Congress president and chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Sonia Gandhi has said that lack of consensus has prevented the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament.

Launching the Nirbhaya Kerala Surakshita Kerala programme, a government-civil society initiative to tackle crimes against women and children, here on Saturday, Ms. Gandhi said attempts would be made for getting the Bill passed.

Ms. Gandhi urged the State government to increase women’s representation in the State police force. The strength of women in the State police force should be increased to 25 per cent in five years, she said.

At present, women constituted only five per cent of the strength which should be raised to 10 per cent in two years and 25 per cent in five years, she said.

A model

The programme would be a model for other States. Six all-women police stations would be opened in six districts next month, she said.

Recent attacks against women in New Delhi and Mumbai had tarnished the image of the country. Incidents of rape, domestic violence, female foeticide, and sexual harassment were taking place even in some of the developed States of the country. New laws were enacted for curbing sexual violence against women in work places and domestic violence. Stern action should be taken against instances of sexual atrocities, Ms. Gandhi said.

However, Kerala had gained tangible progress in containing these issues. The Nirbhaya programme would help in raising the self-esteem of women while making them feel safe and protected anywhere at anytime in the State. The programme would bring in a sea change in the social approach to women and spread awareness about protecting them, she said.

New courts

In his address, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said two new courts for trying offences against women and children would be opened in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode. The first such court of the country was inaugurated in Kochi after the Delhi gang rape incident, he said.

Barring stray incidents of violence against women, Kerala had been in the forefront of respecting and protecting women. The stray incidents too should be curbed and an atmosphere for women to live freely and fearlessly should be created in the State, he said. Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said the State government would create a safe environment for women so that she could safely travel in any part of the State even during odd hours.

Kochi Mayor Tony Chammany, Union Ministers K.V. Thomas and Vayalar Ravi; State Ministers K. Babu, K.M. Mani, P.K. Kunhalikutty, and M.K. Muneer; and Hibi Eden, MLA, attended.

K.S. Balasubramanian, Director General of Police, welcomed the gathering and R. Sreelekha, Additional Director General of Police, proposed a vote of thanks.

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