The Delhi government recently convened a Special Session on Women’s Security in the Delhi assembly. On this occasion, 18 women’s organisations, as well as other concerned individuals, of Delhi and the NCR, who have been collectively working on a range of issues related to women for many decades, submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister, highlighting some of the main concerns regarding the security and rights of women, demanding that the government promptly and efficiently address these demands.
The memorandum highlighted the growing number of incidents of violence against women in Delhi and the NCR. In particular, women from the North East, Muslim, Christian and dalit women, differently-abled women, migrant and refugee women daily face violence and abuse of various kinds. The memorandum called upon the government to immediately take steps to end targeting of women on the basis of their caste, ethnicity or community. It drew attention to the organised communal propaganda and communal violence in certain areas such as Trilokpuri and Bawana, the attacks on churches, etc., and demanded that this should be stopped. Among other things, the memorandum asked for better street lighting, increased frequency of buses, better public transport, public toilets and enhanced security on the streets and in work places, the lack of which are a source of grave insecurity for women in the city.
The memorandum called on the Delhi government to ensure free and compulsory education for all children, especially girls, as well as adequate investment in adult education and other such schemes.
Press Conference by Women's organisations
The Special Session of the Delhi Assembly on women's security, which was convened on August 3, did not address the various issues that had been raised by the women's organisations in the joint memorandum and subsequently, in their meeting with the Chief Minister.
In these circumstances, the women's organisations of Delhi held a press conference on August 7, where they re-iterated their demands, as elaborated in the joint memorandum. They expressed their resolve to continue to raise these demands with the authorities and step up the struggle in defence of the rights and security of women in Delhi.
On the question of health services, the memorandum demanded that comprehensive health services must be universally available and accessible irrespective of the ability to pay, without stigma or discrimination. It demanded that women’s health must not be relegated to mere maternity issue, that legal provisions be incorporated to ensure the health and safety of women in industries and work places.
The memorandum called for greater investment by the government on pension schemes for widows and scholarships for girl children. It demanded that women involved in state government health schemes and performing providing crucial healthcare services, like Asha and Anganwadi workers and helpers, should be recognized as government employees with fixed hours of work and should be provided regular salaries and appended social benefits.
The memorandum demanded freedom from sexual harassment at the workplace by ensuring compliance with the mechanisms of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. It called on the government to ensure implementation of the Act in all private and public enterprises, hospitals, universities and the media. It called for prohibition of manual scavenging and rehabilitation of these workers, as well as de-criminalisation of sex workers.
The memorandum pointed out that home based workers, construction workers, domestic workers and other women in the unorganised sector need to be recognised as workers. It demanded equal wages for equal work for men and women workers and for monthly minimum wages to be raised to Rs. 15,000.
In the memorandum, the women's organisations demanded setting up a social security board, especially for women workers, to ensure improvement in working conditions and benefits like employee state insurance, pension and provident fund. They called on the government to ensure registration of factory owners, to uphold the right of workers to form unions, to provide maternity leave and crèche facilities to women workers.
The memorandum demanded universal coverage under the Food Security Act. It reminded the government that the AAP had, in its elections campaign, committed to regularise unauthorised colonies. It called for expansion of piped water and sewage systems in these colonies.
Among other things, the memorandum also asked the CM to ensure punishment for all those guilty of committing crimes against women, irrespective of their political and social positions, and accountability of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies.
Meeting of women's organisations with the Chief Minister
A delegation of representatives of the women’s organisations, as well as representatives of anganwadi workers who had been on dharna outside the CM’s office with their long-standing demands, also met the CM on August 28 and shared their concerns with him.
18 women's organisations sent their representatives in the delegation. These included –Action India, All India Democratic Women’s Association-Delhi, All India Progressive Women’s Association-Delhi, ANHAD, Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR), Centre for Struggling Women, Delhi Solidarity Group, FeminismInIndia.com, Jagori, Joint Women’s Programme, National Federation of Indian Women-Delhi, Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan, Purogami Mahila Sangathan, RAHI Foundation, Saheli Women’s Resource Centre, Swastika Mahila Samiti, Veena Foundation and Young Women’s Christian Association.
In their meeting with the CM, the delegates pointed out the abysmal conditions in the slums, unauthorised colonies and resettlement colonies, spread all across Delhi and NCR, in which millions of working women live. Women in these colonies have to struggle to get water from tankers or far-away places, there are no public toilets, no sanitation, no sewage and waste disposal. The women and their children and families are constant victims of every kind of disease. They demanded that the government provide regular water supply through pipes to every home, toilets, facilities for proper sanitation, sewage and waste disposal.
The delegates told the CM that in many of the slum colonies, the government and municipal schools work out of makeshift tents and broken-down buildings, with inadequate space for seating the students, no furniture or blackboards and only 2-3 teachers for nearly 200-300 students. There is no provision for drinking water or toilets, especially for the girls. These schools make a real mockery of the promises that have been made to our people under the Right to Education Act, they said.
The delegates informed the CM about the abysmal conditions of health services in the city, especially for the working women and men. The government hospitals and dispensaries are extremely overcrowded and people have to wait for many hours, days and even months to get treatment. In most cases, there are no government hospitals or dispensaries near the slums and resettlement colonies, so that people have to travel long distances to get to the nearest government hospital. They are forced to go to expensive private clinics for treatment.
The activists of the women's organisations raised with the CM the question of better public transport, including more frequent bus services, especially from the far-flung areas of the city. They also demanded greater security for women in public buses and in public places.
In their meeting with the CM, the representatives of the women's organisations in Delhi pointed how cases of crimes against women and harassment of women are on the rise. They demanded strict punishment for those guilty of crimes against women.
The delegation included women Anganwadi workers, who had been on dharna outside the CM's office for several days, demanding the pay rise that had been promised to them by the AAP government of Delhi, as well as payment of their salaries of the past several months. They asked the CM to look into and quickly resolve their demands. It may be noted that as a result of their prolonged struggle, the anganwadi workers were promised payment of their due wages by the CM, following which they concluded their protest dharna.