Their demands include safety in public places and gender sensitisation for police personnel

They huddled on the stairs beside the Press Club waiting for a much larger demonstration to pass. Nearly an hour went by before protesters belonging to a collective of women’s rights groups based in the city could assemble at the designated starting point and travel together to four main party offices to hand over a carefully prepared women’s ‘manifesto.’ “Even in protest, we invariably get sidelined,” the women remarked.

Under the banner of Sthree Kootaima, the group that hosted the city’s chapter of the worldwide One Billion Rising movement during Valentine’s Day last year, a list of urgent measures to protect and empower women was prepared.

The group met with representatives at the offices of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee, the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Bharatiya Janata Party, and handed over the proposal that covers a whole ambit of issues. It stressed on the need to ensure safety in public places, gender sensitisation for police personnel and mandatory awareness classes for government employees.

It also delved into specifics such as amending the discrepancies in the Food Security Bill and making it more ‘women-friendly’. The manifesto said the age of marriage should 18 for women, irrespective of the caste or religion to which they belong.

Mercy Alexander of Sakhi Women’s Resource Centre, and journalists Parvathy Devi and Suneetha Balakrishnan were among those who participated in the event.

‘Monitor funding’

They said the government had allocated funds for several schemes to support women in the State but, often, they did not reach the intended beneficiaries. An effective monitoring system was imperative, they added.