//BUT PROMOTE EVERY HOUSEWIVE AS A PROSTTUTE, saying wife has right to enjoy outside of marriage — eDitor
New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) India will not consider legalising commercial sex or giving licences to brothels, Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury has said.
“I am ready to legalise brothels or red light areas if the sex workers say their decision is informed. In most cases their choice is not informed but is forced due to poverty or other reasons,” Chowdhury said.
“Many sex workers ask me why I am withholding this issue. But I patiently listen to them and, in turn, ask them whether they would allow their daughters to enter the trade. The answer has always been a complete silence – and they drop their demands,” Chowdhury told IANS on the sidelines of a human trafficking conference.
The Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Women & Child Development, Smt. Renuka Chowdhury lighting the lamp at the inauguration at a workshop on female foeticide during the celebration of international women day.
The conference was organised by the UN office on Drugs and Crime along with the ministry of women and child development ahead of the International Women’s Day March 8.
The minister said her government has no intention of legalising or licensing brothels, but would remain committed to combating human trafficking, especially of women and children.
Human trafficking means recruitment, transport, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people by means of threat, use of force or other forms of coercion like abduction for the purpose of exploitation.
According to UN estimates, approximately 150,000 people are trafficked within South Asia annually, with children and young women being lured from their homes with promises of a good job, good marriage or stardom in the entertainment industry.
Many are forced into prostitution or slavery where they suffer unspeakable indignities and hardship.
Organisations like the Bhartiya Patita Uddhar Sabha have been demanding the legalisation of commercial sex workers since 1984.
Khairati Lal Bhola, president of the Sabha, said: “The government must accept this demand for at least the better health and education of the 5.4 million children of sex workers.”
Bhola said a survey conducted during 1990-96 revealed that there were more than 7.5 million call girls, 2.38 million prostitutes, 1,100 red light areas and 300,000 brothels across the country.
Now, more than a decade later, the numbers has gone up manifold and the condition of sex workers is still vulnerable, especially due to the threat of diseases like AIDS.
Pressing for the need to legalise prostitution, he said: “Not only will the government earn a tax on their income, it will help in chucking out agents, middlemen, goons and corrupt police officials who take hafta (protection money) from them.
“Sex workers can earn more to provide education to their children, who can be prevented from inheriting their mother’s profession.”
Chowdhury, however, said human trafficking of women largely depends on the principle of demand and supply.
“My government is planning to bring amendments to the existing Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and clients visiting brothels would be penalised,” she said.
Asked why the government was not directing police to clamp down on red light areas in the country, the minister said: “It is feared that it may spread to residential colonies if we take such measures in the present scenario. After analysing the consequences, we will act accordingly,” she said.
Chowdhury appreciated the 24 percent increase in fund allocation to her ministry by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and said: “The government understands the needs and demands of women and is committed to its promise to empower them.”
Micro-finance schemes that allow women to borrow money from the government to start their own small industries of weaving, knitting, painting and others have yielded tremendous results, she said, adding that now the focus would be on encouraging women to do highly skilled jobs and earn more.
Patil congratulates women for shaping destiny of country
New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) Indian women were transforming the “social order into a more just and equal one”, President Pratibha Patil said Friday as she greeted women a day ahead of International Women’s Day.
India’s first woman president said successful women should assist in eliminating social evils like female foeticide, infanticide and dowry system and educate the underprivileged girl child.
“On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I extend my greetings and felicitations to all my sisters in their continuing role and their relentless effort in shaping the destiny of our country,” she said in her message.
International Women’s Day, which will be observed Saturday, is a global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women.
Highlighting the role of the women in the freedom movement, Patil said: “Our women folk inspired by Mahatma Gandhi came out of their homes to take part in the freedom struggle.”
“Beginning with their determined efforts in the days before our freedom, today our women continue to strive to transform the social order into a more just and equal one.”
She said women continue to make their mark but should help in removing social evils from the country.
“Now, many gifted women are making their mark in their chosen professions and each one of them can assist in eliminating social evils like female foeticide, infanticide, dowry etc.
“They should come forward and help to educate the hapless underprivileged girl child. The empowerment of women is the most effective tool for development as well as poverty alleviation.”
Someday, there’ll be women combatants: Antony
New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) In a significant statement Friday, a day ahead of International Women’s Day, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said women could someday be inducted as combatants in the Indian armed forces.
“I’m sure that at some point of time it will happen,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a function organised by the Armed Forces Organ Retrieval and Transplantation Authority (AORTA) here.
On Wednesday, Antony had cited operational reasons to rule out inducting women as combatants into the three services.
“A study carried out by the services has recommended that women officers be excluded from induction in close combat arms where chances of physical contact with enemy are high,” the minister said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.
Antony’s statement Friday is a clear indication that the issue is far from closed.
Currently, women are eligible for permanent commissions in the medical, nursing and dental services of the armed forces. They are also eligible for short service commissions in these services as also in the support arms of the armed forces.
In this context, Antony noted that women were initially inducted in the medical streams of the armed forces in 1927.
“In 1992, they were inducted on five-year commissions (in the support arms). Then we raised this to 10 years and subsequently to 14 years.
“It’s an ongoing process. It is possible that some day women will be inducted in the combat arms,” Antony maintained.
The issue had blown up into a major controversy two years ago after the then Indian Army vice chief, Lt. Gen. S. Pattabhiraman, was quoted in his report as saying the forces “could do without” women.
Political parties and women’s organisations were quick to react, demanding that Pattabhiraman apologise and withdraw his remarks.
Pattabhiraman complied, adding for good measure that he had “been quoted out of context”.
Currently, 5,137 women officers serve in the armed forces. They include 4,101 in the Indian Army, 784 in the Indian Air Force (IAF), and 252 in the Indian Navy. This includes women granted permanent commissions in the Army Medical Corps and the Army Dental Corps and their equivalents in the other two services, as also in the Military Nursing Services.
In the army, women serve in support arms like the Corps of Signals, Army Ordinance Corps, the Corps of Electronic and Mechanical Engineers, and the Army Service Corps.
In the Indian Air Force, women are inducted in all streams barring the fighter stream. In the Indian Navy, there are restrictions on posting women officers aboard ships and submarines.
Most militaries worldwide induct women but only a few allow them to perform active combat roles. Among these countries are Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway and Switzerland.
Countries like Britain and Israel allow women to serve in combat arms positions like the artillery roles but exclude them from infantry units.
The US allows women in most combat flying positions.
Winds of change blow among rural Indian women
New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) Most of them are illiterate and many conform to the stereotypical image of the ghunghat-draping rural Indian woman. But they are the harbingers of change at the grassroots – raising their voice against alcoholism among men and for educating girls and delivering speedy justice.
Be it in Uttarakhand in the north or Gujarat in the west or Jharkhand in the east, this IANS correspondent came across the same story during her journeys in the country.
Shanti Devi, who took up a campaign against alcoholism, hails from a village in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand.
“We couldn’t tolerate that our hard earned money was being spent carelessly by our men on alcohol. It was becoming a serious problem. That’s why we decided to take up the campaign against alcoholism,” Shanti Devi told IANS.
“The problem of alcoholism was widespread in our region. So instead of just one village, we formed a federation of three groups called Chakdalar, Choti Nai and Chamma. More active participation by women was a solution to the problem,” she said.
The women raided liquor shops in their area and in the process were roughed up by some of the men.
“It was not easy raiding the liquor shops. We were often slapped and beaten up by the men. Fortunately, some men supported us and together we went on hunger strikes and took out campaigns to the streets shouting “Jua Sharab Band Karo”.
“We also approached the Block Development Officer to help us,” Shanti Devi, 40, said.
Radhika Devi, vice president of the Chakdalar group, is illiterate but when it comes to discussing issues that affect society and actually doing something about it, she never steps back.
“Most women in our groups have to face a lot of problems because of constraints from the family. But I have been lucky as my family always supported me and let me travel to tap my potential,” she said.
“As women community leaders, we are closer to the ground realities. That’s why we can assess the situation and come up with practical and creative solutions to problems.”
The women are now planning to improve the education scenario in their villages and ensure that girls go to the school.
In the Kutch district of Gujarat, where the literacy rate is as low as 64.06 percent for men and 40.89 percent for women according to the 1991 census, women have taken it upon themselves to educate their daughters.
The Kutchi women, who do embroidery and earn as much as their male counterparts, if not more, play a major role in taking all household decisions.
“The young girls go to school and are not taught the art of embroidery and making handicrafts. But once they attain puberty, they start doing so and drop out of school,” Natha Behn of the Ludiya village in Kutch said while smiling at her 14-year-old sister-in-law.
Pavitran Vittal, an official of the state’s tourism ministry, said that considering Kutch’s low literacy rate it was encouraging to see young girls going to school.
“People have to understand that it’s important for girls to complete their education, but this is the first step in the right direction. Considering that women have an important say in the family, this initiative by them is a ray of hope.
“Moreover, they make sure their daughters are capable of earning their own bread and butter. They are empowered,” Vittal told IANS, during one of the visits to the Kutch region early this year.
In Andhra Pradesh, Satyavathi, who is part of a women’s self-help group, spearheads the movement in her village to solve issues of land to the poor.
The group of 83 Scheduled Caste households that she is part of has been cultivating 54 acres of government land for more than two generations. Despite government rules that landless people in possession of government land should receive titles to the land, they had not received legal ownership.
“I raised the issue with paralegals who documented the issue and through our self-help group we submitted the issue to the district administration. The paralegals had to work hard to gain access to all the records.
“Finally in February last year all the 83 households received legal titles to the land,” she said.
“It feels good to bring about a change, no matter how big or small it may be,” Satyavathi added.
Nari Adalats are another institution through which rural women are making their presence felt. These are women’s courts that deliver speedy justice in tough cases like rape, child marriage and even divorce – mostly in just two weeks.
Madhu Lakra, a member of the Nari Adalat in Ranchi, Jharkhand, said stopping the marriage of a 12-year-old girl to an “aged” man who claimed to be a Maoist and putting a wealthy man behind bars after he raped a minor girl were her achievements in life.
“I have been hearing cases for the last two months and have solved at least 15 of them,” said Lakra, a postgraduate in Hindi from Ranchi University.
What started as a small gathering of rural women in Gujarat in 1995 has gained credibility over the years. Nari Adalats across India have solved over 23,000 cases so far.