The gang rape of a 23-year-old student in the capital cast its shadow on Thursday’s meeting of the National Development Council, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asserting that the safety of women was of the highest concern to the government.

In his opening remarks at the meeting, convened to finalise the 12th Five Year Plan, Dr. Singh said no meaningful development could take place without the active participation of half the population [women and girls], and this would not be possible if their security was not ensured. “Gender inequality is another important aspect which deserves special attention. Women and girls represent half the population, and our society has not been fair to this half. Their socio-economic status is improving, but gaps persist,” he said. The emergence of women in public spaces, an essential part of social emancipation, was accompanied by growing threats to their safety.

“I have in mind the brutal attack on a young woman only a few days ago in the capital and other such reprehensible incidents elsewhere. We must reflect on this problem, which occurs in all States and regions…, and which requires greater attention by both the Centre and the States,” he said.

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