Guest Post by Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression
The elections in Delhi are approaching.
Violence, as well as discrimination against women, and sheer denial of women’s dignity and rights, has been a huge concern for Delhi’s citizens.
This is the time when women are looking towards the political parties, to see what place women’s rights and freedoms have on their agenda.
We are disturbed to see that while most parties pay lip service to the cause of women’s rights, they blithely field candidates accused of violence against women, and they play to the patriarchal gallery on a range of issues, ignoring the voices of the women’s movement.
We, the undersigned would like to put the following concerns on the agenda of the Delhi elections, and we ask the political parties contesting Delhi elections to respond to them with urgency and seriousness. We appeal to all women voters to place this charter before every candidate and every party campaigner, and ask them for a clear position on each of its points.
1. We are alarmed at the spiralling of communal violence towards the Delhi elections. We are shocked that, instead of nabbing those who are fuelling the violence in a planned way, the Delhi Police has instead beaten up and brutalised innocent women in Trilokpuri. Above all, we are appalled at the attempts to justify communal, caste, racial or homophobic/transphobic violence in the name of ‘protecting women’. We assert that women are invariably rendered most unsafe by such violence. We seek a commitment that no party will promote leaders – either as candidates or as campaigners – who are accused of stoking violence against women, as well as communal, caste, racial or homophobic/transphobic violence. Specifically, we do not want the notorious 1984 duo Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, we do not want to see Gugan Singh (who made communal speeches in Bawana) or Sunil Vaidya (who incited riots at Trilokpuri), or Somnath Bharti (charge-sheeted for racist and anti-women violence at Khirki) to be candidates or campaigners.
2. Women continue to be deeply unsafe in Delhi. We seek a commitment that parties and elected representatives will ensure accountability on part of the police in cases of violence against women. In this regard we seek that the Delhi Police set up a website where complaints can be made reporting inaction/lapses by police in cases of crimes against women, and we seek that personnel accused of such lapses be promptly booked. We also seek a commitment to set up sufficient one-stop crisis centres, shelters for battered women and night shelters, crèches, as well as counselling centres for survivors of gender violence. We also seek faster courts with an increased number of judges to ensure speedier and sure justice.
3. We are especially concerned for the fact that little children in Delhi’s slums are among the most vulnerable to sexual violence. In the poor areas of the city, we seek functional childcare centres where children of working parents can be safe. Homeless children and children within institutionalised homes are also extremely vulnerable, and measures for their protection need to be undertaken. We also seek urgent and specific measures to safeguard the needs and rights to safety and dignity of women and girls with disabilities.
4. To make our streets safer, we seek that city planning take into account women’s own experiences and needs. We especially need more toilets, a major surge in the fleet of DTC buses, and street lighting.
5. Discrimination and violence against working class women, as well as women from religious minorities and oppressed castes, women from the North Eastern states, as well as women foreign nationals who are guests in Delhi, is rampant and unconscionable. We need urgent corrective measures to be drawn up in consultation with these groups, and implemented. We call upon political parties and the new Government to ensure recognition and rights to transgenders, in view of the recent Supreme Court verdict. Community volunteers can be involved in gender-sensitisation campaigns and campaigns against gender discrimination, as well as communal, casteist, racial and other prejudices. Vigilantism and mob-justice must however be discouraged and sternly dealt with, rather than legitimised in the guise of “women’s security forces”.
5. We need the elected representatives and parties as well as the Government to promote a culture of gender equality, through sustained public education campaigns on women’s rights and freedom, as well as on respect for diversity and rights of vulnerable sections of people. School textbooks also need to incorporate material on sensitisation towards the rights of women, oppressed castes, as well as religious, racial and ethnic minorities.
6. We seek affordable, good quality education and healthcare for every person in Delhi, with special attention to removing the hurdles to girls’ education and ensuring the healthcare needs of women. We seek strict implementation of PCPNDT Act, to check the spate of sex-selective abortions.
7. We seek a commitment that within a month of assuming office, the new Government will ensure the constitution of Local Complaints Committees and District level Committees against sexual harassment are set up in accordance with law, guaranteeing that women in all workplaces, and unorganised and organised sectors of work have access to protection against sexual harassment.
8. We seek that activists from the women’s movement, rather than political nominees, be chosen to serve on the Delhi Commission for Women, which must be accountable and accessible to all.
9. We seek a commitment that every elected representative and every party will take measures to ensure equal pay for equal work, as well as safe and dignified work conditions for women in all sectors. Delhi has the lowest proportion of women workers among all Indian cities (a mere 10.6% female workforce participation rate as against a male participation rate of 53.1%). We want the new Government to create conditions that can draw more women into employment. We seek a commitment that within six months of assuming office the following laws will become a reality: recognition of a) home-based workers and b) domestic workers as ‘workers’, ensuring their registration as workers, minimum wages, dignified working conditions and social security such as provident fund, ESI, and pension.
10. We seek urgent measures to support couples who live together or marry in defiance of caste and community norms or prejudices against same-sex relationships. We would like to hear political parties in India’s capital city speak up and stand up against Section 377, against moral-policing of any kind, and uphold the fundamental right of women and all people to love and live in a manner of their choice.
Signed and endorsed:
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)
Prof. Uma Chakravarti, Academic, author of “Gendering Caste: Through a Feminist Lens”
Mary E. John, Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS)
Vrinda Grover, Advocate, Supreme Court
Sehba Taban, Janwadi Mahila Samiti, (JMS) Delhi
Deepti Sharma, Saheli Women’s Resource Centre
Kavita Krishnan, All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA)
Suneeta Dhar, activist
Madhu Bala, activist
Kalyani Menon-Sen, feminist activist, WSS
Madhu Bhaduri, former diplomat
Ayesha Kidwai, Professor, JNU
Binalakshmi Nepram, Northeast India Women Initiative For Peace(NEIWIP)
Nandini Rao, feminist activist, WSS
Ranjana Padhi, feminist activist, WSS
Vani Subramanian, Saheli
Shabnam Hashmi, ANHAD
Kiran Shaheen, activist and journalist
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Advocate
Urvashi Butalia, Zubaan