes as a measure for stopping child marriage.
•The State Governments should ensure that district committees are formed to monitor cases of child marriage.
•There should be a hotline number to report cases of child marriage so as to ensure prompt action.
•Central Government guidelines for monitoring and evaluation and such other tools need to be developed for the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) 2006 to ensure that the gaps in implementation is addressed.
•PCMA must make child marriages illegal and void.
•It must address the inconsistencies in various laws dealing with age of consent.
•A National Action Plan to prevent child marriages was drafted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2013 which is not finalized yet. There is a need for the Ministry to finalise it at the earliest and all States should be asked to adhere to the Action Plan which will help to prevent cases of child marriage.
•Through the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign and the implementation of other legislations like the RTE Act, efforts should be made to prevent drop outs of girls from school. Limited educational opportunities for girls, especially in rural areas, also increases vulnerability to child marriage.
•States should undertake capacity building initiatives for office bearers and greater awareness campaigns among community on the legislation.
(Section VI and VII) Disaster Management and Climate Change and WASH
•Overall gender sensitivity in disaster management and climate change is very briefly mentioned in the Policy. The sections are not elaborate enough to cover all the critical gender related issues.
•Though the Policy identifies 7 priority areas including health, food security and nutrition, violence against women and climate change, drinking water and sanitation, the Policy failed to look into these subjects from a disaster management perspective. In fact, disaster management itself gets a very brief mention in the document. Women are differently affected in emergencies. Their familial responsibilities are magnified and expanded by the onset of a disaster or emergency with significantly less support and resources. However, women’s participation in decision-making on disaster preparedness is very low at the local and district level. The Policy should have also looked into the relevant priority areas from the disaster management perspective. When the National Disaster Management Act, 2009 has not covered the women related issues more elaborately, the National Women Policy is an opportunity to bring the required attention back by addressing the critical needs of women during emergencies.
•Section 7.7 and Section 7.7 (ii) should include measuring impact of environmental disasters on women. This section should elaborate more other natural and man-made disasters as well including the conflict where women are often victimised. Gender based evidences should also be generated for post disaster situations covering critical areas such as human trafficking, maternal mortality in disaster hit areas etc.
•In Section 5.I (XVIII), the Policy does not give specific details on how Self Help Groups managed grain banks will ensure uninterrupted supply of food during emergencies.
•In Section VII (ii) – The need for formulating holistic gender specific disaster management strategies is reaffirmed. However, the Policy does not elaborate on the departmental responsibilities and action plan to actualise this.
•In Section VII - on climate change, the Policy acknowledges that disasters have different impact on women and they are often side-lined at various levels of risk management. However, the Policy is silent on how women representation can be improved at various risk management authorities.
•The section misses on the critical area of gender and climate change induced fragilities and risks such as the food and water insecurity, distressed migration, conflict etc. and also has not elaborated on specific risk reduction areas. The overall section on climate change is too brief to lead to a conclusive action plan.
•Section VI (iv) the Policy gives a suggestive role of women in community on drinking water and public health but is absolutely silent about the role of Government and departments. It has covered the menstrual hygiene issues of adolescent girls in schools. However, the Policy should also cover the water and sanitation in emergencies. This is a critical area which has adverse impacts on women and therefore should be the part of Policy.
Specific recommendations under Environment and Climate Change
i.State Action Plans on Climate Change should mainstream gender concerns and budgetary allocation under same should also target women specifically.
ii.Women technicians in rural areas should be trained for renewable energy. This could be added to point (v), page 16.
iii.Measures should be taken to prepare a national adaptation plan from gender lens, incorporating required measures for building resilience of women to cope up with Climate Change.
Section 7 (7.4) Advocacy and Stakeholder partnerships and Section 8 (v) Resource Management
•The Policy talks about ear-marking Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds for women's empowerment. This indicates that the responsibility of the business is just to spend money on women's empowerment. Instead of CSR funding, the focus should be on integration of the Policy with National Voluntary Guidelines for Social, Environment and Economic Responsibilities of business. This should ensure that Ministry of WCD works with Ministry of Corporate Affairs on ensuring that companies comply with this policy in their workplace, supply chain and communities.
•The Policy should be linked to the Women's Empowerment Principles (WEP) developed by UN Women and Global Compact. The WEPs are signed by CEOs of companies. A similar mechanism can be adopted for the role of Indian companies for implementing this Policy.
Oxfam India’s Second Round Recommendations for National Policy for Women 2016 (Draft)
Recommendation 1: Socially disaggregated data to analyse the inequalities amongst the different categories of women. The findings will contribute to tailoring the polices and strategies to specifically address the multidimensional inequalities in terms of class, caste, ethnicity, religion and geography.
Violence against women and girls is sustained through different factors interacting within different levels of society or the ‘social ecology’. Individual factors, such as inequitable gender attitudes condoning violence against women and girls; Social factors, such as harmful social and gender norms; Material realities, such as household poverty and lack of economic opportunities for women and girls and weak infrastructure; and Structural forces, such as conflict, weak or discriminatory legal and institutional frameworks. However, when social norms hold in place a certain behaviour, the collective behaviour is unlikely to change without addressing social motivations. Therefore, the social factors act as a ‘brake on social change’.
Recommendation 2: Engaging with different stakeholders in promoting positive collective behavioural change. This will contribute to enhancing the awareness, assertion, accessibility, implementation and accountability of schemes/programmes in addressing violence against women and girls.
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