Vol. XLIII No. 20 May 19, 2019
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Women Resolve to Fight for the Womens’ Charter

Mariam Dhawale

ON March 8, thousands of women took to the streets of Delhi marching from Mandi House to Parliament Street in solidarity with the International Day of the Women, which witnesses’ global participation. In the spirit of fighting back, thousands of women thronged the streets of Delhi, with a spectrum of demands, from safety and the right to live with dignity to minimum wages and fair compensation of their work. The larger message from the march was oriented towards highlighting the multitude of failures of the Modi government and the failures of the central government as far as the policies towards women are concerned and highlighting the womens’ charter.

Brinda Karat former leader of AIDWA and Mariam Dhawale general secretary of AIDWA participated in the march and addressed the women gathering at Parliament Street.

The foremost call was for a Women’s Charter for the ensuing parliamentary elections. The women called for unleashing the campaign towards a democratic and secular government to strengthen women’s struggle for equality and emancipation and highlighting the womens’ charter

The following are the major demands of the womens’ charter

POLITICAL RESERVATION

  • Enact the 33 per cent Women’s Reservation Bill to reserve one-third seats in Parliament and state assemblies for women immediately.
  • Remove all unconstitutional provisions in states preventing women from contesting in panchayat and municipal elections to ensure their participation in 50 per cent reservation in these decision-making bodies.

 FOOD SECURITY AND PRICE RISE

  •  Universalise the PDS to exclude only tax payers. Ensure a minimum entitlement of 35 kgs of food grains per household. Ensure ration cards to all, especially single women, unorganized sector workers, disabled, migrants and street dwellers.
  • Strengthen the PDS and provide pulses, sugar, tea, edible oil, salt, milk and vegetables at controlled prices through ration shops.
  • Remove the cap on number of domestic LPG cylinders available at subsidised prices. Ensure a minimum quota of at least 5 litres of kerosene per person at controlled prices through the PDS shops. Provide subsidised LPG for cooking mid day meals and at ICDS Centres.
  • Stop cash transfers, linkage of Aadhaar and biometric machines for availing of essential commodities especially food and fuel through the PDS.
  • Universalise the ICDS. Ensure hot cooked meals in ICDS, MDMS and other nutrition programs.

 

EMPLOYMENT AND WAGES

  • Remove the 100 workdays cap in the MNREGA. Revise work norms and ensure payment of minimum wages to women. Remove all backlogs on wages. Ensure implementation of crèches at worksites.
  • Enact an Urban Employment Guarantee Act.
  • Regularise ICDS, ASHA, mid day meal and other scheme workers with minimum wages pensions and social security benefits.
  • Universalise and implement the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act of 2008.
  • Implement a special protective legislation for agricultural workers for minimum and equal wages, maternity benefit and pensions and other social security for them.
  • Recognise working women in the organised and unorganised sector as independent economic units.
  • Ensure equal and index linked minimum wages of at least Rs 18,000 per month.
  • Implement a universal and mandatory child care scheme.
  • Set up committees and ensure implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act.
  • Include women’s Self Help Groups as part of priority credit sector and provide them with loans at four per cent.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

  • A minimum universal non-contributory publicly funded pension of Rs 2,000 per month for all women above the age of 55 years, all widows and all disabled women irrespective of age.
  • Increase public spending on education to six per cent and on health to five per cent of the GDP. 
  • Regulate and bring social control on private health services. Promote universal and free public health care for all. 
  • Regulate and monitor clinical trials.
  • Enact a central law to provide free and compulsory education in the age group 0-18 years, with special emphasis on the girl child.
  • Remove the two child norm. Give priority to single women, SC, ST, minority women headed households and disabled women in all welfare schemes. Ensure rehabilitation of women and children in households affected by suicides of farmers, handloom workers, agricultural workers, etc.

RESOURCE MOBILISATION AND BUDGETARY ALLOCATIONS

  • Increase substantially public expenditure on economic and social development programmes for the people, maintain integrity and ensure full utilisation of allocated resources, stop budget cuts on pro-people works.
  • Provide central budgetary support for the effective implementation of the PWDV Act, anti-Sexual Harassment Act, Criminal Law Amendment Act and for schemes to support survivors of crimes against women, particularly sexual assault, acid attack, honour crimes and sectarian violence.
  • Stop proliferation of liquor vends as a source of revenue mobilisation. 
  • Ensure that all ministries and departments effectively allocate at least one third of total budget for women. Ensure a minimum of 30 per cent allocations for women within schemes for SC, ST, de-notified tribes, minorities and other socially deprived groups.  Ensure that allocations for sub-plans for minorities, dalits and tribals are not diverted.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND LEGAL ISSUES

  • Implement all the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee report. Include sexual violence against women from SC, ST and minority communities as aggravated sexual assault. Make marital rape an offence. Safeguard Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Provide central budgetary support for the effective implementation of the PWDV Act, anti-Sexual Harassment Act and schemes to support survivors of crimes against women, particularly sexual assault, acid attack, honour crimes and sectarian violence.
  • Fast track all cases of violence against women within a legally bound period of time.
  • Stringent implementation of the PcPNDT Act. Safeguard women’s right to safe abortion.
  • Protect young couples in a relationship and their right to choose a partner. Enact a comprehensive stand-alone law to deal with crimes in the name of “Honour” and to regulate khap panchayats.
  • Amend the criminal law so that the statutory rape provision does not apply in consensual sexual relations between young couples when the girl is 16 years or more and the age difference is 3 years or less.
  • Enact a comprehensive law to prevent trafficking of women and children for labour and sexual exploitation. Oppose the proposal to de-link prostitution and trafficking. Make child labour illegal in all forms even when it is supposed to be in the interest of ‘family enterprise’.
  • Enact a law for equal rights in marital and inherited property for all women. Strengthen laws relating to maintenance for women and children. Ensure protection and adequate maintenance and rehabilitation for all deserted women including those who are victims of instantaneous talaq. Scrap ordinance criminalising triple talaq. 
  • Make registration of marriages compulsory.
  • Introduce and enforce a stringent liquor policy to control production and sale of liquor. Delegate powers to women gram sabhas and ward sabhas to permit opening liquor vends in the area. 
  • Ensure adequate economic and social rehabilitation for LGBTQ community and protection of privacy of same sex adult consensual relationships.

 

OTHERS

  • Institute and implement a code of conduct for the prevention of anti-women derogatory statements by persons in public office. Draft and implement a gender-sensitive media code.
  • Strengthen the autonomous functioning of the National and State Commissions for Women, the selection and composition of the members must be made through an institutionalised, independent and transparent process and members should not be political appointees but experienced professionals and womens’ rights activists.
  • Promote and financially support women’s studies centres in all universities.