‘We have drafted a Bill to deal with violence against women’

India on Thursday found itself once again in the dock on its high maternal and child mortality rates. The embarrassment happened in full view of the world press which had assembled to hear Manmohan Singh and Angela Merkel on the outcomes of the Indo-German Inter-Governmental Consultations.

Replying to a specific question by a German journalist, the Prime Minister admitted that the situation with regard to women was not good. “I cannot deny that there are certain developments,” he said. Then off his own bat he cited the example of the Delhi gang-rape that “mobilised thousands of civil rights activists.” He, however, said his government acted with speed to set up a committee to suggest remedial measures, adding, “we have since drafted a Bill to deal with violence against women.”

On Wednesday the same journalist grilled the Foreign Minister of India and Germany, Salman Khurshid and Guido Westerwelle, on the deaths of Indian women and children.

On Thursday he went a step further and said India committed a serious “human rights violation” by “murdering” its women and children. It was not clear from the journalist’s question what he was referring to: India’s skewed sex ratio, the high female mortality rate or the street violence against women. But he managed to rile both leaders. The journalist made no mention of the Delhi gang-rape but Dr. Singh felt compelled to bring it up.

He asked the German Chancellor why she adopted different standards for India and China and why she had not asked the Indian Prime Minister to explain the rights violation. He also alleged that India had got away with being arrogant on the issue. Chancellor Merkel said the subject of gender security and violence had come up at the inter-governmental consultations and she was convinced that “India is taking the right steps to meet the enormous challenge.”