Though women have made remarkable progress, gender equality remains a distant dream: Hamid Ansari; Strictly punish those who attribute wrongdoings to the rape victim and her family: Meira Kumar

The horrific rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old girl here last year was recalled in Parliament, with women’s safety taking precedence over the Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha on Friday, observed as International Women’s Day.

Only two parties — CPI(M) and DMK — made a strong case for the passage of the legislation to provide 33 per cent quota for women in the Lok Sabha and State assemblies, with the other members raising issues of safety and security of women.

In the two hour-long debate, members demanded stronger laws to check all forms of violence against women and earmarking time every session to discuss their problems.

Initiating the debate after question hour, Speaker Meira Kumar said while the government was taking all possible measures to prevent violence against women, there was a need for a change in the mindset of men to remove this evil from our society.

“Let us on this day re-dedicate ourselves collectively to work steadfastly towards achieving an equal and humane environment for women.”

Intervening in the discussion, Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath said there was need to impress upon the male-dominated society that “No Girl, No World” was a fact.

Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said women remained unsafe before and after birth — falling victim to female foeticide and rape.

Citing studies that said most women felt unsafe after dark in Delhi, Ms. Swaraj said this situation was also true for many parts of the country. “The Centre, the States and all our institutions must collectively take steps to make the environment safe and secure for women.”

In the Rajya Sabha, question hour was dispensed with to allow MPs to make brief submissions on Women’s Day. Members demanded passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill.

As soon as the House met for the day, Chairman Hamid Ansari appreciated the untiring commitment and persistent efforts of women.

“Today, though women have made remarkable progress in economic, political and social spheres, gender equality remains a distant dream,” he said, voicing concern over female foeticide, ‘honour killings’ of girls and growing violence against women.

He said there was an urgent need for self-introspection and shape public opinion and perceptions so that women could achieve their potential and live a dignified life.

Jaya Bachchan (SP) said there could be no celebration unless people’s mindset changed and cited growing incidents of rape, molestation, domestic violence and public thrashing of women by protectors of law.

‘Help victim recover’

Later, speaking at a seminar on “Gender Justice and Responsive Governance,” Ms. Kumar said it was imperative to help the victim of sexual or domestic violence to recover from trauma and restore her self-confidence.

“Instances have also come to our notice when it becomes difficult for the victim to attend school or college. At times, she is rusticated from the institution or removed from the job. Some relatives and members of her own community ostracise her,” she said.

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