The Constitution of India provides for special treatment of women, guarantees equality and prohibits discrimination. The government of India has been strengthening various laws focused on women and children. This has been more visible since the Beijing CEDAW Conference. The recent years have been witness to some landmark interpretations and directives related to Violence against Women. Despite the constitutional mandate of equal legal status for men and women, the same is yet to be realized. The dejure laws have not been translated into defacto situation for various reasons such as illiteracy, social practices, prejudices, cultural norms based on patriarchal values, poor representation of women in policy-making, poverty, regional disparity in development, lack of access and opportunity to information and resources, etc. The ground situation more or less remains the same.
Most of the laws come with various institutional machinery, partnership between various stakeholders and active role of NGOs. These institutions need to be in existence in order for the law to be effective. Also the policies and programmes made at the top takes a long time to percolate to the bottom and there is an urgent need of sharing information and resoursces.
The awareness on laws and access to justice remains dismal. At the district and the state level sensitivity on women rights among judicial officers, administration and the police is very low. This leads to a situation where the implementation of the law becomes difficult. Recently India has increased its budgetary support for the implementation of various laws on violence against women and it becomes increasingly more important for the organization like Shakti Vahini to work on governance specially related to women and children issuesThe National Legal Research Desk (NLRD) has been instituted to strengthen the implementation of the laws related to Women and Children in India. NLRD focuses on documenting the recent changes in the law, collect and compile the Recent Landmark Judgments of the Supreme Courts of India & the High Courts and ensure wide scale dissemination of the same through the government and the non government machinery. The NLRD will work with Law Enforcement Agencies, Police Academies, Judicial Agencies, Government Agencies, Statutory Agencies, NGOs, Civil Society and Mass Media on promoting Access to Justice for Women and Children. The NLRD website is a knowledge Hub for compilation of all Laws, Judgements and Resource materials on Violence against Women and Children in India. In the first phase (2012) it will focus on the laws related to Human Trafficking, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Justice, Rape Laws, PCPNDT Act , Honour Crimes and Victim Compensation.
NEW DELHI: The labour ministry has readied a national policy that confers rights, such as minimum wages and defined work hours, to domestic workers, bringing into the formal economy millions of people who have for long existed beyond its fringes. Domestic workers, estimated by the government at around 6.4 million and by non-government agencies at 10 times that number across India, could also be entitled to annual leave and sick leave, normal hours of work and compensation for overtime and social security coverage under the draft national policy prepared by the labour ministry.
“The draft will be circulated for inputs from other ministries and state governments, following which the labour ministry will prepare a note for the Cabinet,” director-general for labour welfare, Anil Swarup, told ET. The policy also includes rights such as making it mandatory for employers to provide healthy accommodation and sufficient food for live-in workers, a safe working environment, protection against sexual harassment, social security coverage including maternity benefits and formal registration with the labour department.
To make the proposals legally tenable and ensure their enforcement, the policy calls for amendments to legislations such as the Trade Union Act, the Payment of Wages Act, the Minimum Wages Act, the Maternity Benefit Act, and the Contract Labour Act. The policy has the backing of welfare agencies. “At present, domestic workers have nothing to fall back on. The national policy will establish a regulatory framework that will give them certain rights, including minimum wages, social security and protection against trafficking,” said Father Chetan of the Jharkhand-based National Domestic Workers Movement. He is also part of the taskforce that framed the draft legislation.
The policy is in line with employment standards recently adopted by the ILO for domestic workers, which mandates fixed work hours and minimum wages. While the proposed policy falls short of a national legislation for domestic workers, its effectiveness would depend on the Centre’s involvement. “There are seven states including Jharkhand that have brought domestic workers under minimum wages and many more that have implemented the health scheme, RSBY Act, after the labour ministry wrote to them,” Father Chetan said.
However, some warned that the policy would need to be properly implemented to ensure it does not just stay on paper. “It could be a toothless policy if necessary legislations are not changed and proper monitoring and enforcement is not done,” said a member of the task force who did not wish to be named. The labour ministry proposes to set up a monitoring committee comprising officials from the labour and women and child development ministries, representatives of domestic workers and employers.