50 percent women married as minors: Experts

Nearly 50 percent of marriages in India involve minors – children under the age of 18 years, thanks to the poor implementation of the law, experts said Monday.

‘The consequence of child marriage is in conflict with the development aspirations of the country,’ Ranjana Kumari, president of the WomenPowerConnect (WPC), said at a national workshop on gender inequalities.

She was referring to the National Family Health Survey 3, which has reported that 45 percent women aged 20-24 years were already married before the age of 18 years.

‘It (child marriage) perpetuates health problems, marital violence, poverty and economic inequality, lack of education and awareness, lack of reproductive choice and access to measures of fertility management,’ she stressed.

‘It is important to know that the high economic growth that we are boasting about is not directly leading to better social development due to practices like child marriage, domestic violence and female foeticide still plaguing our country,’ added Kumari.

According to National Family Health Survey 3, the median age at first marriage for women between the age 25 -49 years was 16.8 years, while that for men in the same age group was 22.7 years.

The seminar highlighted ways to improve implementation of Prohibition of Child marriage Act (PCMA) 2006, domestic violence act and the need to ensure passage of women’s reservation bill.

Under the law, a child or minor is a person up to 18 years in the case of girls and 21 years in the case of boys.

Uphold dignity of women, Delhi Police told

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has censured Delhi Police over a girl with a plastered leg being dragged in a court complex, saying the dignity of women must be upheld.

‘The commission has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports alleging that a young girl having plaster in her leg was dragged by police personnel in a ghastly manner, instead of using a wheelchair at the Karkardooma court premises in Delhi,’ an NHRC statement said.

Upholding the dignity and rights of women is of prime importance and the state functionaries have to lead by example in this endeavour, the commission noted.

‘Women’s rights and their dignity cannot be compromised under any circumstances and if the contents of media reports are true, then it’s a serious issue of human rights violation of the young girl,’ the statement said.

The commission has issued a notice to Delhi Police Commissioner B.K. Gupta, calling for a report in the matter within two weeks.

Merit seat reserved for women can be given to men: Court

If requisite merit is not available for the seats reserved for women, the seat can be given to male candidates, the Gujarat High Court has ruled.

 Justice Jayant Patel and Justice J.C. Upadhayaya has ruled that reservation for women is horizontal and not vertical.

 ‘In respect of seats for women, the merit will be at par with the male candidates. Under these circumstances, if the requisite merit is not available, the conversion of posts, reserved for women, in the respective category cannot be said to be arbitrary,’ the court noted in an order made available Wednesday.

 The court ruling came on a petition by Ruksana Ahmedkhan Nagori challenging a single bench order which rejected her plea regarding the test she took for a government job.

 The division bench rejected the petitioner’s counsel Gunvant Thakkar’s contention that when a post was reserved for female candidates for the purpose of selection, the select-list was required to be prepared accordingly.

 He contended that the seats of the women candidates remained unfilled and the government converted these posts for male candidates, which was arbitrary.

 Thakkar said Nagori had good marks in the written test, but not in the viva voce (oral interview) and special reasons have to be mentioned for the same. Since no reason was given, the action of the authorities was illegal.

The court said it cannot order for reassessment unless bias or prejudice is alleged with cogent reliable material and that there was no allegation of any bias or prejudice in the petition.

Respect women, says Delhi government posters

In the wake of rising crime against women, the Delhi government has decided to launch a poster campaign in the city asking people to respect women, an official said Wednesday.

“Delhi’s information department has finalised a plan in this regard and it will be implemented in two or three days. This has been done at the insistence of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit,” the official added.

The posters, both in English and Hindi, will be pasted on Delhi Transport Corporation buses and published in newspapers.

The campaign will be launched under Stree Shakti project of the state government, a women empowerment initiative.

Delhi has seen a number of crimes against women in the past few days, triggering a huge outcry over the issue of safety of women in the city.

An 18-year-old girl was abducted and raped in a moving vehicle by two men after she protested their lewd remarks in Sultanpuri area late Saturday.

The incident came days after a 30-year-old BPO employee was abducted and raped by four men in south Delhi and a 22-year-old woman was abducted and raped by six men in northeast Delhi.

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit Monday held a meeting with top officials, including the city police chief, and assured the people of major measures to make the capital a safe place.

Delhi Police have also issued notices to all BPOs, and corporate and media houses to ensure that women employees in night shifts are picked up from and dropped at their doorstep.

UN campaign to protect Delhi women from violence

The United Nations Development Fund for Women (Unifem) Monday launched a programme here with the aim of checking violence against women and adolescent girls in public space. Delhi is one of the five cities across the world selected for the ‘Safe Cities’ programme.

The other four cities where the programme, ‘Global Safe Cities Free of Violence Against Women and Girls’, will be launched are Quito in Ecuador, Cairo in Egypt, Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea and Kigali in Rwanda.As per the model, each city will adopt different and new strategies to check cases of violence against women and young girls.

Unifem executive director Ines Alberdi said: ‘Everyday women and adolescent girls face sexual harassment and violence as they go about their daily routines – whether on the streets, in buses and trains, or in their own neighbourhoods.”This limits their freedom and rights to education, work, recreation and participation in political life. Violence against women in their private domain, in their homes is recognised as a violation of human rights. But violence in public space remains a neglected issue,’ she added.

According to Alberdi, the programme has got the support of local authorities, NGOs and agencies involved in ending gender based violence, community safety, urban planning and development in all the target cities. It will especially focus on the slum areas and poorest urban dwellers.

‘Collecting reliable data will be an important part of the Safe Cities programme, because the lack of data on the cases of violence against women in public space hides the problems and hampers the solution process,’ she said.

Implementation of the programme will see training of urban planners, grassroots NGO workers and police, special audits to identify the unsafe places, mass media campaigns for zero tolerance for violence against women and activities to engage local communities, including men.

The Safe Cities programme has been inspired by a similar Unifem initiative in Latin America in 2004. This model will be offered for adaptation to other cities across the world.According to global statistics compiled by Unifem, violence accounts for at least 25-30 percent of urban crime and women are twice as likely to be victims of violent aggression as men.

In 2010, as many as 82 percent of women in Delhi reported buses were the most unsafe public spaces in the city.A survey conducted in the capital said women found street sides unsafe followed by markets and parks. Alcoholism among men in slums and the fringe areas of the city contributed to the problem.

Less than 1 percent victims of sexual abuse filed official cases, though an increasing number reported gender abuse either at home or to spouses in the capital.The Unifem campaign will be executed at the micro-level in the capital by an NGO, Jagori.’In the next stage, it will move to panchayats in villages to empower women to counter gender crimes,’ said Anne F. Stenhammer, regional programme director of Unifem.

‘Rural women help Himachal fight open defecation’

Rural women in Himachal Pradesh have emerged as the driving force behind wiping out the menace of open defecation, a global expert said here Sunday.

‘The women have proved themselves as instrumental towards bringing about behavioural changes in the orthodox Indian society about sanitation and hygiene,’ said Christopher Juan Costain, regional team leader of Water Sanitation Programme of South Asia.

Addressing the concluding session of a three-day workshop here on ‘Sustainability and Rural Sanitation Initiatives in India’, he said the state has become a role model for other states in India to imbibe the spirit of women empowerment.

He said Himachal Pradesh has also set an example for others in areas like leadership of both government and non-government functionaries and motivation coupled with effective role of the panchayati raj institutions for making the total sanitation campaign a grand success.

Kamal Kar, head of Community Led Total Sanitation foundation of Kolkata, said the awareness level of people of Himachal Pradesh to keep their surroundings clean was extremely high.

The state’s gram panchayats (village councils) have been playing a pivotal role in achieving the targets under the central government’s total sanitation campaign for villages, he said.

Himachal Pradesh is poised to become totally free of open defecation by this year-end.

Spread awareness on schemes for needy women, court tells Delhi

Taking note of a destitute woman’s death after she gave birth to a baby on a pavement here in July, the Delhi High Court Wednesday suggested to the Delhi government to spread awareness about welfare schemes meant for needy women.

The bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Manmohan asked the government to explore the possibility of having a separate shelter home for destitute pregnant women and lactating mothers.

The government was also asked to see if any helpline telephone number could be started for such special homes. ‘In the aforesaid shelter homes, it has also to be seen that proper medical facilities are available,’ suggested the bench.

The court said despite various government welfare schemes, people have not benefited from these.

‘For such schemes, the government must disseminate information about the shelter homes or other schemes through radio and television in Hindi,’ said the court.

‘The government should also look whether mobile medical units can be used to help the destitute. It should make an endeavour to involve NGOs,’ the bench said.

Meanwhile, the government informed the court that the baby girl rescued from a pavement in Connaught Place in July was in good health and the process of her adoption had been initiated.

The bench asked the government to submit their report within four weeks. The next date of hearing is Dec 15.

The court had earlier asked the government to allow Ritu Arthur Frederick, a garment shop owner who rescued the baby girl, to meet her for three days in a week at her foster home in Gole Market.

Rights of women in live-in relations under court lens

The Supreme Court Wednesday reserved its verdict on the question whether a woman in a live-in relationship or under the mistaken belief of being the wife of an already married man was entitled to maintenance.

The court will also interpret the provision of the Protection of Woman from Domestic Violence law which talks about live-in relationship in the ‘nature of marriage’.

Senior counsel and amicus curiae Jayant Bhushan told the court that at the time of passing the domestic violence law, parliament was told that this provision of the law would not extend an aggrieved woman the right to the property of her live in partner.

However, the court said that the act was silent on the aspect of maintenance.

‘It would be against the public policy and would demolish the institution of marriage if we award maintenance in the case of assumed marriage when the first marriage is surviving,’ an apex court bench of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice T.S. Thakur said.

The court reserved its order in a case where D. Velusamy has challenged an order of the Madras High Court directing him to pay maintenance of Rs.500 per month to his ‘second wife’ D. Patchaiammal. Velusamy allegedly married Patchaiammal when his first marriage was still intact.

The court said that ‘If your relationship is just for sex then it is not a marriage. It (marriage) is love and affection, mutual respect, regard, sacrifice and give and take,’ Justice Katju said.

The court also examined the question that if the ‘other’ woman was granted maintenance then she would also stake claim to her share in the man’s family pension in a possible eventuality.

Justice Thakur posed the question ‘if there was need for proceedings of the court to declare ‘second marriage’ void or it is presumed to be void (in the wake of first marriage surviving)’.

Bhushan told the court that such live-in relationship could be covered by the common law that was sill prevalent in 11 states of America and in most of Canada. The common law is not recognized in England.

Amicus curiae said that live-in relationship under the common law had no sanction of authorities but the couple present themselves as spouse to the world. This is a quasi judicial marriage, he told the court.

Bhushan also told the court that the law commission in Britain has recommended statutory provisions recognizing co-habitation that extends to three to five years. He said that this recommendation has yet to be acted upon.

Court seeks answers on permanent service for women army officers

The Supreme Court Monday questioned the central government over the army’s branches, other than those dealing with education and legal matters, in which women officers could be give permanent commission.

An apex court bench of Justice J.M. Panchal and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra questioned the government after it was told that there were several other areas where women officers, who were initially taken on short service commission, could be absorbed on permanent commission.

The court was hearing a matter related to contempt proceedings ordered by the Delhi High Court against the government

The apex court made it clear that it had only stayed the contempt proceedings that were initiated by the high court for non-implementation of its order of extending permanent commission to women officers.

The court said that it had not stayed the operation of the high court’s verdict directing the central government to extend permanent commission to short service commission women officers in non-combatant areas.

The court said this when it was told that more and more women officers were retiring for want of extension.

The court was told that these officers could not be given the benefit of extension of service till the court decided the matter.

The high court had directed extension of permanent commission to women officers serving in various corps in the country’s armed forces.

However, because of a delay in implementation of the high court verdict the army authorities attracted the contempt of court proceedings. This was subsequently stayed by the Supreme Court.

In the course of the earlier hearing of the case, the army gave in and said that it would give permanent commission to women officers in education corps and the legal branch but it did not extend it to other branches.

Crime against women rising in India: NCW member

A case of violence against a woman is registered in India every three minutes and every 29 minutes a woman is raped, National Commission for Women (NCW) member Wansuk Syiem said here Friday.

Citing National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, Syiem said: “Over 7,600 women are killed each year because their in-laws consider the dowry inadequate and a very small percentage of their murderers are brought to justice.”

“Everyday at least 50 cases of dowry-related violence are reported in India,” she said while addressing a conference on domestic violence titled “Save Home, Save Family”.

Syiem said that despite a number of laws, sensitive society, pro-active policing and holding of seminars and awareness programmes, nothing seems to be working at the ground level to check crimes against women.

“Women are seen as traitors by the family when they report any violence,” she said.

NCW joint secretary Sundari Subramanium Pujari said: “To check crime against women there are five pillars that must be pro-active. These are good laws, proper execution of laws, judiciary, civil societies and NGOs and media.”

“Education, empowerment and skill development of women are the vital tools to curb violence against women,” she suggested.

To deal with crimes against women, the Tripura government has set up help-desks in all 66 police stations across the northeastern state.

“The police department, in consultation with the law department and other stake holders, has short-listed cases involving crimes against women to be disposed off in fast track courts,” Tripura Inspector General of Police K. Nagraj told the gathering.

“Some exemplary punishment is necessary in some heinous crimes against women and these cases should be settled promptly,” he said.

Tripura Social Welfare Minister Bijita Nath inaugurated the day-long conference, where elected local-self government leaders, police officials, NGO representatives, women activists, educationists and social workers were present.