Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi has held out hope for women getting abused online, and for pregnant women looking for longer maternity leave.
“Women have to deal with tremendous viciousness online,” Mrs Gandhi said while speaking on NDTV’s Agenda. “Initially, the operators would not come and talk to us and cooperate about giving details. But now they have come on board.”
Mrs Gandhi said, has already written to the home ministry to come up with a code for online behavior.
While releasing the new women’s policy — a document which sets out the government’s agenda on women — Mrs Gandhi said it was a journalist’s complaint that had brought the problem to light. But they were now sensitized to the threats that many faced in the cyber-world and it would be treated as violence.
The other focus area of the ministry was maternity leave — an issue close to the minister’s heart. “I get emails from pregnant women asking when it would be increased to 8 months. For their sake, I am very hopeful,” she said.
The ministry had sent the proposal to the labour ministry and is waiting for their response. But for Mrs Gandhi, who admitted that her single mother experience shaped the policy, it was also an opportunity to clear the air about her apparent flip-flops on marital rape.
While she had expressed a desire to criminalise it earlier, her statement in Rajya Sabha condoning it and explaining it as a phenomenon with cultural and educational context was taken apart by activists.
“I really want to clarify this,” she said, “I was abroad when that statement saying ‘marital rape is okay’ was read out. It was a 20-year-old statement and not mine. I corrected it later on,” she told NDTV.
The minister, however, admitted they were a long way from tackling the issue. “There are no complainants, not here in India, or anywhere in the world till the marriage doesn’t break down,” she said. Lawyers like Indira Jaising met her on Monday, but even they couldn’t come up with a solution, she added.