The Southern Regional workshop on “Strategising Advocacy for Effective Implementation of Women Friendly Laws” organised by WomenPowerConnect and the National Commission for Women was held in Chennai on 25 January 2012.
The workshop brought together representatives from government agencies, legal bodies, academics and non-government organisations from across Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu including Smt. Anita Agnihotri, Justice Prabha Sridevan, Justice D. Sreedevi, Ms Jyoti Nirmala, Ms. Saraswati Rangaswamy, Ms. Bimla Chandrasekar and Centre for Social Work Director Dr. Ranjana Kumari to discuss concerns regarding the implementation women friendly legislation. The workshop focused on three pieces of legislation that address women’s rights violations throughout India. These include the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA-2005); the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA); and the Pre conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex selection) Act (PCPNDT).
There is a concern about the implementation of these laws amongst women’s rights and civil society organisations across India and the workshop gave representatives the opportunity to review the implementation and impact of each law across the four states. Representatives also devised strategies to strengthen gender friendly legislation throughout India.
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act
Representatives across all four states were concerned about the perpetuation of Domestic Violence in spite of the implementation of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. The highlighted the need for increased funding for services providers, more support and funding for institutions to become service providers and an increase in the number of protection officers across all states.
Kerala’s development of 999 local councils aimed at addressing domestic violence at the panchayat level was outlined as the best practise amongst the four states and representatives called for this approach to be closely studied in order to assess whether is should be replicated in other states.
Prohibition of Child Marriage Act
Representatives highlighted the tendency for confusion about the legal age of consent for sexual intercourse and the legal age of marriage to be used as justification for the perpetuation of child marriage across the region. 186 child marriages were prevented in 2011 in just Tamil Nadu whilst 50% of women are married before the age of 18 in all four states. Child marriage has implications for maternal health as well as maternal and infant mortality rates.
Participants outlined a need for more action from women’s institutions at the state and national levels. Particularly the National Mission for Empowerment of Women, the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the National Commission for women.
Pre conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex selection) Act
Participants discussed the rising sex selective abortion rates in all four states and the implication this has for women and for gender relations.
The perpetuation of the dowry system in each state, in which payments of 1-2kg of gold or a car plus 1 crore rupees are commonplace, reinforces traditional patterns of discrimination against women and the preferencing of male children. Dowry prices are increasingly going beyond the financial limits of families which is a further deterrent to having female children.
Andhra Pradesh’s coordinated campaigns to address sex-selection and sex-selective abortions was highlighted as the best practise for implementing this legislation. Tamil Nadu is also doing well to address this issue.
Participants also discussed the Law Commission’s report on dowry cases and decided they would not accept the intention to compound dowry cases. They also stated that judgements made in South India regarding the sexual assault of women are inappropriate. These judgements focus on women, and state that women lose everything from sexual assault. This places the burden of the crime on women rather on the perpetrator of the crime. The onus of these judgements should be on the perpetrator not the victim. New laws on sexual assault should take this into account and insure the perpetrators of sexual assault are held to account.
The regional Advocacy Strategy Document developed during the workshop will be released at the National Meeting on March 8, 2012. This report will be used by each organisation to lobby governments for the effective implementation of women friendly laws.
Posted in CSR at Consultations and Conferences on January 30th, 2012 by Centre for Social Research