The full transcript of the BBC Hindi special programme, Aapki Baat BBC Ke
Saath with the chairperson of National Commission for Women, Dr Girija Vyas
Nagendar Sharma: Is the position of women in Indian society so vulnerable that all of us should hang our heads in shame?
Girija Vyas: This is an issue of world-wide concern. Atrocities against women have been continuing across the globe. So far as India is concerned, culturally and traditionally, ours is a country where women are worshipped also and accorded a place of esteem, but I agree with you that certain cases in the past and recent ones have once again forced us to take a fresh look at the position of women in the country.
Listener from Roorkee: Why is it that in India we hear of cases such as
the Imrana rape case in particular, and, in general, there is the problem of female foeticide. Why do we Indians look helpless when it comes to women?
Girija Vyas: I look at the entire problem of atrocities on women in four major parts, and I think four major agencies have to be held accountable.
First, there would have to be stringent laws, so that those who degrade our society by humiliating women should think at least hundred times before flouting them. In India, we have enough laws, but unfortunately they are not stringent enough and are not enforced effectively.
Secondly, I say the enforcing agencies need to do their work with greater sincerity. You have mentioned female
foeticide. For example, just take a look at this commonest thing. In hospitals, you would find big boards and
hoardings saying sex determination tests and abortions for non-medical reasons are not allowed. Can anyone say this does not happen? Therefore the law enforcing agencies would have to wake up.
Third are the women’s organisations and fourth is the media. I say three major agencies or groups are doing their work well -- it is the enforcing agencies who need to pull up their socks.
Nagendar Sharma: But, Dr Vyas, the case of Imrana is a glaring example of the real plight of poor women in India. What is NCW’s responsibility?
Girija Vyas: Imrana's case shows that rape victims in the country should not be made a centre of controversy. We are going to submit a report to the centre next week demanding immediate compensation to rape victims as soon as the matter comes to light. They have to be rehabilitated and and provided security so that the culprits could be brought to book. A change in the rape laws is required. Recent judgement in a rape case in Rajasthan has to be the basis for this. That particular case was decided in three weeks, why can't it be done throughout the country?
Listener from Gorakhpur: But, in the Imrana case, the police has been prompt in taking action, don’t you think the problem lies somewhere
else? It is the social pressure on her forcing her to go silent...
Girija Vyas: Well, many things have happened in this case which should not have taken place at all. Police investigation in rape cases should be completed within seven days and the judiciary would have to be more sensitive in dealing with the rape victims. Many things have happened in this particular case, which are shameful, despite the clear ruling of Supreme Court that the name and identity of a rape victim should not be revealed. Did anyone bother to do so in this case? Poor Imrana has been forced out on streets to speak. Some people have deliberately tried and are still trying to make the entire issue a centre of controversy. Remember no religion degrades women. Please do not spoil her life!
Listener from Nagaur : But, would Imrana be able to stand up and speak against the sufferings her own people have given her?
Girija Vyas: Well, the social stigma attached to rape victims cannot be removed overnight. Do not forget that Imrana has shown exemplary courage to speak out against the crime -- she is crying for justice. Please don't make a rape victim into a centre of controversy. Please do not play with her integrity. For news and views, people have forced her to speak -- this is not justified. Those trying to make news and draw hypothetical conclusions from the Imrana case should introspect what would they have done had they been in her place. I also appeal to all political parties not to play politics in this case.
Listener from Varanasi: Dr Vyas, we Indians talk a lot about women empowerment, but the reality is
that poor women, like Imrana, continue to get raped. So many are not allowed to
even enter this world as they are murdered before they are born, by female
foeticide. Can something be done?
Girija Vyas: Well, it is a multi-pronged problem, and let us not turn a blind eye to the root cause of the problem. It is the age-old mental block of parents to have a baby boy which is the root cause. Look at the figures of female foeticide in states. of Punjab and Haryana -- which are comparatively well-off states as compared to many others in the country -- which have such shocking foeticide numbers. Similarly look at South Delhi, perhaps one of the most prosperous zones in the country, which has the most shocking figures. Therefore many myths need to be exploded first -- it is not illiteracy and poverty which are the main reasons. They are reasons, but the main problem is our psyche, which needs a change.
Also another thing is that many women activists and NGOs straightaway start blaming the males. My point is it is the women who have to stand up. We women have the responsibility of changing the psyche of males.
Nagendar Sharma: But what is the NCW going to make itself effective?
Girija Vyas: Well, the act of 1992, which brought the Commission into existence was fine for that time, but now a decade and a half later we feel that the NCW needs more powers. We are writing to the government in this regard. On other issues, we are soon going to send a final draft to the centre demanding a legislation on sexual harassment against women at places of work on the lines of recently cabinet approved bill on domestic violence against women.