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August 13, 2014

Do away with the crime of silence: Derek O`Brien in Rajya Sabha on crimes against women

Do away with the crime of silence: Derek O`Brien in Rajya Sabha on crimes against women

Trinamool Chief Whip in the Rajya Sabha, Derek O'Brien today spoke in the Parliament on the working of the Women and Child Development ministry. He highlighted the success of the Kanyashree scheme and asked the government to follow the examples of the States. He also suggested that there should be better implementation of the laws, more budgetary allocations and better coordination between HRD ministry, Health ministry and the Women and Child Development Ministry.
Here is the full transcript of his speech:

“Sir, I am a student of class XI at GardenReach N. Das Girls' High School; my father is a tailor. Last few years I havereceiving Rs 500 every year and when I turn 18 years old, two years from now, Iwill receive Rs 25,000.”

Sir, this is the story of one of 12 lakhgirls who are between the age of thirteen and eighteen and have registeredthemselves in Bengal for a scheme called 'Kanyashree'.'Kanyashree' is a successful schemebecause

a)     It stops girls from dropping out of school

b)     It delays marriage and

c)      It puts the money (Rs 500 – Rs 25000) to the bank account

The success of the pilot project is impressive and now with twelve lakh girls registered, the United Nations arepartnering with the West Bengal government for the implementation of'Kanyashree' scheme. Tomorrow, August 14, 2014 is the first 'Kanyashree Dibas' which will becelebrated in Bengal. The reason I share this story is because 'Beti Bachao Beti Padao' scheme is asimilar sounding scheme. We have no issue with that. We have given you oneexample for Bengal. There are others, for example, 'Swabalamban' where the residents of the Government or NGO homes arebeing recruited into ICDS projects and another scheme 'Sukanya' where the trafficking welfare homes for victims of torturego to the state research centre. These are some examples and I believe thatthese examples are not only in Bengal but in Maharashtra, in Tamil Nadu, inKerala and everywhere in the country. So the first focus of the Ministry shouldbe to examine those schemes which have been piloted, which have been rolledout, which have been successful on the ground. Changing the name doesn't matterbut use these schemes which the states have used. You have spoken a lot aboutthe cooperative federalism; this is one very good example of ready-madecooperative federalism at work.

Sir, the first point I wish to make todayis about implementation of existing laws. I only want to bring to your notice twoexamples because I think we have enough laws but no action. The first exampleis the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. Now, there are notenough Protection Officers who are needed to be placed under this Act. You haveto have Protection Officers. Six states have already got protections officers;twenty states do not have Protection Officers. I am very proud that Bengal isone of the six. The broader picture here is that please do not let the DistrictsMagistrates in here because the Districts Magistrates have other roles. Use theProtection Officers who will be full time officers to implement a very goodlaw.

The second point is about the problem ofimplementation of – the Minister seriously needs to look at this – Protectionof Children from Sexual Offence Act and the sexual harassment in the workplace. These are good laws but the Ministry must look into the implementation.

The third point, which in fact the speakerfrom BJP touched upon, is the budgetary allocation. In 2013-14 the budgetaryallocation originally is Rs 215 crore and in the revised estimate it came downto Rs 480 crore. The point that I am trying to make is due to the delay in therelease of funds, the expenditure gets stuck and the action doesn't reallyhappen as per the Annual Action Plan. So the money is there, the revised budgetestimate has come but eventually that figure is sometimes is one third of theoriginal allocation.

The fourth point I am going to make islinked with the third point. I would like to talk about the convergence of differentschemes. The basic concept of NationalMission for Empowerment of Women was that you converge a lot of women-centricschemes so they become like a whole, so you don't go piecemeal. Fundutilization there in 2010-11 was zero. Now let me give you last one year's figures.Revised allocation for 2012-13 was Rs 22 crore, got Rs 10 crore, and utilizedRs 8 crore. Sir, here I would request the minister, through you, to look at therecommendations of the Standing Committee on National Mission for Empowermentof Women so that this synergy can happen in a good way. And one simple way tomake this synergy happen is to initiate, we suggest from the TrinamoolCongress, pilot convergence schemes (choose one or two schemes) to see how thisworks so you can have proper schemes rolled out in the future.

Sir, the fifth point:the biggest crime in the world is not bloodshed, it's not bigotry. The mostdisgraceful, unforgiving, shameful, tragic crime is the crime of silence. Wedon't believe rapes happen overnight. The crime of silence which I am referringto is in an urban situation or in a rural situation. Let me give you the urbansituation. That's where, if I may use the term, the first mini-rape takesplace: in a bus, in a train, where a man tries to touch a woman badly in the morning.He does it five days in a row on the bus while going to office. Nobody objects.The lady is so scared, and nobody in the bus knows. She thinks if she brings itup in the bus no one will support her. So what does the man do? He moves on tostage two. Now he tries something on the way back to work the next day. Likethis it carries on and on. It can happen to a woman, it can happen to a child.I was molested in a bus when I was 11 years old. I've spoken about this onnational television, and I want to talk about this today. When I was travellingback in short pants and somebody at the back did something to me, and I hadsperm on my shorts. And I was too scared, coming from a progressive family, togo and tell my parents that. This is the crime, the tragic crime of silence. Soif we really want to make a change we need to look at this right at the bottomof the pyramid. We need to get the message out that if someone in the urbansituation is hurt in a bus, if she screams, everyone needs to feel strong enoughto come and support her.

In a rural situationit's very different. When a woman goes to the toilet, she can be violated; alot has been spoken about this. I've seen this in front of my eyes in 2008, inthe great Singur agitation. Tapasi Malik, who is today considered a martyr inBengal for the cause she stood up for, lost her life. Why? Because she went at4.30 in the morning, before dawn, to an open toilet. Sir, what we do in thebus, or if we close all the toilets we are not going to solve this problem,which is a much bigger problem, Sir. And I must make a slight digression herewith your permission, Sir. I notice that in the Rajya Sabha, there are 29people speaking on this subject, of which 13 are ladies, 16 are men. I thinkthis is good because men need to speak more on this subject, because they arethe cause of all these problems. In the Lok Sabha, I am told, 80% of the peoplewho spoke, with all due respect to them, were ladies and 20% were men.

I want to come back tothis other big point about where do we address this point. We have to addressthis at four levels, at four places. Because otherwise, these arguments becometoo complicated and we don't really realise where they start and where theyfinish. The four levels are S, H, I, P – school, home, institution, publicplace. If we look at everything and put it under these four heads, we wouldhave been going in the right direction.

Sir, not a veryinteresting, and a very sad statistic: we in India have killed more female fetusesin the last 10 years than the population of Greece and Sweden put together.Now, there are enough laws in place, but in the last 20 years only 143 peoplehave been convicted. The law is there but we need to get this law to work in amore useful manner. And here I have two suggestions, both related to the Womenand Child Development Ministry working closely in conjunction with two otherministries. For female feticide, it is very important that the Women and ChildWelfare Department works along with the Health Department. I am told, in one ortwo states, not mine though, have a software where, when the ultra-sonographyis done, it gets registered as a female, so a doctor can't tinker around. Thesecond one is, where I suggest you work closely with the HRD Department so wewill not have repeats of what happened in Bangalore or what is happening acrossthe country. This is a subject close to my heart, where in schools children arebeing abused. For example, if a ministry wants to send out an advisory toschools, have female security guards in a girls' school. Who does this? WillWomen and Child do this, or will the HRD ministry do this? So this is my lastsuggestion, to bring in co-ordination, make the co-ordination better.

Sir, to sum up, I amleaving you behind with five or six thoughts. One, use the ideas which havebeen used by theStates, study those ideas, implement them at the nationallevel. Two, ensure that laws are implemented better. I will give you the exampleof the Protection Officer. Three, closer co-ordination between the HRDministry, the Health ministry and the Women and Child Developmentministry.Four, the point I made about budgetary convergence and budgetary allocation.Five, the tragic crime of silence. With those words, Sir, I wish to end so thatmore Halima Khatoons can live happier lives across our nation.

Thank you, Sir.